The Revival of Turkey’s “Ottoman grandeur”… Beware Arabs, history may repeat itself (By Yeghig Tashjian)

20 Jul


The Revival of Turkey’s “Ottoman grandeur”…

Beware Arabs, history may repeat itself!!!

In 1993, Turkish PM Erdoghan claimed “Turkey    has the power to sustain an imperial vision. In fact, if Turkey wants to take its place as a prominent member of the global community in the 2000’s, then it’s obliged to adopt an imperial vision”.
Ever since the AKP (Justice & Development Party) came to power in Turkey (2002), Turkish foreign policy has been in a state of change and the architect of this policy is Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s FM. In his book “Strategic Depth” (2001) he proposed a “zero-problem” foreign policy, where Turkey should admit its Ottoman past and provide order, stability and security in its environs.
  After Turkey somehow lost its hope from the EU, and became unable to solve its domestic conflicts (Kurdish issue, minority rights…), pursued a more proactive engagement foreign policy since 2002 in both regional and global affairs, by seeking greater cultural economic and political influence in the Middle East.
   A “zero problem policy toward Turkey’s neighbors” was somehow implemented for the past four years; the most striking examples are Turkey’s relations with Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and Georgia. AKP’s foreign policy was based on the concept of “strategic depth”; its intention was to establish Turkey as a regional force for “peace and stability”. According to Davutoglu’s vision these initiatives will make Turkey a global actor as we approach 2023, the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish republic.

Ever since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, Ankara’s relations with Tehran have been tense. But the fall of Saddam’s regime in Iraq brought Turkey and Iran initially closer, as neither country wanted an independent Kurdistan to emerge in their backyard. Although the political rivalry continues secretly between the two Middle Eastern giants, Iran in its part is supporting Syria and its allies, while Turkey is acting as a “negotiator” between Syria and the West. In 1998 a political crisis erupted between Syria and Turkey, where the Turkish army waited the “green light” from its government to cross the Syrian border. While Syria avoiding any military clash with its northern neighbor was forced to a compromise and accept the Turkish demands. Although after 2005 a “new age” of Turkish-Syrian cooperation had seemingly begun, but one may ask, whether Syria will strict to the Turkish demands after she resolves her priority issues?                                                        Nevertheless, Turkish Neo-Ottoman mission is clear, establishing a new Turkish cultural, economic, political and military hegemony in the former territories of the Ottoman Sultanate. According to Davutoglu “no political problem in the region can be resolved without utilizing Ottoman archives”, hence he aims to bring the Ottoman past into play to provide a position for Turkey in the Middle East peace process. However, here also one may wonder that reviving the Ottoman past will give negative impacts, because due to the Ottoman dominance thousand of Lebanese and Syrians were massacred (1915-1916).

After the invasion of Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2009) by Israel, Turkey began to use its policies vis-à-vis Israel to gather political currency in the Arab World while PM Erdoghan became an “Arab Hero”. Turkey will try to get the support of Arab public opinion, because if it fails in this task, its comeback as a regional power will be uncertain. Hence Turkey is using the Arab people for its own political ambitions.  Nonetheless, security and military cooperation with Israel has long been the core of the relationship. Turkey is purchasing a lot of advanced weapons from Israel, but here we can raise a serious question…against which country Turkey will use these weapons? And what if war begins between USA /Israel and Iran with whom Turkey cooperate? Turkey should think that if it sides with Iran it will be isolated internationally, so obliged; Turkey will support US and Israel.

Is the policy of “zero problems with neighbors” realistic?  In particular, how can it be applied if one or more neighbors are at loggerheads with one another? But what the Turks have done till now? With Armenia, nothing changed on the ground; with Cyprus…things have only gotten worse, do not forget that Turkey is an occupying force in Cyprus. While Turkey’s “zero conflict” policy is struggling on Armenia and Cyprus, its strategy of rapprochement with Iran, Russia, Sudan and Syria, along with Hamas, is creating unrest, mistrust and backlash in relations with the EU, Israel, the United States, and even Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Palestinian Authority.On the other hand, the latest uprisings especially in Bahrain deteriorated Turkey’s relations with Iran, while in Libya, Turkey sent frigates, submarine to help NATO enforce Libya arms embargo,in UAE, the government seized Turkey-originated arms bound for Yemen. So what’s Turkey trying to do?  In addition, we may ask, what will be Israel’s reaction and response on Turkey’s imperial ambitions in the region? Finally if Turkey continues to be friends with everyone up until the eleventh hour, it may very well find itself alone at the end of the day.

Yeghig Tashjian

published at HU Herald


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