WHITHER TURKEY? A LOOK
"The downward spiral of relations over the last eighteen months goes back to the Israeli Gaza offensive in December 2008, which marked an important turning point. Relations since then have really gone downhill. Turkey appears to be on a strongly anti-Israeli course, but in a broader sense one has to see this in a historical perspective because this represents the adjustment of Turkey to the aftermath of the Cold War. Turkey became less dependent on the United States for its security. The end of the Cold War opened up new opportunities for Turkish policies in areas Turkey historically has had strong political and economical interests, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia. Turkey is returning to a more traditional role, one in which it was closely involved in the Middle East for centuries, going back to the Ottoman Empire....
Turkey's reaction has both internal and external components. Internally, it's been very popular. It has shown everyone that it wants to be a strong leader. Externally, it's been popular with the Arab countries and enhanced its prestige in the Arab world. Turkey eventually wants to be an important regional player in the Middle East. There's a vacuum there, and it's trying to fill that vacuum.
It's part of their general feeling that they want to be a major player in the Middle East. They've shown that by their willingness to act as a mediator in the dispute between Israel and Syria, and they've continued to play a role as a mediator between the United States and Iran. What they did with the nuclear deal was again to become the broker, but it's part of the larger dimension of Turkish policy. This is part of the changes since the end of the Cold War, which opened up new opportunities for Turkey....
In essence, this doesn't have much to do with Islam. It has much more to do with the change in the Turkish security environment. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the security problems that Turkey has are now in the south, in and around its borders. That includes the fragmentation of Iraq; the possibility that Iran will get nuclear weapons; the Palestinian problem, which, of course, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is taking a major role in and siding openly with the Palestinians. It's an important break with previous Turkish policy.
Do you think that Erdogan and the foreign minister's anger at Israel really stems from the 2008 Gaza attack?
That was a turning point, but something that had been mounting over the years. This is not the first time that Turkish foreign officials called Israeli actions "state terrorism." This is part of an evolving process where Turkey, and Erdogan himself, has moved in an anti-Israeli direction. The Gaza offensive was a turning point, but it wasn't the beginning. It was just the climax of a deterioration of a relationship which has been going on for some time....
Generally, they should start from the point of recognizing that we're dealing with a new Turkey, one that is more assertive and self confident; we shouldn't expect Turkey to act as it did during the Cold War when it was sort of a junior partner. That doesn't mean our interests don't coincide in some areas, but we have to recognize that when it comes to the Middle East, U.S. and Turkish interests only partially coincide. The real issue is to manage those differences. It does not mean that Turkey is turning its back on the United States or on the West. It does not mean its policies are becoming Islamized, but we have to recognize the changes that have taken place structurally since the end of the Cold War and try to manage those divergences as best as we can".
F. Stephen Larrabee interview, "Managing a More Assertive Turkey," 3 June 2010, in www.cfr.org
"Turkey called for international punishment of Israel for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship,? telling a regional summit on Monday that Israel’s blockade of the territory should be lifted immediately. Leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Israel’s enemies Iran and Syria are to attend two-day Eurasian and Middle East talks in Istanbul at which Israel’s storming of the Turkish ship is likely to dominate discussions.
“The time has come to lift the embargo on Gaza,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a joint news conference with Syria’s President Bashar Assad of Syria. “We don’t want an open air prison in the world anymore.”
Turkey wants a final declaration by the Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) forum to condemn last Monday’s raid by Israeli commandos in which nine Turks were killed. “If CICA is the OECD of Asia then the final declaration of the summit should have a statement about Israel’s attack,” a Turkish official said, referring to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“If there was such an attack in Hungary, for example, then all OECD countries would have a say,” he added. Israel, a CICA member, is sending a diplomat from its consulate in Ankara rather than exposing a higher-ranking figure to the fury over the killings, which drew world censure. Erdogan, who has said nothing would ever be the same between the two nations, accused Israel of using disproportionate force and of committing a “war crime.” Assad, whose country is not a CICA member but is attending as a guest, struck a similar anti-Israeli note, saying the killings reflected “the nature of Israel....Israel committed this crime knowingly and the forensic experts showed these were murders,” Assad said.
Both Erdogan and Assad, who said “Turkish blood is not different from Arab blood,” called for an international investigation into the killings.
