Reality dawns on Erdogan and the AKP
The attack at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport is only the latest terrorist atrocity to be committed in Turkey. Our hearts go out to the injured and the families of those killed.
It is also hard to say that this will be the last such attack in our country.
We have already had a string of terrorist atrocities committed over the past six months by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As citizens we have to be vigilant and alert, and unfortunately brace ourselves for more.
We are reminded once again that it will take unity and perseverance to combat this modern-day scourge. We have underlined here before that Turkey cannot fight this fight alone. There are things it can do but this is an international problem requiring close international cooperation and coordination.
This is why the government’s realization, belated as it is, that international isolation has been detrimental to Turkey’s interests is very timely. There is no point in complaining about why the country was allowed to paint itself into a corner. Tomes have already been written about the foreign policy mistakes committed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
It is all too easy at this stage to hit at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government for having pursued policies that have left Turkey with fewer friends and more enemies or rivals in the world. Correct as our arguments may be, we have to look forward.
As matters stand, Erdoğan is going to have quite a bit of explaining to do to his Islamist grassroots supporters as to why he has been forced to go against the grain of his Islamism and normalize ties with Israel.
Commentary in the pro-government media shows that there is discomfort over this development.
The Islamist Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), on the other hand, has rejected the rapprochement with Israel. It was this group – supported so avidly at the time by the government – that caused all the trouble in the first place, after it chartered the Mavi Marmara aid ship and tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2010.
That effort resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists, killed by Israeli commandoes in the high seas. It is inevitable that the IHH should be accusing the government of caving in to Israel under U.S. pressure, saying it too has blood on its hands now.
Pro-government opinion-framers are nevertheless trying to given the impression that Turkey came out the winner in the normalization deal with Israel. The fact that there are ultra-right-wing Israel deputies and papers that agree with this is making their task a little easier.
Eyes are currently also focused on Ankara’s attempts to resolve its differences with Moscow. It appears that Turkey is even prepared to pay compensation to the family of the Russian jet fighter killed by Turkmen fighters in northern Syria last November after the Turkish air force downed his plane.
The government will have to explain not only to its supporters but also to nationalist quarters why it is apologizing (in so many words) to Russia, and is prepared to pay compensation after insisting that it was legally correct in downing the Russian jet because it had strayed into Turkish airspace.
All of this aside though, it is a good for Turkey that this normalization process in foreign policy - which will no doubt also include ties with Egypt and perhaps involve a more realistic take on Syria - has started. This is the only way Turkey can regain the international influence, let alone prestige, it lost.
This represents a “foreign policy reality check” for Erdogan and the AKP. They have to backpedal on many issues now despite their previous bombastic remarks about Turkey’s great role in world affairs. The hope is that they will have finally understood that the world is far too complex to accommodate their Islamist vision for Turkey and its region.