Not shaken, but stirred

Turkey is one of the few countries in the Muslim world that remains unshaken by anti-government revolts and “Twitter revolutions”. However, its controversial decisions regarding Syria, might backfire and put the country in a difficult position pretty soon.

During the past few years Turkey has paid great attention to maintaining political dialogue and economic cooperation with Arab countries within the framework of the concept called “Neo-Ottomanism.”

This Neo-Ottomanism policy encourages increased engagement in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa regions as part of Turkey’s growing regional influence.

Turkey’s ability to play the role of regional leader in the Middle East has steadily increased. The Arab revolutions in early 2011 gave Turkey another chance to show its ambition to gain political weight in the region. It was the first time since the fall of the Ottoman Empire that Turkey has shown such diplomatic, economic and political activity.

It seems that the Middle Eastern direction of Ankara’s foreign policy is the priority nowadays, as the process of Turkey’s European integration has slowed dramatically. Although Ankara has tried to persuade Brussels that if accepted as a European Union member, it can facilitate the spread of democracy in the Arab-Muslim world.

In February 1, 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that “Turkey is playing a role that will change the course of history and help to rebuild the region.”

It seems that Turkish leadership expects that, if Islamists replace current regimes in the Arab countries, it will strengthen Turkey’s position in the dialogue with the United States, Europe and Israel. In this way it would become an intermediary between the new governments in the Arab world and the West. And the West will definitely need help. In Egypt, for example, the “Muslim Brotherhood” has already stated that if it comes to power, it will tighten Egypt’s policy towards Israel.

But Turkey looks in danger of losing its political independence in taking the side of the Western powers with regard Syria, as even though it is probably pursuing its own agenda its policy could backfire.

Kurdish separatist movements are pretty strong in the country, and the region’s instability might once again revive the Kurds’ will for independence. Then Turkey will have to deal with its domestic problems and forget about its role as the main regional player.

On the other hand, its attempts to catch up with the position of Western powers are not senseless. With the beginning of the “Twitter revolutions” in the Arab world, Turkey has taken many steps to keep the country under control. One can recall the massive arrests and investigations into the military that took place in Turkey a few months ago, when country’s government was worried about a possible revolt.

Attack is the best defense. In times of danger, one thinks about oneself first. And in this light, Turkish cooperation with the West looks reasonable.

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