A Turkish friend just wrote me that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sold his soul to the Devil. That implies Erdogan is succeeding on every front, as if by magic. More accurately, however, the trick is that Erdogan’s foreign policy is failing on almost every front but he’s able to convince Turks that the situation is the exact opposite.Let’s examine the list of developments in objective terms:
- –He has made no progress on membership or integration in the European Union. Similarly, his diplomatic efforts to ease relations with neighboring Armenia have borne no fruit.
–Erdogan has thrown away the virtual alliance with Israel without gaining anything materially in the Arabic-speaking world. Although few seem to understand this point, it was not Israel that groveled in accepting Erdogan’s terms but the exact opposite.
The Syrian situation has a lot to do with this, as does—amazingly enough—a bit of U.S. pressure (see below), but also he had a new problem. As an Israeli diplomat explained:
- “Turkish export routes to the east used to go through Syria, to the East and to the Gulf. That’s not possible anymore. Turkish exports are shipped to the port of Haifa, where they’re loaded onto trucks, which cross Israel and then go to Jordan, and then from Jordan, they are shipped to the Gulf and to the East. Israel has now become a [pivotal] point for Turkish exports.”
–Turkey had gained no real influence over the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hizballah groups on which he has lavished much attention.
–In Syria, despite Turkey’s good relations with the dictatorship there, he has backed a rebellion in which he seemingly had great influence. But now Erdogan is clearly having second thoughts, becoming scared that he may have produced a Frankenstein’s monster, a radical Islamist state next door which might cause troubles for Turkey.–And now Turkey is bordered also by not one but two Kurdish “states.”
While he has done well in keeping good relations with the Kurdish-governed district in northern Iraq, its flourishing existence must be worrisome to him, including its effect on Turkey’s own large Kurdish minority. And now there is a much more militant Kurdish statelet in Syria ruled by his old adversaries, the Kurdish Workers’ Party’s local branch. Erdogan does have a plan to deal with Syrian Kurdistan building on the Iraq model: good relations, regional autonomy, and no attacks from there against Turkey. Still, how certain can he be that there won’t be big problems?
–Most important of all, perhaps, is that Erdogan’s attempt to gain wider leadership in the Middle East (called “neo-Ottomanism,” recalling Turkey’s pre-World War One empire in the region) has fallen flat on its face. While Erdogan stresses his Muslim credentials, nobody who speaks Arabic has forgotten that he isn’t one of them.
–And now his love affair with President Barack Obama is on the rocks, at least temporarily. Erdogan’s level of anti-Israel and even antisemitic invective has risen so high and became so obvious that the U.S. government could no …read more