Not much Mideast front left for Turkey to fight on
Amazed by the ultimate dream of establishing neo-colonial, or neo-Ottoman, dominance in the Middle East through satellite and supposedly loyal Islamist regimes in the region, the Turkish government still failed to acknowledge that its regional police drive in the “post-Arab Spring” era has been shattered by the political backlash in regional countries.
Unfazed by the ramifications of fast-changing “real politik” in the Middle East, Turkey is still making plans to reinstate its Islamist allies in Egypt at the expense of engaging in a standoff with both its key Western and Arab partners, such as the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Actually, the self-denial in Turkish foreign policy did not start with the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt; it was triggered by its arrogant stance on the crisis in Syria. It was just bad timing for Turkey that the military junta in Egypt took over the tainted rule of Morsi with the coup creating a regional scene in which Turkey has become increasingly alone due to its reluctance to see a behind-the-doors setting for Syria.
Despite the raging civil war and its catastrophic outcome, Syria has lately fallen back in the regional priorities of Turkish regional policy seemingly due to the crisis that cost Ankara an ally in Egypt. However, that was also not a choice made voluntarily since Turkey wanted to shelve the crisis in Syria after the developments that brought more lifelines to President Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S.-Russian deal that does not rule out keeping al-Assad in charge and the never-ending saga on having the Syrian regime and opposition forces at the negotiation table shrouded Turkey’s sight. In the meantime, Ankara has lost a major ally in the task of “saving Syria,” as the Qatari royal family has witnessed an unexpected handover of the top seat with the tiny Gulf nation’s self-proclaimed “liberal” emir “willingly” ceding power to his heir apparent son.
The change in the command of the Qatari dynasty has never been linked to the emir’s staunch backing of the Syrian armed rebels, but the handover obviously was not willing, instead imposed by foreign actors, most likely Riyadh and Washington, due to the outgoing emir’s failure to see the changing balances in the Syrian crisis. The Turkish stance has also echoed the emir’s failure, while the unexpected move by the Egyptian military, which is thought to be tamed and restrained under the might of Islamist rulers, was in fact a wake-up call for senior Turkish officials that the waves in the region have been shifting tides to another one.
With lingering plans for a “saving – actually Morsi – Egypt” task, the Turkish government seemed to be doing damage control in a recent meeting involving the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and his envoys in Middle Eastern countries. The meeting gave the first sign that the Turkish government has started to realize that it needs a tactical game changer regarding its post-Arab Spring policy in the region, which would also mean that Ankara appeared to accept the defeat of its neo-Ottoman dream through the Islamist alliance. Otherwise, the outcome for Turkey would be far worse and the blow would bring eventual isolation with Ankara finding itself alone on fronts deserted by rival camps long ago.