How Turkey’s Foreign Policy Gamble Backfired

Article Summary
When the regime of Bashar al-Assad started to wobble, Turkey saw its regional influence soar by becoming one of the first major nations to call for Assad’s departure, writes Semi Idiz. More than a year later, Turkey’s foreign policy continues to be based on wishful thinking, which is turning it into a regional laughing stock.

The Syrian crisis, with its menacing implications for Turkey, illustrates the limits of foreign policy based on wishful ideological thinking of the government of Prime Minister Reccip Tayyip Erdogan.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s boast that “in this region not a leaf can move without Turkey’s consent” naturally remained empty words.

The tension with Tehran clearly demonstrates the existence of serious regional rivalry to Turkey. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, which has been trying to base its foreign policy on “a spirit of Islamic solidarity” in defiance of the West, got into trouble when it realized that there is a strategic interest struggle even among Muslim countries.

To be blunt, AKP’s ambitious nosedive into the Middle East, captivated by the allure of the Arab street that can easily shatter, is now endangering our national interests.

It's interesting that just two years ago the AKP was trying to formulate a new foreign policy with an Islamic vision based on its good relations with Syria and Iran. Look where we are with those countries now.

The worst shortcoming of the AKP, while pursuing a foreign policy that entailed intimate relations with Hamas and Sudan, was its failure to take into account that among the Muslim countries of the region there were serious strategic interest conflicts spearheaded by sectarian struggle.

In the midst of this crisis, Davutoglu accompanied the Prime Minister’s wife, Emine Erdogan, to Myanmar. Our colleague Asli Aydintasbas asked what that was all about. This move too has to be seen within the framework of scoring points from a foreign policy based on Islamic vision.

While this was going on, the remarks of Iranian Chief of Staff Hassan Firuzabadi that Turkey could also become a victim of al-Qaeda because of its Syria policy was no empty threat. For weeks now, the Western media has been reporting that our Hatay province is full of bearded Jihadist types of unknown origins. It is certainly not a coincidence that similar reports that “Turkey is training and arming terrorists in Syria” are now appearing in the Iranian press.

In a nutshell, it is depressing that Turkey, which itself has suffered from “externally supported terrorism” for years while pursuing a foreign policy that entails intimate relations with Hamas and Sudan, is now perceived by some as a country that is supporting terrorism endangering the territorial integrity of another country.

What makes it even harder to swallow is that such claims are not originating from the AKP’s hated Israel, but from countries like Iran or groups like Hezbollah; in other words, from the Muslim wing.

In the meantime we notice that Davutoglu is not only increasingly criticized within Turkey, his image is also corroding in the Arab world. An article posted on the Jordan-based, widely-read Al-Bawaba website with the title: “Fate of Davutoglu is in Assad’s hands” is a striking example. This analysis claims that Davutoglu has been duped by Qataris and Saudis, who prefer to stay in the shadows, into thinking that it won’t take long for Assad to be deposed.

Saying that Ankara doesn’t have any experts who understand the Syrian reality and know the Arab world, the article adds how easily Davutoglu swallowed the Qatari and Saudi lies.

“Davutoglu, despite all the criticism of his tactical and strategic blunders, is very confident in himself and has no doubts that he is justified,” the article said. “It is well understood that he is determined to terminate the Syrian regime. Otherwise, Erdogan will get rid of him and that will be the end of a diplomatic career he wants to use for his future political considerations.”

Never mind that a year ago, even six months ago, you couldn’t see anything like this in Arab newspapers. But this is the point we have reached while chasing “strategic depth.”

Found in: turkey, syria, middle east, iran, erdogan, davutoglu, assad, akp

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