Turkey’s Confrontational Relationship with the European Union

March 20, 2017

Years ago, the political director of the ministry asked me to draft a “Turkish foreign policy” speech for the minister. I prepared a draft, he went over it and we took it to the minister who read it and was pleased. Some months later, we received a similar request from the private office. Again, I prepared a draft which was an updated version of the previous one and we took it to the minister. He read it and said “it’s fine but no different than the last one”. The political director, a good friend of the minister, laughed and said “because in foreign policy we don’t sing a different tune every day”. Continue reading

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Turkey’s Foreign and Security Policy in Disarray

March 14, 2017

First, it was “zero problems with neighbors”. Then, it was regime change in Syria. Ankara was so determined that it shot down a Russian fighter-jet provoking a major crisis with Moscow. In May 2016, following an unavoidable government reshuffle, the motto became “more friends and fewer enemies” and that appeared to make sense. Reconciliation with Russia thus started to move forward, at a cost of course. The future of relations with the Trump administration remain uncertain because of the question of Fethullah Gülen’s extradition as well as America’s collaboration with the YPG. And now, Ankara is burning bridges with its traditional European allies who are also Turkey’s major economic partners and home to millions of Turks. The first was Germany (*) only to be followed by the Netherlands not to mention the others. Continue reading

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Turkey’s Latest Spat with Germany

March 6, 2017

With three million Turks, Germany is home to more Turks than any other country. There are also fifteen thousand Germans who have settled in Turkey’s coastal regions. In 2015, before the fallout of the Syrian conflict dealt a crippling blow to Turkey’s tourism sector, over 5.5 million Germans visited Turkey. To put it briefly, the human bridge joining the two countries is huge. Moreover, Germany is Turkey’s leading trade partner and also the largest export market for Turkish products. Last but not least, Turkey and Germany are NATO allies and Germany remains the strongman of the European Union with a key role to play in Turkey’s accession process. This is not to say that Ankara and Berlin should agree on every problem that confronts them. However, in view of their converging broad interests, they should be able to show a capacity to contain and resolve their differences and avoid inflammatory language. Continue reading

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The Frustration of Waiting

February 27, 2017

Turkey’ ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) saw the Arab Spring as a historic opportunity to play a central role in reshaping the Middle East. Through this role, Turkey was to become region’s leading nation, hence a global player. The theorists of this approach banked heavily on Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in countries where regimes were likely to fall. The theory had multiple deficiencies, primarily among them the indisputable reality that Arab countries would never, ever subscribe to a neo-Ottoman regional order. A democratic Turkey inspiring peoples and leading by example was another story. Continue reading

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Clouds of Uncertainty Not Dissipating

February 20, 2017

No matter where, transitions have their understandable ups and downs. Yet, it is clear that what Washington is currently experiencing is more than that. Some call it “chaos”, “turmoil” while others reject such labels reflecting America’s polarization. All things considered, the resignation/firing of President’s national security adviser Michael Flynn and labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal from consideration cannot be categorized as routine ups and downs. The Russia dimension of the controversy regarding General Flynn aside, these are America’s domestic issues. Nonetheless, the world including the Middle East will draw conclusions. Continue reading

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Storm Over, Climate Change Likely to Continue

February 13, 2017

President Trump’s first few weeks at the White House were like a tropical storm. Some of America’s core values were challenged. Washington’s relations even with its long-standing friends and allies were thrown into uncertainty. Continue reading

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Unpredictability, Confusion and Rule by Tweets

February 5, 2017

President Trump’s election campaign remarks on American foreign and security policy led to serious concern even among Washington’s closest allies. Nonetheless, they refrained from reacting in ways which could be perceived as meddling in the elections and preferred to wait and see. They were surprised by the election result. Again, they waited for Mr. Trump’s inauguration and his foreign and security policy team to assume office. Secretaries of Defense and State have now been sworn in but anxiety regarding the future does not seem to dissipate. Because, President Trump, without waiting for his team to take charge of their responsibilities and before giving them an opportunity to offer advice, has continued to challenge America’s long-standing positions in substance and in form. Continue reading

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