Is Turkey an Iran-lover and Israel-hater?

In the past century, Turkey was globally famous for its tasty delights and steamy baths. In the recent years, though, it has become also famed for its growing political role in the world.

This status that makes many Turks proud, but it also raises a lot of criticism and concern. Unfortunately, it even provokes a new trend of Turkey-bashing in the West, and especially in the United States. In his recent column, which presented a quite fair and sensible evaluation of Turkish foreign policy, Roger Cohen of the New York Times was pointing out to that problem. In the U.S. Congress, Cohen noted, now there is even a “Turkey-equals-Iran-lover-and-Israel-hater surge.”

Erdoğan and watermelons
Too bad. Because Ankara’s new trajectory is really based on national interest, defined largely as economic interest, than anything else. Besides, the ideological topping on that rational policy is more complex, and certainly less crude, than a love affair with Iran and a hate affair with Israel.

Let me try to elaborate. The new trajectory I am speaking about is, of course, the one led by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. People have different ideas about the nature of the “silent revolution” that the AKP realized, but many could agree that market-based economic growth is at its core. In other words, unlike Ayatollah Khomeini, who said that his revolution was “not about the price of watermelons,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan speaks about prices, investment figures and trade volumes all the time. No wonder both his Islamist and leftist opponents at home blame him for “selling the country to global capitalism.”

As for “Islamism,” the AKP’s record is limited to a few modest efforts to soften Turkey’s ultra-intolerant secularism, such as trying to allow university students wear a headscarf if they wanted to. Add to that a willingness to preserve “family values,” with measures such as a tighter control of obscenity on Turkish TVs.

When you combine these elements — capitalism, promotion of religious freedom and cultural conservatism — AKP actually looks quite similar to the conservatives in the United States. Why then, most of those conservatives, and especially the neo-conservatives, have become so alarmed about it?

The answer lies in AKP’s foreign policy, and particularly the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hence came the image that Turkey is now an “Israel-hater.”

But wait a minute. Erdoğan is in power since 2002, but his rift with Israel came only in late 2008, when Israel attacked the Gaza strip, leading to the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and infuriating a great majority of the Turkish society. Before that Erdoğan had tried to advance ties with the Jewish State for years. He repeatedly denounced anti-Semitism in many occasions and visited Tel Aviv in 2005. In 2007, he arranged for Shimon Peres to become the first Israeli president to address the Turkish parliament, and initiated indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

In other words, Erdoğan is not ideologically anti-Israel. But like most Turks who vote for him, he has a deep emotional connection with the Palestinians, and reacts strongly in their favor, sometimes to the level of overlooking the terrorist acts and war crimes on their side. (Not too unlike some American neo-conservatives who have a similar emotional connection to Israel and who similarly overlook her war crimes.)

A niche to fill
As for Iran, it is obvious that the Erdoğan government is less alarmed than Washington or Tel Aviv by Tehran’s nuclear program. But to be less alarmed is not to be supportive. Quite the contrary, Turkish policy makers have repeatedly said that they do not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran, which will be a source of concern for Turkey as well. Hence they engaged in the diplomatic effort which brought the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear swap deal of last May — an achievement that the U.S., unwisely in my view, dismissed.

Besides Turkey’s national interests as Iran’s neighbor, and trading partner, one key difference between Ankara and the Washington-Tel Aviv axis seems to be their different gut feelings about the mindset of the Iranian regime. The view that the latter is a totally irrational and a suicidal regime hell-bent on destroying Israel, at the expense of destroying itself as well, does not look realistic to AKP leadership. As Sunnis, they cannot sympathize with the guardianship of the Shiite jurists; but as fellow Muslims, they can understand that collective suicide is really not an Islamic ideal.

Finally, what the hawks in the West should see, I believe, is that the very things that have made them nervous about Turkey have made the country quite popular in the streets of the Middle East. And this is good news, for that Turkey, at the end of the day, is a moderate country which supports a two-state solution in the holy land, promotes peace and stability in the region, and presents a synthesis of Islam and modernity.

It should be telling that the troubled region has long been divided between popular radicals and unpopular moderates. None of these camps presented a way out. But with the niche that she is filling now, Turkey can.

3 σχόλια:

  1. βγηκε το ντοκιμαντερ για τα

    1 of 7 What in the world are they spraying

    ολλο το ντοκιμαντερ ειναι στο youtube
    και εμας μας έχουν τσακίσει στο αλουμίνιο και ΒΑΡΙΟ

  2. Αυτό το σχόλιο αφαιρέθηκε από έναν διαχειριστή ιστολογίου.

  3. @ 1:55 π.μ.
    Ποιά είναι τα πρώτα συμπτώματα που έχεις;


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