Since Turkish foreign policy has remained at a dead-end for a decade, the question “what is to be done?” defines the essence of our monotonous debate. Since we are a people with a short memory, how we got here is of no relevance. Some suggest that the remedy is “going back to factory settings” which is unlikely because this would require more than cosmetics. It would call for a recommitment to the founding principals of the Republic, prominently among them secularism, the antidote to the sectarian strife which has ever plagued the Middle East. The so-called Organization of Islamic Cooperation is a nonentity because secularism is anathema to it. This is also why our foreign policy prioritizing ideology over national and regional interest has ended up at a dead-end.
Despite his heavy domestic agenda President Biden has been calling foreign leaders.
Last Thursday, in a Jerusalem Post article titled, “What signals is Biden sending about his Middle East policy?”, Herb Keinon took a look at why the 46th President of the United States still has not called PM Netanyahu.[i]
As I read the article I thought, “that makes the two of us.”
In December 2009, the communique[i] issued at the end of the Damascus meeting of the “Turkish-Syrian High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council” referred to a “strategic partnership”, at the time a fashionable label for Turkey’s close external relationships. It mentioned common threats and challenges confronting the two countries.
A year later, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, in remarks to the press with his Syrian counterpart in Latakia, underlined that the exemplary relations between Syria and Turkey was serving as a model for regional partnerships and that the two countries were aiming at total economic integration with neighbors.
The EU summit held in Brussels on December 17, 2004 decided that accession negotiations with Turkey would start on October 3, 2005. The process was accordingly launched at the Luxembourg Intergovernmental Conference.
This was two years after the Justice and Development Party’s (JDP) coming to power when democratic reform appeared to be high on the agenda. In early April 2009 President Obama visited Turkey. He addressed the Turkish Parliament and referred to Turkey’s strong, vibrant, secular democracy as Ataturk’s greatest legacy. At the time Turkey’s hard and soft power was appreciated. Its contribution to regional stability was valued.
A decade later we still have the JDP in power but another Turkey. “Democratic reform” has been replaced by authoritarian rule proving our constitutional/institutional weaknesses. In 2017, with only 51.41% of the vote, Turks approved the so-called “presidential system”. Since then, our polarization has deepened because people have seen only its failures.
From the very beginning of his presidency Mr. Trump’s principal foreign policy target was the Iran nuclear deal, described by many as his predecessor’s “signature achievement”.
Thus, the US announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018. A month later, on June 12, 2018 Mr. Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Following the summit, he held a press conference and said, “My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time, under very strong, strong circumstance. We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”