Understanding Turkey’s Foreign Policy


The Economist is the latest to weigh in on Turkey’s growing diplomatic role in the Middle East and to question whether Turkey is moving away from the West and toward what has been called a “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy that increasingly emphasizes strengthening ties with Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbors.
The article provides a thorough and mostly helpful account of Turkey’s recent foreign policy, but I think it shares one key misconception with much of the recent Western commentary on this subject.
Here is what The Economist describes as the roots of Turkey’s new, eastward-looking foreign policy:

The Turks are now back in the Middle East, in the benign guise of traders and diplomats. The move is natural, considering proximity, the strength of the Turkish economy, the revival of Islamic feeling in Turkey after decades of enforced secularism, and frustration with the sluggishness of talks to join the European Union. Indeed, Turkey’s Middle East offensive has taken on something of the scale and momentum of an invasion, albeit a peaceful one.

This explanation, while partially accurate, is incomplete. Turkey’s foreign policy posture must be understood in context.
A significant reason for Turkey’s increasingly independent, “zero problems with neighbors” policy in its neighborhood is the fact that the United States’ recent policy in the Middle East has been an unmitigated disaster – particularly since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 over Turkish objections.
Ian Lesser hit the nail on the head when he said back in 2006 that

For decades the U.S.-Turkish strategic relationship was based largely on the defense of the regional status quo, territorial and political – an approach well suited to Turkey’s essentially conservative foreign-policy outlook. Today, Turkey faces an American partner with more dynamic, even revolutionary objectives in areas of shared interest

Siding with the United States against the status quo in the Middle East is simply too risky of a strategy for Turkey, which does not enjoy the option of withdrawing to the safety of North America.
Remarking on the divergence of American and European foreign policies after September 11, Tony Judt said that “America’s strategy of global confrontation with Islam is not an option for Europe. It is a catastrophe.”
The same could be said for Turkey.
— Ben Katcher


27 comments on “Understanding Turkey’s Foreign Policy

  1. Charlemagne says:

    I was not surprised when reading “WigWag’s”
    comments on Turkey. His/her concern is simply a
    reflection of the below mentioned equition.
    1) There is a remarkable resemblance between 1957
    Eisenhower Doctrine of USA foreign policy and
    present day outlook of USA approach in Middle
    2) Eisenhower Doctrine which passed in the
    congressed in 1957 announced that a country could
    request American economic assistance and/or aid
    from U.S. military forces if it was being
    threatened by armed aggression from another state.
    3)Eisenhower singled out the Soviet threat in his
    doctrine by authorizing the commitment of U.S.
    forces “to secure and protect the territorial
    integrity and political independence of such
    nations, requesting such aid against overt armed
    aggression from any nation controlled by
    international communism.
    4) This doctrine was welcomed by Iran, Pakistan
    Turkey and Iraq (Later on pro sovviet Iraq
    military coup in 1958 neutralized this country)
    and several others.
    5)However the doctrine was opposed by Israel with
    the concern that Arabic ambitions would have been
    triggered against Israel because too many arab
    countries were backed by USA under the doctrine.
    This situation was perceived as a threat by
    6)As for the present day conjuncture,Given that
    evolving and ever increasing competition between
    USA and Russia over central asia, middle east
    caucasus and baltic states, This time Turkey is
    rebuilding good neighborly relations with
    Iraq,Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several
    other Middle Eastern countries or lets say they
    are being put into the same camp by US aid and
    assitance against the “big picture/ big threat”
    and Israel feeling alone one more time.
    7)At this point, Israel should not be anxious
    about the current situation or play the kurdish
    card against her friend Turkey which might end up
    in further confrontation. Moreover, Turkey is
    currently providing permenant solutions on kurdish
    issue and extending the kurdish people’s right and
    majority of the kurdish people in Turkey have at
    least two turkish relatives thus they are fully
    integrated into Turkish society. While this is
    clear, its too late to create a kurdish state in
    Turkish borders, arguing the opposite would be
    violation of international law and territorial
    integrity of Turkey.
    8)In short, Israel is overreacting on the current
    situation and it is not rational to play the
    kurdish card against Turkey while it is apparently
    an outdated one.
    Besides Turkey’s foreign policy is currently based
    on zero problems with surrounding countries and
    the pehriphery. and Israel is not an exception to