"Turkey demands Israel face punishment for flotilla raid," 7 June 2010 in www.dailystar.com.lb.
"Next to Iran, Nato member Turkey is now the biggest headache for the west. With Egypt sinking into torpor and Riyadh firmly ensconced on the fence between Washington and Tehran, Turkey has seen the leadership of the region up for grabs – and is going for it. It has drawn Syria into its orbit and has reached a nuclear deal with Iran, its rival for hegemony.
What better way to pursue this end than to lead a crusade against the Jewish state? Going after the “Little Satan” is the card that trumps them all, and it embarrasses the “Great Satan” to boot. The real game is about dominance at the expense of America, which US President Barack Obama has yet to grasp. Neither has Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. Sailing into the Turkish trap was a blunder worthy of General Custer at Little Big Horn....
Israel has Turkish guile and its own folly to thank for this tragedy. Israel must learn, as it should have after the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009, that for it to kill civilians is precisely what its enemies want. The US must learn that the real contest is between itself, Turkey and Iran. It is now up against both.
The arena extends from Ankara to Kabul, and the issue is who shall be umpire. Mr Obama thinks that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all trouble. If it were, Iran would not be trying to develop nuclear weapons and Turkey would not be seeking mastery over its ancient domain. Nor were Palestinians on the mind of the previous claimants to hegemony – from Nasser’s Egypt to Saddam’s Iraq. Remember that the deadliest and longest war in the region was between Iraq and Iran.
Terror in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan is not designed to uproot Jewish settlements. It is not Israel that motivates Syria’s recolonisation of Lebanon. Turkey and Iran are not vying for control so as to promote a two-state solution....
Palestine has got nothing to do with it".
Josef Joffe, "Turkey is making a play for regional power," 7 June 2010, in http://www.ft.com
I am not sure that I would entirely agree with Josef Joffe about Ankara and its 'new' foreign policy. Certainly, no one can disagree that whatever is motivating Turkey's verbal attacks on the state of Israel over last week's flotilla fiasco, the actual occurrence can hardly be said to be true reason. The disproportion between the Turkish leadership's verbal assault on Tel Aviv since the incident, and, its quieta non movere diplomacy as per Persia's, Syria's and Sudan's human rights record, is too incongruous to pass without notice. Whether this degree of blatant hypocrisy on the part of Turkish Premier Erdogan is part and parcel of an attempt to seek 'mastery over its ancient domain,'is to my mind questionable. Per se, there is no evidence that Turkey for example has begun to engage in an arms build-up, which would be the sine qua non, of any endeavor to recreate Ottoman Empire. Nor is there much in the way of evidence that Ankara is truly prepared to take-up the Nasserite burden of overtly opposing the Jewish State militarily. Much less the USA. Therefore, it is my surmise that the motivation for Turkey's new foreign policy is primarily internal, and, not external. Id est., another case of Primat de Innenpolitik. As an American anthropologist has recently argued, the 'democratization' and the much more demotic nature of political discourse in Turkish politics, under the AKP has meant:
“Is that the far-right Islamists have captured the political issue of Gaza, and the government is using this for their purposes....It doesn’t mean that society is becoming more radicalized, but the radical segment of society has captured the issue of Gaza and the anti-Israel sentiment, which has a lot of political capital behind it.... The question is; how much does the government now owe the more radical organizations and segments of society who have captured this segment of public opinion?”
Yigal Schleifer, "Islamic NGO Setting Tone in Turkish-Israel Row over Gaza Flotilla Raid," 4 June 2010, in http://www.eurasianet.com
In essence a Turkish version of Hurrahpatriotismus. And, therefore relatively harmless. And, should be treated as such, however annoying and indeed disgusting Erdogan's mots sound. Insofar as Asia Minor is no longer a great strategic prize that it was in the Cold War, a rather harmless political and diplomatic evolution. AKA, the West does not need Turkey as a strategic ally in the way that it did circa 1980 or even 1992. Where a possible problem may occur is that the rhetorical assaults that are being launched by the AKP government on Israel may in the future, give rise to expectations among the Turkish population, especially the AKP-inclined masses that might be difficult to control. What will be the upshot when Ankara proves that its bark is much worse than its bite, is something which may cause serious problems in the future. Problems which the AKP government may not be able to control.