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The Problem With Turkey's No-Problems Policy

It appears I am not alone in predicting complications arising from Turkey’s policy toward its eastern neighbors. David Gardner in the Financial Times sees a new polarity arising in the Middle East, pitting Shia Iran against Sunni Turkey:

Turkey has now become a head-on rival to Iran across the Middle East. Whereas Tehran backs several Shia groups in Iraq including the insurrectionary movement of Moqtada al-Sadr, Sunni-majority Turkey has worked with the Shia, Kurds and minority Sunni ahead of the planned withdrawal of US troops for the end of this year.

When Mr Erdogan visited Lebanon in November, he came armed with a vision of open borders, free trade and integration with Turkey’s dynamic economy. The previous month, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s visit had centred on missiles and the militant Shia movement Hizbollah – a premonitory vision of the same conflict that has scarred Lebanon and the region. Even the collapse of Turkey’s formerly close relationship with Israel over Gaza has its upside: the Palestinians now have a champion in Turkey, making them less prey to the schemes of Iran and Syria.

Turkey has talked about its “no problems” foreign policy.  The truth is that no country wants problems in its foreign policy — but they are hard to avoid.  In Turkey’s part of the world, the more foreign policy you have the more problems you face.  An ambitious Turkey will be a busy Turkey: there’s no way out.

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