  2. Ergun Kirlikovali says:

    Turkey is following it new foreign policy, which could be considered an extension of the universal motto by Ataturk “peace at home, peace in the world”, only termed differently: “Zero problems with neighbors.” Strategic depth of the Turkish-Neighbor relations are re-discovered, brought forward and enhanced. There is no need for panic as Turkey’s moves are not anti-West as much as they are pro-Turkey. Concerns may well be misplaced.


  3. WigWag says:

    Nice to meetyou, R?dvan Turkoglu. Thank you for your comment that I enjoyed reading. The author of this post, Ben Katcher writes often about Turkey.
    I hope that you will comment frequently and present the Turkish perspective.


  4. R?dvan Turkoglu says:

    i am writing from Turkey and it makes me really happy to see that all you guys concerned about Turkey and its issues. When i read WigWag’s comment, i was dissapointed and shocked. she is totally wrong and prejudiced about these 5 points which she mentioned. i am not gonna try to tell her the facts about these points, but i just want to suggest to her that please dont judge us from your point of view, you can reach different sources to learn about all these issues. WigWag just try to figure out:
    – we accept that during the world war 1,some bad things happened and many Armenian and Turk people died.why there was such a conflict between them? we lived together with them for hunreads of years in a peace,but while Turks were in a war in the west side of the country, Armenian people attacked to east side with Russia and we were trying to protect our land. Ottoman empire obligated them to immigrate out of the empire to prevent their cooperation with Russia. At that time many people died because of these conflicts and difficult immigration conditions during war time.can we call that genocide? this is my point of view..also Our goverments always offer that lets establish a common historical commission to search about this issue, but they never accept, why?
    -you know something about Cyprus,but after 1974.what about before that time, why Turkish troops landed there in 1974, why not before? do you know anything about 1959 Cyprus agreements which is guarenteed by UK,Grecee and Turkey.Which side didnt obey that agreement? and look for what is the meaning of “enosis”..please ok?
    -Turkey is the only muslim country which is democratic and secular republic also connected to Europe with its own morals.you dont want to lose a country that trying to be bridge between west and east.
    –in international law, self-determination is a right for a minority nation which is not sharing any common value such as language,religion, common history and common future.we are living with our Kurd population for a thousand year. we have common language,common religion and the most important one common history and future…this is not like relation between palestine-israel or kosovo-serbia.so, please stay away from our country, we are gonna be together forever..
    i hope we can learn many things from each other here, as we can respect each other


  5. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Formerly, Turkey’s foreign policy has been US-Nato centered; presently Turkey is trying to reinvent its foreign policy priorities based on the realities of today’s world affairs.Having been an important strategic member to OSCE and an integral partner of the EuroMed, today the Turkish policy experts seem highly justified to move toward its Mideastern geographical partners rather than depending on its erstwhile policy doctrine.


