Reading the Drastic Shift in Turkish Foreign Policy After Arab Spring

Reading the Drastic Shift in Turkish Foreign Policy After Arab Spring
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The Turkish foreign policy has faced a drastic shift after the Arab Spring from a policy known as 'zero problems with neighbors' to 'animosity with neighbors' which eventually led Turkey to precious loneliness in the region.

While having extremely positive bilateral relations with Syria, for instance, how the Arab Spring drastically change Turkish foreign policy remains as an important question.

The Arab Spring which started in 2011 trough the uprisings and protests in the Middle East and North Africa led the regime changes in some countries such us Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia. However, the uprisings did not result in a regime change in Bahrain and Syria as expected. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, there has not been even experienced any instability either. One of the main reasons that the Arab Spring did not result in a regime change in Syria was most likely due to the power of the sectarian Syrian Army, backed by Russia and Iran, which is still strictly loyal to the regime. The developments in Syria has not proceeded as in Libya as the Turkish authorities calculated. When the protest movements started to spread to the streets of Syria, Erdogan started to take a harsh line against Assad regime, beginning in June 2011, three months after the start of the demonstrations.

Turkey's policy shift against Damascus, can't completely explain whether Turkey's policy was driven exclusively by rational calculations or ideological considerations. But it is safe to suggest that Turkish leaders believed that Syrian regime would fall soon like the Libyan regime. Turkey's then foreign minister Davutoglu said that the of Syria's government is 'only a matter of time.' This prediction has failed.

Further more, since the Turkish Government failed to over throw the Assad regime, Turkey was even accused of conspiring some false flag operations in Syria to manipulate the President Obama to take serious actions against the Assad regime.

A research team in Columbia University's Program on Peace-building and Rights revealed even a report 'drawing on a variety of international sources -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, BBC, Sky News, as well as Turkish sources, CNN Turk, Hurriyet Daily News, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, and Radikal among others which indicate Turkey's involvement in supporting militant groups against the Syrian regime including Al Nusra front and ISIS'.

Furthermore, the stream of accusations has grown against Turkey over illegal oil trade and support of ISIS, after the Russian Federation submitted its well documented reports to U.N.S.C. on Turkey's involvement in recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters, facilitation of their cross- border movement into Syria and the supply of weapons to the terrorist groups active there.

How did Turkey take all these risks and implement such a drastic change in its foreign policy?

Doesn't NATO have a binding force over Turkey?

Not exactly!

In his article titled 'Turkey's Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007', Davutoglu addresses the emergence of the new opportunities and dynamics for Turkey after the end of the bipolarity in the global system and the cold war. He actually makes himself clear that Turkey will no longer be part of NATO's containment policies as it was during the Cold War but pursue a new orientation in Turkish foreign policy in the light of the new regional and global developments.

He further elaborates that, these initiatives will make Turkey a global actor as they approach 2023, the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Having considered the AKP's opposition to the founding symbols to the Republic, which was established in 1923, the goal and the vision of 2023, is related to the re-production of the new identity of the state and the nation as well. Since the process of state building refers to the development of a political entity with rulers, institutions and citizens, 'vision of 2023' of AKP is an important indicator to see how an 'imagined future projection' is being used to mobilize the nation and to reach the Grand Turkey again where a hundred years ago that grandiosity was lost after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This should be considered not only a journey to an imagined future but also a journey to the past where the Turkish grandiose collective identity was lost.

As such, when reading his article it is easy to see that Turkey's objective will no longer be viewed as "bridge" but as "the gate" and 'leadership' for the Muslim world.

Even though the architect of the Turkish Foreign policy was Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, the leader who applied these policies and attracted the attention of the masses in Turkey and abroad was no doubt the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A close focus on Erdogan's speeches, interviews, statements can tell us a lot about the discourse and leadership style of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and help us understand his motivations and goals.

Görener and Ucal, used the Leadership Trait Analysis as a research tool designed by Margaret Hermann, to examine the rhetoric of Erdogan to particularly analyze the leadership style of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and its prospective impact on Turkish Foreign policy.

The research concludes that Erdogan's convictions 'are so tightly held and preferences fixed, and that he tends to see only what he wants to see, renders him incapable of deciphering the nuances of diplomacy and successfully navigating the tricky waters of international affairs.' The research reveals that 'his dichotomizing tendency predisposes him to view politics as a struggle between right and wrong, just and unjust, villains and victims.'

The research points out that Erdogan's pattern of scores indicated that he has a leadership orientation that results from a combination of the tendency to challenge constraints in the environment, closedness to information.'

When Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said his party "will never let Erdogan be president [in a presidential system], Fuat Özgür Çalapkulu, the head of a provincial branch of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) responded stating that country should "get ready for the caliphate" of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. When losing the majority in the parliament in June 8 elections, Erdogan himself accused of HDP to prevent 'Turkey's 2023 goal'. He repeatedly said that terror and other developments in the region will not stop Turkey from reaching the goals that have been set for 2023, the centennial of the Republic of Turkey.

The leader-follower relationship is not 'a one way relation' and both agents constitute each other. In other words, leaders cannot operate without followers. It is evident that many of his supporters see him as a caliph. A pro-AKP newspaper columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak said the Turkish President could become "caliph" of all Sunni Muslims in the world, if only Erdoğan could manage to fulfill his often-stated aim of shifting Turkey to a presidential system of governance. Erdogan never declined this kind of imputations.

Turkish columnist Kadri Gursel states that Erdogan's attitude produces instability with ever expanding dimensions and can only be explained by a hubris syndrome that has overwhelmed common sense.

'It is a psychological transformation to superiority complex, caused by a long-lasting, politically successful and powerful rule, that manifests itself with narcissism, irresponsible and arbitrary acts. Such leaders forever believe that they are the people of big issues and that they are the only ones who know the right thing to do under any circumstance, sometimes even thinking that they have been tasked by God. Under the influence of such misguided convictions, they totally ignore that they have exceeded the boundaries of public ethics.'

Allying with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region during the Arab Spring triggered Erdogan's ambition to create the Grand Turkey in 2023. Erdogan's commitment to create the imagined Grand Turkey in 2023 was worth risk taking in Syria and in the region.

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