Turkey’s international relations hadn’t been challenged, as it is these days, since the Second World War.
With all that is going on around us, I have yet to come across any politician or bureaucrat who can give me a forecast or even make sense of it all.
russia, although a historic regional competitor and nemesis during the Soviet era, appears to be an ally of Turkey lately. However, they recognise PYD/YPG as a counterpart in syria, believe that the Iraqi Kurdish referendum for independence is their right, and have an elusive behind the scenes position in the Cyprus negotiations (not so much in favour of Turkey), which are all red-lines for Turkey. Since the SU-24 crisis in November 2015, russia still refuses to ease on imports of Turkish agricultural products to russia and don’t necessarily let tourism flow as it used to.
The USA, our strategic ally and NATO partner, favours the PYD as their counterpart in syria to the extent that they have provided training, equipment, arms and ammunitions to the YPG, now called the syrian Democratic Forces. Had Turkey not intervened with the Euphrates Shield Operation the “Kurdish Corridor” would have been established in the north of syria, from Rojawa all the way to Afrin, more than a year ago. Once again, this is a red-line for Turkey. And let’s not even get into the recent Black Sea activity of the US Navy, which agitates russia and puts Turkey in a vice.
Germany, with the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey, has never seen relations deteriorate between both countries as they have over the course of the last few years. There have been many issues ranging from Germany accusing Turkey with anti-democratic actions against NGOs and journalists, allegations of corruption at government levels and even election rigging during the April 16th referendum. Turkey, on the other hand, is accusing Germany of supporting, aiding and abating terrorists ranging from the PKK, DHKP-C and FETO terror organizations. Take it or leave it, but the Turkish government has made numerous statements to the effect that no one is jailed for their journalistic activity, but for their affiliations or support to terrorist groups. The German Agency for the Protection of the Constitution, BfV, stated in their 2016 Annual Report that although they are regarded as terror organizations, PKK and DHKP-C activities are dangerously on the rise in Germany.
Over the past decades, predominantly Sunni Turkey and Shia Iran haven’t seen eye to eye much, however, with the upcoming Kurdish referendum on the 25th of September, Chiefs of Staff have met in Ankara to evaluate PKK and PEJAK terror activities and the repercussions to both countries with large Kurdish minorities who may somehow seek the same destiny in the near future.
Our Sunni friends in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, have already stated recently that they do not oppose the Kurdish referendum for independence in Iraq. Having said “friends”, the Saudis led the actions and embargos on Qatar recently, with Qatar being one of the largest Foreign Direct Investors in Turkey and Turkey having a military base in Qatar.
With the onset of the syrian conflict, Bashar Al-Assad was in a phonetically derogatory manner renamed “Esed” by Turkish government officials and government oriented mouthpieces, and claims that he would be ousted in a matter of days once Erdogan performed his prayers in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Nowadays, there is not much mention of him at all since russia, USA, Iran and others involved in syria all agreed that he should stay, at least during the transition period of what is left of syria until a democratic election is arranged.
China, once the enemy since the early days of Turkish history in Central Asia, despite the Uyghur problem and the T-LORAMIDS (Turkish Low Orbit Missile Defense System) failure, now has become one of the top investors in Turkey in line with their One Road – One Belt strategy.
More can be argued about the Turkish Foreign policy fundamentals, but one thing is clear- Turkey has veered away from her traditionally established principles in international relations that were set over the course of decades prior to the AKP taking the helm. Once eager to be included in the EU, Turkey is now as far away from that ambition as ever seen in contemporary history. The mild Islamic role model to the Middle East has become excluded from any serious discussions.
One thing for certain is that the Erdogan administration is in play with all parties and is quick on its toes as witnessed with russia, Israel and Iran. One day the political rhetoric is immensely harsh and the next day we make amends; one day verses from the Quran are cited to justify our stance and the next we tell off Mavi Marmara organizers for their actions and on it goes.
Chauvinism and blatant threats to the “West” have become the norm when addressing the public. Although this may strike a chord with part of the public who have felt disenfranchised from Europe and disgruntled about the whole EU accession process over the course of two decades, it has been proven numerous times in Turkish politics that an aggressive rhetoric is not sustainable unless the economy is doing well and stable, everybody is making a comfortable living and the future holds a promise for the children.
Today, there are few who can make sense of it all and even fewer who understand the purpose or even the ulterior motive of what the Foreign policy is from the Erdogan administration . Having said that, some founders and senior members of AKP find it difficult to “decode” Erdogan’s intentions in the reinvention and redesign campaign in which he has embarked upon since his re-accession to the AKP Chair. On the surface, mental fatigue, revival, back to basics, touching every soul, and treading softly are all well said, but how can he truly address the needs and desires of a new generation of patriots, reformists, and conservative modernists? Does it suffice to lower the eligibility age to 18 for MPs? With so many issues Erdogan must handle carefully and delicately internally in the AKP, Foreign policy, regional issues and more, does he have the health and stamina to triumph in the 2019 general elections? Time will tell! But it appears that with the high tides of international developments coupled with all the regional cross winds- a storm is brewing which may endanger Erdogan’s throne soon.