Foreign Policy of Turkey-12: Importance of Domestic Political Inputs
Foreign Policy of Turkey-12: Importance of Domestic Political Inputs
-COL DR. ABDUL RUFF
From Ottoman Empire without specific Islamic ideals to a modern Islamic Turkey, Turkish people have have come a long journey. Domestic politics, rooted and oriented in Islamic values in modern Turkey, particularly after the WW-II, have shaped the policies and practices in Turkey.
Modern Turkey was born a Muslim nation when the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed at the end of World War I and Muslims from all over the empire joined with ethnic Turks to defend the new nation against anti-Islamic Christian foes — the Allied forces, Armenians, and Greeks. Since then, the balance between this Islamic aspect of Turkey’s identity and its other — secular nationalist — side has guided the course of Turkish foreign policy.
Riding the wave of anti-Western sentiment unleashed by the 2003 Iraq war, the ruling AKP has chilled Turkey’s relationship with the West and, instead, has tried to reposition the country as a leader of the re-christened Muslim world. the Islamic party AKP has encouraged an “the Muslims versus anti-Islam represented by the West” worldview at the expense of Turkey’s historic flexibility and accommodation of other religious traits in the life of Muslims.
When the ruling party AKP, rooted in Turkey’s anti-Western and anti-democratic Islamist opposition, came to power in 2002, it seemed to show little interest in turning NATO into an ideological forum or in tinkering with the pro-Western orientation of Turkish foreign policy. But this seemed to have been only a tactical delay. The AKP first went after pro-Western actors at home to prepare for the policy change abroad. The governing party has abused coup allegations to put the military in its barracks or behind bars, and its opponents, including prominent secular journalists and scholars, in jail. What’s left of the independent and pro-Western media receive daily calls from the prime minister’s office, prodding them to adjust their coverage in favor of the governing party, lest they face punitive fines.
Islam as the most popular religion remained a salient national identity well into the post-Ottoman period. For example, when Greece and Turkey exchanged minority populations in the 1920s as part of the settlement of the Greco-Turkish conflict, Turkey handed over Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians from Anatolia in return for Greek-speaking Muslims from Crete.
Starting in the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s legacy has started to unravel. Since 2002, a party with Islamist roots, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has unearthed Turkey’s Muslim identity. At first, many assumed that the AKP’s emphasis on Islam would not move Turkey away from the West. In fact, many heralded the AKP’s Turkey as a model democratic Muslim nation. But due to the resonance of the notion of a politically-defined “Muslim world” in the post-9/11 world, a state with a Muslim identity is especially vulnerable to viewing the world in terms of Huntingtonian clashes of civilizations.
Though an Islamic nation, Turkey, however, has miantained secular character. Turkish identity was not based purely on Islam: Ataturk, Turkey’s first president, the country’s Kemalist politicians have tried to emphasize the unifying power of nationalism. They promoted the idea of a singular, Western democratic civilization that was not only unified by religion and had room for all Turks.
Turkish nationalism was secular in the sense that citizens were expected to be Westernized but could still be Muslim if they chose. Consequently, Kemalists turned Turkey’s foreign policy westward. And from the 1920s to the early part of this century, Turkish elites and governing parties adopted pro-Western foreign policies, embraced NATO, and marched closer toward EU membership.
Having consolidated its domestic position, the AKP began in 2005 to pursue also a new foreign policy, dividing the world along religious lines and rising to the defense of criminal regimes and Islamists. Under the AKP, Ankara is the enfant noir of NATO. In the same way Greece opted out of and blocked NATO operations against criminal regimes in the Western Balkans, citing its “affinity with its Orthodox brothers,” the AKP will use the “Islamic civilization” excuse to abstain from or hinder NATO operations in the “Muslim world.”
The AKP, after eight years of rule — an unusually long reign in Turkish politics and the longest in Turkey’s democratic history when the party won general elections in June 2011 and amassed enough power to turn its words into actions. Already, it has stocked the high courts with sympathetic judges who do not hate Islam, after winning a referendum that empowered the party to appoint top judges without a confirmation process. And it has sought to limit the role of the army in the government’s affairs. This move was indeed good for democracy and people.
