With the Gezi Park events, the coup in Egypt, the Syrian crisis and the use of chemical weapons, the G-20 summit and the UN General Assembly, we observed a serious rupture and lack of confidence between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the West. A negative perception of Turkey prevails in the West.
Unfavorable articles about the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and its chief Hakan Fidan are appearing one after another in the United States and Israel. An Oct. 17 article by David Ignatius, a veteran journalist of The Washington Post, was an open attack on Fidan. The article identified Fidan as someone with close ties to Iran, and said the Middle East was in rapid transformation, but did not list Turkey among the important actors of this change.
The first adverse article about Fidan appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 9. Ignatius’s article was no less negative. Similar articles followed in other newspapers.
When we consider these developments in their entirety, what do we see? What is the aim of these negative comments about Fidan? Is he the target? Or is it Erdogan and the AKP? Or Turkey? In the West and the international community, there has been a growing negative perception of Turkey since the Gezi protests. While we constantly hear the question "Is Turkey heading to authoritarianism?" we also note unfavorable comments on Turkey’s active foreign policy.
We are going through a critical phase. It is as if there were an intention to exclude Turkey from the rapidly changing Middle East equation and the negotiations table.
The root causes of the negative perceptions of Turkey abroad appear to be an exaggeration of Turkey’s regional and global power, capacity and influence, consequent excessive self-confidence, robust foreign policy narrative and criticism of the West.
What Fidan faces is a planned and conscious assault and — through him — an attack on Prime Minister Erdogan.
In light of all these developments, we can see the real targets are Turkey's Middle East and Arab Spring policies and the readjustment of its regional role and influence.
Under the title of "intelligence wars," Turkey is targeted via Fidan with an effort to consolidate Turkey’s negative image, especially in the United States.
What can Turkey do to counter this perception?
- Keep the solution process alive and intensify regional and global cooperation between Turks and Kurds.
- Reactivate Turkey-EU relations and make EU the anchor of Turkey’s foreign policy. In other words, as before, come close to the West to launch regional efforts in the East.
- Elevate democratic reform and democracy standards inside the country, and thus negate the question of whether or not Turkey is on the path to authoritarianism.
- Play an active mediation role in the Palestinian question. Work on getting Hamas to the table.
- Make serious efforts to succeed in normalization with Israel. Such moves will help moving Turkey away from the Cairo-Damascus axis it has been focused on for a long time and move it toward the Tehran-Tel Aviv-Brussels-Washington axis. Redirecting the foreign policy and coming up with a vision will then be a response to efforts to exclude Turkey.
This is what has to be done today.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly