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Tag: Turkish-Israeli Relations

Gaza and its Aftermath: Positioning Turkey in the Strategic Map of the US, Israel and the Middle East

GAZA AND ITS AFTERMATH: Positioning Turkey in the Strategic Map of the US, Israel and the Middle East Dr. Gonul Tol Program Manager, TUSIAD‐US Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been enjoying the international praise that it has been receiving due to a burst of diplomacy in which Turkey sought a role as mediator in regional conflicts. Turkey’s newly developed regional muscle and its efforts in pushing for cooperation in the Caucasus, playing the mediator role between Syria and Israel, holding a dialogue with Iran on nuclear policy, hosting meetings between Pakistan and Afghanistan were rewarded by a two‐year seat on the United Nations Security Council. AKP’s response to the Gaza crisis and Prime Minister Erdogan’s walking off the stage at a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos, however, have created unease in the Western world about Turkey’s position as a non‐partisan interlocutor in the region. Concerned about the future of Turkish‐Israeli relations, the destabilizing effect of a possible break between the long term allies in the region, its long term implications for Western interests in the Middle East and Turkey’s strong pro‐Hamas stance, many analysts and policy‐makers in Europe and the US raised the question: “Is Turkey turning its back on the West?” Turkey has had a privileged relationship with Israel and cultural and historical ties with other countries in the Middle East, which makes her a unique actor in the region. The strength of Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East is that Turkey has strong relations with all the major players. Especially during the Gaza crisis, the privileged status of Turkey was re‐emphasized. Turkish diplomats demonstrated that they had access to places other diplomats did not by talking directly to the senior Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, in Damascus. And yet, Turkey’s pro‐Hamas stance did not jeopardize its relations with the “moderate camp” of Al Fatah, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. After the Davos incident, Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Turkey and President Gul paid a visit to Saudi Arabia, indicating the ongoing process of communication among these actors. There is no doubt that, in the words of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, by being the “voice of the voiceless” Turkey won the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. But the future of Turkey’s relations with Israel and the US is the real question that needs an urgent answer as the new US administration gets ready to jump start its relations with the Muslim world. Israel’s Gaza offensive and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s emotive response at Davos have certainly created fractures in the Israeli‐Turkish alliance, but the episode is unlikely to cause a lasting breach with Israel as both countries benefit from their ongoing ties. The Turkish army has enjoyed warm relations with its Israeli counterpart since the 1990s and Israel values Turkey not only as a client for weapons, but also as a larger venue for political maneuvers. Turkey’s military alliance with Israel involves joint training exercises, overflight privileges for the Israeli air force and arms sales to the Turkish military estimated at $ 1.8 billion annually. The latest deal was signed on the eve of the Gaza bombardment. It was a $ 165 million agreement on airborne imagery intelligence systems and it is still in effect. Besides, Turkey is Israel’s closest Muslim ally in the region who is a NATO member and has close relations with all factions in the Middle East. Turkey is Israel’s window to the Arab world and Iran, a role that many other governments in the region cannot play since they lack the necessary legitimacy and the moral ground. The Gaza offensive has therefore re‐emphasized Turkey’s importance for Israel by isolating the latter even further and strengthening Hamas politically in the region. Turkey values alliance with Israel as well. Aside from providing military technology to Turkey, pro‐Israel lobby has provided diplomatic support to Turkey in Washington in forestalling the recognition of the 1915 deportation of Ottoman Armenians as genocide. As Turkey lacks a strong lobby of its own in the US, Israeli support is crucial. So the stakes are high for both sides. Therefore, both parties have taken steps to mend fences with officials in Israel and Turkey making conciliatory statements. An AKP delegation coming to Washington after the Davos incident for damage control and to give the US and the Israeli lobby in the US the message that it is still a strong and willing partner of the Western alliance and wants to preserve ties with Israel. Israeli officials made similar comments and some leaders of the pro‐Israeli lobby in Washington made it clear that they would not change their opposition to the genocide bill in Congress as “there were too much at stake in the relationship” i. As far as the US‐Turkey relations are concerned, despite the skepticism that aroused after the Davos incident, the fundamentals of the bilateral relations are still strong. The dynamics of Realpolitik dictate so. Both parties need each other and are well aware of this interdependency. The Obama administration faces a troubled international environment, especially in the Middle East where US influence and legitimacy was severely challenged in the last 8 years. President Obama inherits two unfinished wars, a broken down Middle East peace initiative and an increasingly resurgent Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the foundation of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy would be the concepts of “cooperative engagement” and “smart power”. However, in a context of steady decline of US power and influence, with a ravaged economy, high levels of debt and a new cast of emerging powers unwilling to follow US dictates, it will not be easy to conduct a foreign policy around cooperation. The Obama administration will have to rely much more on its allies, especially in the Middle East, than the previous administrations. The Gaza crisis, however, weakened US’s traditional allies in the region. It has demonstrated that the Middle East is “a region stuck in time, […]

Anatolian Janus – The AKP's Strategic Depth Doctrine and Turkey's Reemergence in the Middle East

Under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey has reemerged as a major power in the Middle East, mediating between Israel and Syria and facilitating in the nuclear standoff between Iran and the US. For some, this signals that Turkey has turned away from the West and joined ranks with the Muslim-majority countries it borders; for others, that the US is no longer an unrivaled power in the region. However, neither of these analyses is completely accurate. Turkey’s current foreign policy of active engagement to resolve regional conflicts in order to enhance its regional power, also known as the Strategic Depth Doctrine, is the brainchild of the AKP, not the entire Turkish foreign policy establishment. While Turkey’s mediation has taken place without the US, Turkey’s goals in the region still generally match the US’s. Turkey’s efforts may well prove futile, yet they reflect a true shift in the balance of power in the region and a change from past Turkish foreign policy, one that will affect US strategy in the region for the foreseeable future. Full Report: Anatolian Janus – The AKP’s Strategic Depth Doctrine and Turkey’s Reemergence in the Middle East