July 31, 2018
Ever since the beginning the dictum was “there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict”. Yet external parties involved in the war and their proxies knew all along that this was far from reflecting their true intentions. At the outset the West and their regional allies were determined to oust President Assad from power and gave the opposition every support. As time went by West’s resolve wore off as a result of the inability of the so-called “moderate opposition” to turn itself into a major player and the growing fear that regime change might end up with radical extremists in power. Russia’s intervention in Syria was a game changer which gave the Assad regime upper-hand on the battlefield. Since then the anti-Assad Western alliance has all but collapsed. Okumaya devam et →
February 27, 2017
Turkey’ ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) saw the Arab Spring as a historic opportunity to play a central role in reshaping the Middle East. Through this role, Turkey was to become region’s leading nation, hence a global player. The theorists of this approach banked heavily on Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in countries where regimes were likely to fall. The theory had multiple deficiencies, primarily among them the indisputable reality that Arab countries would never, ever subscribe to a neo-Ottoman regional order. A democratic Turkey inspiring peoples and leading by example was another story. Okumaya devam et →
February 13, 2017
President Trump’s first few weeks at the White House were like a tropical storm. Some of America’s core values were challenged. Washington’s relations even with its long-standing friends and allies were thrown into uncertainty. Okumaya devam et →
September 15, 2016
Turkey’s foray into the Syrian conflict has been, beyond a shadow of doubt, our worst foreign policy blunder since the founding of the Republic in 1923. The political, security, economic and trade costs are too obvious, unlikely to disappear soon and need no elaboration except to say that the erosion of the trust others placed in us was perhaps our biggest loss.
For a long time, our allies asked us to seal off a 98 kilometer stretch of our border with Syria (*). In response Ankara said that it regards ISIL as a terrorist organization, that it is fighting it but it is impossible to seal off the border. Thus, a porous border combined with Ankara’s Assad obsession gave the impression that Turkey, with an “ends justify the means” approach, had been tolerant of ISIL and al-Nusra, if not supportive. Now, with Turkish armed forces in Syria, the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) almost claims to lead the fight against ISIL. It is ardently calling for lasting peace in Syria. We no longer call Syria “our backyard” but say “Syria belongs to the Syrians”. What are the underlying reasons for this change of attitude? And, does it represent a genuine course correction? Okumaya devam et →
August 15, 2016
In retrospect, one of EU’s major foreign and security policy mistakes was the blunting of whatever momentum Turkey’s accession process had. It goes without saying that this was also Turkey’s failure. Had both sides acted with foresight, even with an open-ended process, Turkey and the EU could have been at a different point in dealing with today’s myriad of Middle East problems. Turkey would have become a channel for promoting democracy in the region. And, Turkey and the EU would have engaged in more genuine cooperation to deal with the Middle East turmoil, beyond the controversial “refugee deal”.
At present, Turkey’s relations with the EU can at best be described as mutual dislike/distrust. The accession process exits only on paper. Okumaya devam et →
July 4, 2016
The mother of all Turkey’s current foreign policy problems in the Middle East is our misguided involvement in the Syrian conflict. Yes, President Assad may have been a dictator; yes, he may have missed opportunities to start democratizing his country; and yes, he may have brutally repressed the opposition. Nonetheless, Syria is our neighbor and we cannot change geography. Many countries oppose the Assad regime but none of them shares a 900 kilometer border. And, being a neighbor Turkey should have known better than anyone else that regime change in Syria was not to come about as easily as it did in Tunisia or Egypt, not to speak of Libya, that being Arab Spring Act III, with President Sarkozy in the leading role. Our government should also have foreseen that the Syrian fire would eventually engulf the wider region including Turkey. And, on this very day, Turkey should still have been trying to mediate between Damascus and the moderate opposition. The Turkish government, however, got carried away under the illusion that by leading regime change in Damascus it could become the region’s leader. This has proved to be a huge miscalculation. The price we have been paying for this fantasy in terms of our external and internal security, economy and foreign trade has been extremely high, a case in point being the string of terrorist attacks which have rocked the country. Okumaya devam et →
June 27, 2016
Prime Ministers Yıldırım and Netanyahu personally announced to the world that Turkey and Israel have decided to restore diplomatic relations. This is concrete evidence that even for the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) “precious loneliness” was no longer sustainable. To a certain extent the same goes for Israel, increasingly at odds with the US and the EU over the Palestinian issue. It seems that economic considerations, particularly prospects of cooperation in the energy sector have also played their part. Regardless, Turkish-Israeli reconciliation is a positive development not only for the two countries but also the Middle East in turmoil. During his press conference, PM Yıldırım avoided bravado; he was not triumphant and this too is welcome change.
First, a brief look at what happened six years ago: Okumaya devam et →
June 6, 2016
On May 24, 2016, Turkey’s new Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım introduced his government’s program in the Parliament. Government programs hardly get any public attention because they routinely reiterate lofty principals, announce visionary policies and contain endless promises. This is Turkey’s 65th government. Had commitments by successive governments been fulfilled, Turkey would have been in the 22nd century today. Okumaya devam et →
November 27, 2015
“Syria: Only More Trouble Ahead” was the title of a piece I wrote in early May. In a region characterized by abundance of gloom and scarcity of hope that much was easy to predict. I would readily admit, however, that the likelihood of a military incident between Turkey and Russia did not even cross my mind. Yes, Russia was supporting the regime, Turkish government the opposition and Ankara remained obsessed with Assad but Turkish-Russian relations seemed to be on track. All of a sudden the picture has changed. Because, what happened on November 24 was not an “accident” but an “incident”. President Putin is now venting anger over the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 warplane and the loss of a pilot. Moreover, he is directing far-reaching accusations against the Turkish government for having links to the Islamic State (ISIL). In response, Turkish leadership is saying that more than enough warnings had been issued for airspace violations. And, they are rejecting ISIL related accusations as slander. This much is clear: Turkey and Russia will stick to their diametrically opposite views on the incident. Okumaya devam et →