  6. Outraged American says:

    Dan, I have a TM pending on “Outraged” anything. So if Nadine
    sets up “Outraged Israeli” I’ll see her in court, although since
    she’s probably in Israel already chances of extradition are slim.
    Even if Nadine pulls a Pollard and steals the BIBLE of US war
    plans and gives them to Israel to sell to Russia or China, “our”
    Congress will only pass a resolution praising Nadine as a Great
    In terms of “conspiracy theories” I think we just saw one in
    action yesterday when the US Congress pulled another Heil Zion
    moment over the Goldstone contretemps. Or did I make-up
    that craven display of Israel uber Alles?
    Because I do just make shit up, like that the US Congress just
    overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting Israeli genocide
    in the Gaza Strip.
    To quote the philosopher Schopenhauer, the intellectual Mother
    of all Conspiracy Theorists (and a dastardly German to boot):
    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.
    Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
    And about my next conspiracy theory, wanna take bets on how
    many people die from the swine flu? I’ll bet you a fiver in
    shekels that it will be thousands and not millions.
    Pandemics are unpredictable, but given the data so far, unless
    H1N1 mutates into a more virulent form, in which case the
    current vaccine would probably be of very limited effectiveness,
    it’s not going to kill millions or even a few hundred thousand
    On the other hand, a vaccine that has so recently come onto
    the “market” could have long term ramifications that we cannot
    I had a high school friend whose mother took DES, the drug
    touted in the early 60s (actually from the early 40’s to 1971) to
    prevent miscarriages. I say “had” because she got cancer at 21
    and died.
    Since 1971, the devastating effects of DES exposure discovered
    Structural damages in reproductive organs of DES sons and
    High risk pregnancies and miscarriage for DES daughters;
    Increased risk of clear cell cancer of the vagina and/or cervix in
    DES daughters;
    Increased risk for infertility in DES sons and daughters;
    Increased risk of breast cancer in DES mothers and DES
    daughters over 40 years of age;
    Possible immune system impairment in some mothers and
    children exposed to DES.
    There are an estimated 10 million DES mothers and children in
    the United States today. Current statistics indicate that one in a
    thousand DES-exposed daughters will get CCA, the clear cell
    cancer originally linked to DES in 1971.
    To this day, none of the 267 pharmaceutical companies who
    produced and distributed DES has accepted any responsibility
    for the DES tragedy, and all continue to claim that DES causes no
    health problems. Eli Lilly, the largest manufacturer, has been a
    defendant in the majority of lawsuits brought by victims of DES-
    related cancer, infertility, and birth defects.
    Researchers are still uncovering frightening facts about the life-
    long effect of exposure to DES, including higher rates of breast
    cancer in DES mothers, reproductive abnormalities in daughters
    and sons, higher rates of ectopic pregnancy in daughters, and
    damage to the endocrine and immune systems. Effects on the
    third generation – DES grandchildren – are as yet unknown. To
    this day, no studies have been done on the long-term effects of
    DES exposure on agricultural workers, nor is the impact of
    exposure on pharmaceutical company employees known.
    My point? I’ll take my chances with the swine flu and not a
    recently developed FrankenVaccine. We covered the Cheney
    administration’s demolition of the FDA, all Obama’s horses and
    all of his men won’t be able to put the FDA back together again.


  7. samuelburke says:

    here in the u.s we dont really give a rats behind about the middle east when it comes right down to it…israel needs to learn to get along with its neighbors and play fair in their own playground with the rest of the middle eastern boys and girls.
    i cant wait for the day when the rest of america tires of the isrsaeli whiners begging for american soldiers to die for its causes and for the american taxpayers to subsidize their colonialist apartheid project.
    the only terrorist problem we have in america is the world trade center tower seven mystery.
    how does a tower collapse into its own footprint at free fall speed without being hit by a plane?


  8. Paul Norheim says:

    “Outraged Israeli” and “Outraged American” could co-edit and co-author that blog – the
    former working from Tel Aviv, and the latter from Phoenix.


  9. samuelburke says:

    Turkey PM: If you don’t want Iran to have nukes, give yours up
    Last update – 20:10 31/10/2009
    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that countries opposed to Iran’s atomic program should give up their own nuclear weapons, and attacked as “arrogant” the sanctions imposed on Ankara’s neighbor.
    He also said he wanted the Middle East, and then the whole world, to rid itself of nuclear weapons.
    During a trip to Iran this week, Erdogan said he backed Tehran’s “right to peaceful nuclear energy” and called its approach in nuclear talks with Western powers “positive.”


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “But this one is a real doozy. Maybe she should set up a conspiracy-hawking web site, call herself “Outraged Israeli”, and explain next how the Swine flu and internet spam are Iranian Revolutionary Guard plots conveyed to America by a secretive front corporation run by Recep Tayyip Erdo?”
    Oh come on, Dan, tell the truth. Wouldn’t you really rather she just shut the fuck up and slithered her lyin’ ass back to Israel??