The AKP’s objection to the appointment of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary-general last year was a harbinger of troubles to come. Ankara objected to Rasmussen’s appointment because of the way he “handled the cartoon crisis,” demonstrating the party’s Islamic weltanschauung.
As the AKP goes, so will the Turkish population. Since the modernizing days of the Ottoman sultans, the political culture of the population has been imposed by the elite. And the AKP, with its coterie of Islamist billionaires, media personalities, think tanks, and universities, is Turkey’s new elite. Turkey’s population has already seemingly bought into the AKP mindset. According to a recent poll by TESEV, an Istanbul-based nongovernmental organization, the number of people identifying themselves as Muslim increased by ten percent between 2002 and 2007. Almost half of them described themselves as Islamist, which means they believe that this illiberal ideology, rather than secular democracy, should guide Turkey’s political system. This is a stark departure from Ataturk’s vision, which suggested that Turks could be Western, politically secular, and Muslim all at once.
Turkey assumed Islamic leadership when Islamism was openly opposed and insulted by western nuts. As the west escalated anti-Islamic rhetoric and terror operations, Turkey moved forward to protect Islamic values step by step. In February, 2009, for example, two months before the AKP’s objection to Rasmussen over the Muhammad cartoons, Istanbul’s AKP municipal government hosted an anti-Western and anti-Semitic cartoon exhibit in the city’s central Taksim metro station.
NATO and EU members eagerly awaited the June 2011 elections to end AKP’s Islamic agenda, expecting the outcomes to be anti-Islamist and pro-West. west wanted to destorythe Islamist credentials and to assert the nationalist, “secular” aspects of Turkey’s identity to promote western hypocrisy and anti-Islamism. In other words, the June 2011 elections were considered as the most important battle for disrupting Turkey’s soul in over two centuries, since the Ottoman sultans first turned Turkey to the West. Turkey’s chief negotiator on EU accession has said during a visit to Dublin reiterated that the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union..
So far, many of the AKP’s efforts to defend global Islamist causes, such as its frustrated attempt last summer to broker a nuclear deal between Iran and the West, have faltered. Anti-Islamic nuts now cry loud that Turkey cannot convince the rest of the Muslim world of its power and Turks have “already bought” into the AKP’s brand of us-versus-them Islam at the expense of its nationalist identity.
The AKP has enormous popularity on the streets of Cairo and Damascus. Finally, many non-Arab Muslim countries promote their own brands of political Islam and have their own ideas about who should speak on behalf of the Muslim world. To win them over, and increase its standing in the skeptical Middle East, the AKP will cynically use Islamist causes to improve its standing with Muslim publics. For example, it might declare solidarity with Hamas (but not the secular Palestinian Authority) to agitate for Palestinian nationhood. It can also be expected to lambast European policies toward Muslim immigrants and vocally take issue with any US policies involving Muslims, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the conflict in Sudan, and Iran.
Egemen Bagis, member of the Turkish parliament since November 2002, current minister for EU Affairs and chief negotiator of Turkey in accession talks with the EU, while rejecting suggestions that Turkey’s rhetoric on Europe had hardened in recent months, said there was growing frustration over the pace of the accession process. He compared Europe’s economic crisis with Turkey’s growth of 11 per cent this year, and said Turkey was “vital” in terms of European access to regional energy resources. “Europe does need Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe,” he told The Irish Times. “The cost of having Turkey out of the EU is much greater for Europeans than the cost of having it in.”
