Turkey’s joining the Council of Europe and NATO in 1949 and 1952 respectively, and the launching of the EU accession process in 2005 had provided a progressive institutional framework for Turkey’s relations with the West. But our democracy started to falter as the Arab spring threw the region in turmoil. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), lacking foresight, put all its eggs in the Muslim Brotherhood basket. It assumed a leadership role in the regime change project in Syria. Non-interference in Arab affairs ceased to be an axiom of Turkish foreign policy.
In a recent post I gave a summary of two weeks of disarray, confusion, and wobbling in Turkey. What the country has witnessed during the following two weeks gives me no other choice than to admit that my description was exaggeration. Actually, those two earlier weeks were a period of peace and calm by Turkish standards. Because a public appeal by retired admirals regarding the Canal Istanbul project, the Montreux Convention and respect for Ataturk’s secular legacy was presented by the government as a hint of a coup. The opposition was caught off guard and rode off in all directions. It was chaos. Yet, I could not help remembering the title of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s 1974 song, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.
On July 14, 2015 the P5+1 and Iran agreed on the JCPOA.
The deal represented a sea change for Iran. It came out of the negotiation process as a successful interlocutor for the P5+1 giving a boost to regime’s legitimacy. It moved from being an adversary to a potential partner for the West. The gradual removing of the sanctions brought dynamism to its economy. Foreign companies flocked into the country. GDP growth rate surged from -1.3 % in 2015, to +13.4 % in 2016.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul. Turkey was the first member state to ratify it.
Monday, March 8, was International Women’s Day 2021. In a message President Erdogan said:
“… To carry our country forward, to achieve our objectives, we shall keep walking, women and men, shoulder to shoulder as a nation.
“We are proud of our women who throughout history have remained at the forefront in every aspect of life, and who set examples with their struggle and achievements…
“I condemn, in strongest terms, every kind of physical and psychological violence against women, which I consider a crime against humanity.”
No one hoped for a breakthrough at the US-China talks in Anchorage. And only a few might have expected the talks to start with such an exchange of sharp rebukes. After all this was the first high-level meeting between the Biden administration and Chinese officials.
Before meeting their Chinese counterparts, Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks with their counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul. This was the first cabinet-level overseas travel of the Biden administration. Japanese Prime Minister Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit Washington in April for a summit meeting.
Following the Second World War, the standoff between the US and Russia, NATO and the Warsaw Pact was called the Cold War. Nonetheless, in 1969, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed. The same year, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were launched. These talks led to Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972. Thus, East-West relations moved beyond Khrushchev’s “peaceful co-existence” to a period of “détente”.
In September 1990, Congress of People’s Deputies voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This marked the end of a bipolar world and the beginning of a unipolar one, of US supremacy.
The four-day long trip was an of courage. Yet, in a video message he sent to the people of Iraq before the visit, the Pope displayed modesty and said, “I come as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism”. With the visit, recent rocket attacks on US and coalition military sites in Iraq and the retaliatory US airstrike against buildings used by Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria temporarily moved to the background.
In view of security worries and concerns over the spread of coronavirus the visit was also an act of daring for Baghdad.
On February 19, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. At 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference he defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He said, “I know — I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.” (emphasis added)
He expressed his strong belief that democracy will and must prevail.
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.