  11. samuelburke says:

    “I would not know what ‘victory’ means. … In this sort of war, one controls what one can take and hold and police with ground forces; one does not control what one bombs. And it seems to me the most unlikely of all contingencies that anyone should come to us on his knees and inquire our terms, whatever the escalation of our effort. …
    “If we can find nothing better to do than embark upon a further open-ended increase in the level of our commitment simply because the alternatives seem humiliating and frustrating, one will have to ask whether we have not become enslaved to the dynamics of a single unmanageable situation – to the point where we have lost much of the power of initiative and control over our own policy, not just locally but on a world scale.”
    “It was Dec. 12, 1965, and there it was on the front page of the “Outlook” section – George Kennan calling for a major reality check”


  12. Dan Kervick says:

    “Wake up guys, they are moving into Iran’s orbit …”
    This is unhinged. For one thing, Turkey has a top ten military, and Iran is in the second tier. There is no way the more militarily potent Turkey is moving into Iran’s “orbit”. Turkey is following a regional good neighbor policy, and its developing relations with Iran are no more privileged than are its very active and expanding relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, who as WigWag keeps reminding us, are considered to be in the anti-Iran “orbit”.
    Turkey is fully engaged with the United States. Turkey is obviously still a member of NATO; they host a major US military base in ?ncirlik. And there isn’t the slightest indication that either of these arrangements is going to change any time soon. The US is one of its major trading partners, and the two governments are both working to boost trade, not distance themselves economically.
    Turkey is the eighth leading country of origin for students studying in the United States, up 5% over last year:
    I think this account of a summer talk by Davuto?lu gives a much better view of where the relationship stands and where it is going:
    I’m sure the Iranians are delighted to learn that a country belonging to the main western military alliance, which is home to a major US air base a few hundred miles from their country, and whose military command structure is deeply integrated with those of the west is now part of their “orbit”.
    I’m used to Nadine not being overly concerned with the long-term interests and well-being of regular Americans, and getting bogged down in ideological fanaticism and across-the-board Islamophobic hysteria. But this one is a real doozy. Maybe she should set up a conspiracy-hawking web site, call herself “Outraged Israeli”, and explain next how the Swine flu and internet spam are Iranian Revolutionary Guard plots conveyed to America by a secretive front corporation run by Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.


  13. JamesL says:

    JohnH: “Since the US refuses to play a constructive role in resolving these issues, Turkey appears to have decided to take the leadership role upon itself.”
    You hit it on the head. And a lot of other countries besides Turkey.


  14. WigWag says:

    Turkey has the 15th largest economy in the world: bigger that Indonesia; bigger than Australia. (Dan Kervick)
    Actually Australia has a larger GDP than Turkey according to the IMF, the World Bank and the CIA World Factbook. Turkey is only 61st in per capita income. The per capita income of Australia is almost three times the per capita income of Turkey.
    Your right, Turkey is wealthier than Indonesia.


  15. Dan Kervick says:

    Turkey has the 15th largest economy in the world: bigger that Indonesia; bigger than Australia.


  16. JohnH says:

    Nadine is back, too! And she’s bearing a NEW EXISTENTIAL THREAT–Turkey! Just what Israel needs!
    Wolf at the door! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!
    “Diaspora, please send money ASAP. And while you’re at it, shake down all your Senators and Congressmen, so they send lots of American taxpayer money, too.
    Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!”


  17. WigWag says:

    Wigwag is back! (JohnH)
    I’m so excited that you’re so excited JohnH!
    But I don’t think my comment about Turkey was particularly negative. I mentioned the recent attempts of the Turks to reach out to the Kurds and the Armenians and I didn’t suggest that the head scarf issue wasn’t a complicated one.
    As far as Turkey’s economic performance, the facts are the facts; hey, what can I say?
    In my comment I just expressed the opinion that I wish that our resident Turkish expert, Ben Katcher, was a little more wide ranging in his discussion of Turkey.
    What’s wrong with that?


  18. Paul Norheim says:

    Do you see what I mean, Dan?


  19. JohnH says:

    Wigwag is back! But why is she in such an uproar, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Turkey? Could it have to do with the fact that Turkey uttered some inconvenient truths about Israel?


