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Turkey Losing in Middle East Soap Opera


Just a couple years ago, it looked like Turkey was ascendant in the Middle East. It had a booming economy, and Prime Minister Erdogan expressed hopes of reclaiming the dominant position it had enjoyed during the days of the Ottoman Empire. For a while, it looked as if Turkey could become a model and power-broker in the region.

What a difference a few months can make. First came the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, which quickly spread and turned violent. The severe government crackdown ended prospects of continued EU accession talks and damaged Turkey’s image in the region and in the West. More recently, the negative turns in Egypt and Syria have put the country in an increasingly difficult position.

Daniel Dombey surveys the lay of the land in today’s Financial Times. Turkey is at odds with the Gulf states over the events in Egypt. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria has unleashed a refugee and security crisis on its border and complicated Turkey’s already fraught Kurdish issue. Turkey has increasingly strained relations with Iran, because it supports the Assad regime, and with Lebanon, where two Turkish pilots were kidnapped today. The Egyptians are even leading calls for a boycott of Turkey’s primary cultural export: daytime soap operas. As Dombey neatly summarizes,

The glory days of August 2011, when prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted by thousands of sympathisers at Cairo airport, seem very far away. Indeed the upheaval in the Arab world, which once seemed set to bolster Turkey’s influence, is turning into a serious headache on issues ranging from soap operas to shootings.

This interesting take on the Turkish situation is worth reading in full.

[Prime Minister Erdogan photo courtesy Getty Images]

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  • Thirdsyphon

    I’d say Turkey is still ascendant in the Middle East (to the extent that it’s actually *in* the Middle East as opposed to Europe), simply because it hasn’t been collapsing quite as quickly as the rest of the region.

    Basic Relativity: when you’re you’re falling at 300 miles per hour, someone else who’s only falling at 250 miles per hour actually appears to be going *up.*

  • wigwag

    There are two civil wars happening simultaneously in the Muslim world; a hot war between Sunni and Shia and a Cold War between Sunnis. The protagonists in that Cold War are Saudi Arabia and its allies and Turkey and its allies.

    The Saudis and Prince Bandar are cleaning the clocks of the Turks and Prime Minister Erdogan.

    Just recently Erdogan asked the Egyptians to let him pay a visit to Gaza; they told him to $&@/ himself.

    Now all we have to do is hope that the military in Turkey finds some chutzpah like the military in Egypt did.

    That would be a good thing; wouldn’t it?

    • ljgude

      Nice question WigWag – it is getting harder and harder to judge what a good thing is in the Middle East. Perhaps there are only bad things in that region. 😉

  • bigfire

    re: wigwag

    Unfortunately, one thing Erdogan have done that Muslim Brotherhood didn’t is neutralizing the military.

    It is written in the Turkish constitution of 1924 that Army is the guardian of the country, not the president. Turkish court have just sentenced the top military officers involved in the last couple of legal coupe to prison.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Erdogan like Obama have benefited from the positions the previous administrations had built, and as their own regimes positions have supplanted them, everyone can now see what incompetent boobs they are. It’s like they have never heard the word strategy before, and wouldn’t understand it if they did.

    • bpuharic

      Guess Jackie kind of forgot the ‘previous administration’ got us into a 2 trillion dollar war that squandered our credibillity

      But to the right, that’s OK. After all, it was conservative

  • Kavanna

    Erdogan was always serioulsy overrated. His party has led Turkey deeper and deeper into a credit bubble and currency depreciation. The entrenchment of authoritarianism and political Islam have ended, probably for good, any idea of Turkey becoming a full member of the EU. (The civil war in Syria also helped there.)

    As for the empty suit in the White House, his fantasy of “moderate Islamists” has been exploded by events that he and his people were completely unprepared for. His atempts at pushing democracy have collided with the same ugly realities that Bush et al. ran into. No one in Washington wants to discuss or think about the Middle East honestly.

    • ljgude

      Yes, although superficially different both Bush and Obama’s Middle East policies are just two variants of liberal interventionism. That policy worked well for the US in WW2 and even Korea after a decent interval, but it doesn’t, apparently, work much at all in today’s Middle East.

  • Atanu Maulik

    Uppity nations and leaders from Brazil to India to Turkey are suddenly realizing that they had gotten a bit too ahead of themselves. No, their time in the sun hasn’t come and will not come anytime soon.

  • Jim__L

    Help me out with the paywall here, guys. Does the FT article cite any evidence of Turkey’s economy going south, or just its foreign policy?

  • Meral Demirel

    Jews are fantastic… with their noses! Now they started a campaign as if things go worse in Turkey but for all the haters, eat your heart out, Turkey is going way up! More universities, more international students, calling back researchers abroads and some respond to it, children will have tablets in schools, education system is changing and getting more high tech with smart boards and electronic education, english knowledge percentage is going up, there is only one little island left we havent exported any stuff yet, investing in African countries and getting a market share, doing more and more domestic arm production, investing in infrastructure, high speed trains, having nuclear energy programme, having a space programme, economy growing, just in 10 years we will be the real trouble for fake state israel so all those fuckheads just fuck off from Ottoman land Palestine, you leeches, after 60 years Türks got their own country from american puppets and no wonder we develop so fast

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