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Commentary views Turkey’s « ineffective » foreign policy in Mideast 18 août 2013

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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BBC Monitoring European (UK) August 18, 2013                                 Türkçe

Text of report by Turkish newspaper Radikal website on 18 August

Column by Cengiz Candar: « Turkey’s ‘Precious Loneliness’ or its ‘Ineffective Foreign Policy’… » Has the leadership of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan become a burden to the « Turkish model »?

The commentary begins with this question and afterwards continues with the following correct observations that give Erdogan his due and even praise him:

« In nearly a decade, Erdogan has led Turkey into a new and historic political role. He has reshaped the basic balance that governs the Turkish state by weakening, or rather excluding, the army’s role as the overseer of political life for the first time since the republic’s founding. He has led Turkey to economic success and stability, which have transformed the country and made Turkey the 17th largest economy in the world. So it is difficult for someone like him to accept the fact that he has become a burden on Turkey’s progress, a threat to Turkish gains or maybe even harmful to them. »

These lines were published on 7 August in Lebanon’s famous An-Nahar newspaper, under the title « How Erdogan Ruined the ‘Turkish Model' ». [full English translation] A week prior to the massacre conducted by the military coup administration against the Muslim Brotherhood in two squares in Cairo, and before the atmosphere of bloody conflict took hold in Egypt.

That the commentary in question bore the signature of Jihad al-Zein was interesting. Because Jihad al-Zein, beginning years ago in Beirut, which is still considered the intellectual centre of the Arab press, comes at the head of the most passionate partisans of the AKP [Justice and Development Party] government, of Tayyip Erdogan, and of Turkey in general. He has come to Turkey many times, and has taken part in a large number of panel discussions, seminars, and conferences. Consequently, there are a large number of Turks who are aware of how passionate a friend of Turkey he is, and how sympathetic he is to Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP.

Consequently, for such a heading to be given to a commentary bearing the signature of Jihad al-Zein, and for a quite critical commentary towards the government’s regional policies in the latest period to be published by him in An-Nahar, is in and of itself noteworthy.

Indeed, he himself, in the continuation of the above lines, expresses that he had supported the current government, and how « painful » contemplating Turkey’s foreign policy in its current state is for him and Arabs like him:

« Many non-Turks -myself included -have for a long time, specifically since the early 1990s, bet on the ‘Turkish model,’ that is, a Muslim country that is politically, democratically and economically advanced and an ‘industrial and services tiger’ with a high standard of living and national wealth based not on natural resources but on human potential. We are finding it painful to watch that unique Muslim model -which is different from everything that surrounds it, particularly Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt -being threatened and harmed by a number of wrongheaded foreign policies completely associated with the era of Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party. »

The fact that Turkey’s Middle East policies are displaying such a scene as to cause pain among the steady « friends of Turkey » in the region needs to be considered. Officials of the government, first of all and in particular, should give serious thought to such a perception.

Syria has been the basis for the greatest « test » of Turkey’s regional policy. The issue was not coming out against the regime of the tyrannical and sectarian [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad, who massacres his people without batting an eye. Indeed, I as well, at the cost of drawing thunderbolts down on my head, supported coming out against Bashar al-Asad.

The issue was in what form this « coming out against » was to be, and in how it went astray and came to be ineffective. Because Turkey’s Syria policy has turned into a sort of « mirror image » of the Damascus regime to which it is opposed. The more it took on a « sectarian » character, our side as well, despite all the claims to the contrary, slipped towards a similar axis.

Jihad al-Zein touches upon this issue with the following lines:

« Turkey’s Syria policy is slipping out of control, not only because of the failure to quickly bring down the [Assad] regime, but also because the war there is turning into a Sunni-Alawite sectarian civil war or, worse, into a Sunni-Shi’i regional war in which the Turkish government sits opposite the Shi’i Iranian and Iraqi governments. »

Turkey, no matter what anyone might say, began, in the Syrian civil war that appeared like this, to present the image of a « Sunni axis », together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The developments in Egypt thrust Turkey into even greater difficulties. Egypt has broken apart the « Sunni axis » that had formed on the basis of Syria. Saudi Arabia is the greatest supporter of the military regime in Egypt. While even US President [Barack] Obama has criticized it, and the leaders of Europe have spoken of reviewing their relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah has backed the « massacre »; there is no one else besides him who describes the Muslim Brotherhood as « terrorists. »

However, there is also no one else who « identifies » with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the extent that the government in Turkey does. This « state of identification » is blocking Turkey’s chances to play a role in the present and the future of Egypt -and particularly in such a way as to benefit the Muslim Brotherhood.

What is the reason that Turkey, while nourishing the ambition to be the « regional power », and when its foreign policy was in conformity with this goal, « went off on its own » and became ineffectual in the region?

The simple answer: An incorrect foreign policy that took on a Sunni sectarian identity. Jihad al-Zein, in his commentary in question, voices this with the following lines:

« So the Turkish model is losing its most attractive feature in the region: that of a modern democratic state that doesn’t set its policies on the basis of sectarian polarization. Now, however, the most distinguished [democratic] Sunni state is turning into a sectarian government, such as in Iran, which is sectarian and Shi’i, and some countries in the Arab world, which are sectarian and Sunni. »

In a later portion of his commentary, he made a striking observation that goes beyond even « Sunni sectarianism »: « Erdogan’s stance has made Turkey look like just another Muslim Brotherhood government in the region. »

Naturally, these lines had been written prior to the massacre in Egypt. And just in those days, one could speak of the justifications, in terms of conscience, for the solidarity being displayed with the Muslim Brotherhood to be able to be portrayed as legitimate.

Even so, there can presumably be no objections to the fact that such a Turkish foreign policy is « problematic »: The country with the worst relations with Egypt is Turkey. Now the ambassadors as well have been recalled; in other words, the official relationship is in a situation of having broken off. With Israel, there has been no serious progress following the « apology. » The relations are frozen. In other words, we amount to nothing in the Eastern Mediterranean. We are enemies of the regime in Syria. We are maintaining a very great distance from the government in neighbouring Iraq. We are in a position of being unable to protect the safety of Turkish citizens in Lebanon. It does not appear possible for us to maintain a close relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are protecting the military regime in the developments in Egypt. And we are helpless in the face of Iran and Russia.

The Western world, of which in contrast to all of these things we are an « institutional part, » and particularly Europe and, in a covert way the United States, are continually the targets of our insults based on Egypt. In the heads of those in the government, « Western civilization » is being seen as the « source of evil. »

The government’s brain trust, in the texts which they have written in English and are marketing this absurd foreign policy to the outside world, present it with a concept of « Precious Loneliness » [in English] that they have invented.

There can be no such foreign policy as « Precious Loneliness. »

If there were, nothing of the « Turkish Model » would remain in the Middle East, and Turkey would be without influence in the region.


1. ‘Precious loneliness’ of Turkey or sublimation of a failure | ACTURCA - 20 août 2013

[…] invention of the supporters of the Turkish foreign policy, until I read Cengiz Candar’s critique (Radikal, 18.8.2013). Indeed, Turkey’s international loneliness can only be defended by attributing it some sort of […]

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