  20. nadine says:

    Dan, Paul, your problem is that somebody declares he is an Islamist and you think that means nothing. It literally doesn’t register with you. Turkey is holding war games with Syria and has ended its alliance with Israel, and you think that doesn’t mean anything for the US alliance. Wake up guys, they are moving into Iran’s orbit and have declared their intentions. If you think any of this is stabilizing you are not on planet Earth.


  21. WigWag says:

    Well it sure is nice to see Ben Katcher back at the Washington Note!
    He’s just been so busy at the “Race for Iran” trying to save that blog from the inanity regularly spouted by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett that he has had precious little time to post at the Washington Note. While Katcher is almost always wrong about Iran, at least he makes more sense than the Leveretts. Supporters of Israel are frequently accused of dual loyalty; once you read their posts you just have to believe that the Leveretts are vying for positions in the “Assembly of Experts” or even the “Guardian Council.” Flynt might have a shot, but Hillary has a little problem. Members of her gender aren’t thought of too highly in Iranian government circles.
    I’m not sure why, but whenever I head over the “Race for Iran” Ben Katcher reminds me of Rocky the flying squirrel, Flynt Leverett reminds me of Boris Badenov and his wife Hillary reminds me of Natasha (I’m not sure who reminds me of Bullwinkle).
    Anyway, whenever Katcher steps away from the “Race for Iran” the collective IQ of that blog deteriorates by at least two thirds. Whenever he posts at the Washington Note the IQ of this site at least doubles.
    With that said, our itinerant young blogger misses the forest for the trees with this post.
    1) Katcher quotes the Economist when the magazine says,
    “The move is natural, considering proximity, the strength of the Turkish economy, the revival of Islamic feeling in Turkey after decades of enforced secularism…”
    The problem is that the Turkish economy has no “strength.” Its per capita income ($13,139) puts it behind such economic behemoths as St, Kitts and Nevis, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Malta. It is one of the more illiterate nations on the planet; Turkey is in the bottom third of nations tracked by the UN. Great bastions of learning like Uzbekistan, Fiji, Jordan and Suriname all have more literate societies. In terms of infant mortality, Turkey is in the bottom third of nations behind places with stunningly good health care like Cape Verde, Kazakhstan, Viet Nam and Albania. Turkey doesn’t do much better when it comes to life span. According the CIA World Factbook, lifespan in Turkey (71.96 years) is less than life span in paradises such as the West Bank, Gaza, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
    Turkey is a poor and backward nation; all the data proves it. Pretending it isn’t true accomplishes nothing.
    2) I’m not sure why Ben Katcher ignores the major factor in Turkey’s turn to the East, the fact that the West has turned its collective back on Turkey. Turkey will almost certainly never be admitted into the European Union. France is unalterably opposed. Now that Merkel has formed a Center-Right Coalition the Germans are more steadfast than ever about not admitting Turkey and the next Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, has already made it clear that he objects to Turkish membership. The reality is plain to see; the Europeans don’t like the Turks; the Turks know it; so they are looking elsewhere. Why shouldn’t they?
    3) Ben Katcher writes about Turkey a lot, but he is always so narrow in the topics he chooses to talk about. How about a post by Ben about Turkey’s recent attempts to bury the hatchet with Armenia? After all, Turkey committed the first major genocide of the 20th century when it annihilated between 800 thousand and 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey object vehemently to a Congressional Resolution in the House of Representatives in 2008 criticizing its genocidal behavior; to its great shame AIPAC and other Israel supporters backed the Turks (don’t worry, it won’t happen again). As of late, Turkey and Armenia have made some attempts at a rapprochement; more discussion of this topic would be interesting.
    Katcher also rarely discusses the situation in Cyprus. This omission is interesting at a blog that obsesses so much about the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. After all, the Turks committed the most recent major expulsion of tens of thousands of people from their homes. The Milosevic expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians in the 1990s was reversed; the Turkish expulsion of the Greek Cypriots was never reversed. After 30 thousand Turkish troops landed in Cyprus in 1974, Turkey evicted 180 thousand Greek Cypriots from their ancestral homes in the North and encouraged 50 thousand Turkish Cypriots in the South to move north and take over the homes the Turkish troops stole from the fleeing Greek Cypriots. In light of this very interesting history, one would think that Katcher would write a little more about the situation in Cyprus rather than repeating himself endlessly about Turkey’s role in the Middle East.
    4) Another fascinating topic pertaining to Turkey is the whole head scarf issue and its role as a metaphor for the situation of women in Turkish Society. Can’t Katcher provide a little insight into this topic? The great feminist historian and now retired commentator Professor Cynthia Enloe (emeritus) has traveled extensively in Turkey and has written a great deal about the role of the Turkish military and the situation of women in Turkey. Surely Ben knows her (she was a Professor at his alma mater, Clark University). Perhaps he could invite her to do a guest post.
    5) As far as the Kurds, to his credit, Erdogan has made real efforts to reach out to the Turkish Kurds. But surely the Kurds deserve a nation of their own. Certainly they are as entitled to a nation as the Palestinians are. About a year ago, I wrote a comment (Paul Norheim alluded to it) that I expected to see increasing military cooperation between the Israeli military and the Peshmerga (the Mossad is already very active in assisting the Iraqi Kurds). Turkey’s belligerence to Israel makes Israeli support of the Kurds more likely than ever. I also hope that Israel’s allies in the United States will do more to support the Kurdish cause.
    The Kurds deserve a nation of their own. If they get one, they will be a reliable ally for the United States against the Iranians and the Syrians. The fact that it would make the Turks apoplectic is just makes the idea a little more sweet.


  22. JohnH says:

    As usual, this analysis ignores several critical factors. One is Turkey’s pivotal geopolitical position. As I have said many times, it is the land bridge for natural gas from Central Asia and the Persian Gulf to Europe, unless you want to pipe gas through Russia. This position gives Turkey tremendous clout with suppliers, consumers and competitors. Because Turkey can either facilitate or impede the integration of Iranian, Iraqi, Turkmen, and Azerbaijani energy sources, it pays suppliers to be on friendly terms. Likewise buyers, like Israel, Italy, and Eastern Europe need to cater to Turkey.
    An obvious question here is what role does the United States have to play? Is their a natural role, or must the US forcibly intrude as a way to maintain its energy protection racket and its hegemonic ambitions? And why does Turkey need any US help to manage its enviable geostrategic position?
    Apart from that, Turkey has realized that there are no purely Turkish solutions to demographic and water problems. There are only regional solutions. The Kurdish situation can only be addressed in conjunction with Iran and Iraq. The water allocation problem can only be addressed by regional agreements with Syria and Iraq, which both lie downstream on rivers that originate in Turkey. (I would link a more complete analysis, but it’s in Arabic.)
    For Turkey, its US problem boils down to the US’ friends and foes worldview, which unnaturally carves up the region in ways that impede the resolution of problems that should have been addressed on a regional basis long ago. Since the US refuses to play a constructive role in resolving these issues, Turkey appears to have decided to take the leadership role upon itself.


  23. Paul Norheim says:

    “…why in the world would the United States want to promote the more destabilizing,
    independence-minded Kurdish elements?” (Dan Kervick)
    Maybe not the United States, but Israel. The Kurds in Northern Iraq and Israel are
    friends – WigWag has elaborated on that in the past here. I guess Nadine and WigWag
    would like to see a Greater Kurdistan allied with a Greater Israel in the future.
    If it takes a war to get there – who cares? – or to quote Nadine: “how is that our
    The key word here is “our”.
    This also casts a different light on the issue of invading Iran for “regime change” or
    due to the nuclear issue. If the Kurds in Iran could join their brethren in Northern
    Iraq in the fight for a Greater Kurdistan, this would also be good for Israel.
    Nadine wouldn`t mind if America lost Turkey as an ally on the road to this future.
    Actually, she`d be quite happy, since the current Turkish rulers are “fanatic
    Islamists” any way – on the road towards denying Holocaust and creating a new one
    against the people of Israel, together with Iran, Hisbollah and Hamas. This is how the
    world looks like – according to Nadine.


  24. Dan Kervick says:

    If Obama were not such a wuss the US might consider ramping up its support for a de facto independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. If the Kurds are eying pieces of Syria, Turkey and Iran, how is that our problem?
    That’s interesting. I took exactly the opposite lesson from the Economist piece. Turkey’s moves seem on the whole to be a positive development for regional stability, for east-west integration, for general prosperity and for energy security. They are good for Americans too. The United States should be delighted that a country that is in a much better position than the US to develop normal, business-based, multilateral ties with a diverse variety of prickly neighbors is both able and willing to play the “bridge” role Turkey seems to be setting out for itself. If the Kurds are happy to settle into a trade and development relationship with Turkey, and are seeing improvements in the rights and conditions of Turkish Kurds as a by-product, why in the world would the United States want to promote the more destabilizing, independence-minded Kurdish elements? Let the Turks, Kurds and Iranians work their business out among themselves. Our main message to the Turks should be “thank you”.


  25. nadine says:

    “Though I’m not an admirer of Bush administration policy in Southwest Asia, I’m not impressed with this analysis. It’s too much about what an American might dislike about American foreign policy if he were a Turk, and not enough about why a Turk might see the need for a Turkish foreign policy different from what it has been in the past.”
    Good point. I would add that the soi-disant “realist” school has a habit of disbelieving in ideology, esp. where it comes to Islamists. The AKP is an Islamist party, which provides an impetus to their change of policy above and beyond practical considerations, yet this motive is dismissed as not even worth considering.
    If Obama were not such a wuss the US might consider ramping up its support for a de facto independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. If the Kurds are eying pieces of Syria, Turkey and Iran, how is that our problem?
    If you want to stay in the great power game, there should be benefits for alliance and penalties for opposition. But Obama is too stupid to understand even such basics. Like Orwell said, there are some ideas so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them.


  26. Zathras says:

    Though I’m not an admirer of Bush administration policy in Southwest Asia, I’m not impressed with this analysis. It’s too much about what an American might dislike about American foreign policy if he were a Turk, and not enough about why a Turk might see the need for a Turkish foreign policy different from what it has been in the past.
    Post-war Turkish foreign policy was long anchored in the problem posed by Turkey’s giant northern neighbor, the Soviet Union. An opportunity presented by the Soviet collapse to integrate Turkey more thoroughly in Europe faced deep-seated, and not always frankly acknowledged, European reluctance to bring a large predominantly Muslim country into the EU. Turkey’s situation would look considerably different had Europe been less timid; there are bigger markets and a lot more money in Europe than there are among the rest of Turkey’s neighbors.
    What’s done is done, as far as that goes, but the other aspect of Turkey’s situation that demands attention is how the regional status quo has changed over the last twenty years. In 1989 there were fewer opportunities in the Turkish neighborhood, and more threats: a Soviet army in Afghanistan, regimes friendly to the Soviets in Damascus and Baghdad, a theologically zealous and unpredictable regime in Tehran. Only the last is still a factor, and time has rendered the Iranians less unpredictable. Moreover, one thing the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein did do is give Turkey and Iran some common ground on a question important to both, that of the Kurds. With regard to this America’s position had an unavoidable element of ambiguity; the Kurds were our best friends (by a healthy margin) in Iraq, but wanted independence, something we could support de jure but not — out of deference to Istanbul — de jure. Iran was and is not similarly encumbered, and as one might expect two governments in agreement on such a vital issue have found other things to talk about as well.
    The role we should expect Turkey to play in the countries to its south is in one sense very familiar: geopolitically, Turkey is a status quo power much as it has been since World War I (the Cyprus problem notwithstanding). The difference is that defense of the status quo now means defense of economic opportunities for a Turkey stronger than most of its neighbors, whereas earlier it meant defense of Turkey from outside threats too strong for Turkey to handle on its own.


  27. ... says:

    it is a lot easier to understand turkeys foreign policy… trying to understand the usa’s foreign policy is like trying to understand a person who has completely lost it..


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