It has been the routine practice of Europe and EU to blame Turkey for “ shortcomings” only to stop it from becoming a EU member. A report by EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle as usual criticised Turkey for “shortcomings” in free speech and freedom of religion, and also raised concerns over minority rights. Turkey would continue with what the “giant progress” made in recent years. “Just as today’s Turkey is much better than yesterday’s, tomorrow’s Turkey will be much better that today’s”, Bagis acknowledged that in several EU states where governments support. The day Turkey completes negotiations, it will be a very different country, and Irish public opinion, along with that in other EU states, will change,” he said. “I would be more worried about public opinion in Turkey.” But Bagis rejected the suggestion that, with popular support for EU membership waning at home, Turkey’s focus appeared to have tilted eastward. “The fact that we are enhancing our relations with countries to our east does not mean that we are giving up on our national goal to become a member of the EU. Turkey was, is, and will continue to be the most eastern part of the west, and the most western part of the east. For centuries we have been seen as a bridge between the two. For a bridge to be dependable, it needs four strong legs – what Turkey is doing is strengthening the eastern, western, southern and northern legs simultaneously. And that bridge is needed by Europe now more than ever.”
Reminded of his recently reported remarks which suggested Ankara did not want EU membership badly enough to make a unilateral gesture on Cyprus, Bagis replied: “We want the EU but we will not give up on Cyprus for the EU, and we will not give up on the EU for Cyprus. We have a just cause on both issues and we will negotiate on finding a feasible solution.” Bagis accused some EU member states of using the Cyprus issue to “hide” other reasons for opposing Turkish accession, and argued that the same countries were guilty of double standards.
Turkish accession to EU, its public sentiment does not always match the official position. Most Turks now are fed up with EU misbehavior and want to end the negotiations once for all. Turkey expects fair negotiations, doesn’t want any special favors just because they are a large, economically feasible, dynamic and strategically situated nation with access to such a big market, but they don’t want any additional burdens either.
Fleeing persecution in Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus, millions of Turkish and non-Turkish Muslims settled there, and today almost half of Turkey’s 73 million citizens are descendants of these disparate peoples.
Turkey may be an unwilling ally of notorious NATO, but is remains the most important Muslim nation in the world, and has been a boon especially for the anti-Islamic world led by the USA-UK terror twins and their terror allies. Turkey was forged through blood and war as a state exclusively by and for Muslims. This claim Ankara shares only with Pakistan though this Isslmaic naiton is bieng destalbized by Obama’s NATO terror syndicates.
The NATO’s impact has forced turkey to make military supreme. Not long ago, many would have expected the military, which has traditionally been the guardian of Turkey’s secular, nationalist identity, to intervene as politics got out of hand. But the implication of the AKP’s ever-increasing power, especially after it changed the line of succession for the military’s top brass, is that the military will bend to the AKP’s will and play along with its newfound leadership role in the Muslim world. In October, the military remained quiet when the AKP objected to NATO’s plans to place a missile defense shield in Turkey. This suggests that the AKP no longer perceives Iran and Syria as threats. And there are already signs that the military is stopping its decades-long practice of purging Islamist officers from its ranks, which would open the way for grass-roots Islamization of NATO’s second-largest army.
As NATO membership provides Turkey with crucial technology and political clout, it is unlikely that the AKP is interested in ending the country’s decades-old commitment to the Alliance. But particularly if the 2011 elections allowed it to cement its rule, the AKP would increasingly use its NATO membership to undermine operations in the Muslim world and to defend its Manichean view of global politics. In his book Strategic Depth, the AKP Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, summarizes this position: “Turkey’s traditionally good ties with the West are a form of alienation.” Undoubtedly, the AKP’s hostility toward the West would not have resonated with Turks before 9/11 and the wars that followed. The AKP was able to cast the war in Iraq as an attack on Muslims — Turks included — and place Turkey firmly on the side of the Muslim world.
But the NATO played havoc interfering in the policy making of Turkey. Whatever the ultimate outcome, for the first time since joining NATO in 1952, Turkey has challenged an Alliance initiative. And in doing so, the AKP is wearing a politicized religious identity and ideology on its sleeve. It has already signaled a future rift with NATO over Iran and Syria by removing these two countries from its “Red Book,” Turkey’s official policy paper defining foreign security threats. Given that Turkey is the only NATO member bordering Iran and Syria, viewed by the U.S. as ballistic missile threats to NATO, this is a troubling strategic shift.
The ancient city Istanbul has been declared the 2012 European Capital of Sports here Nov 14. European Capitals of Sport Association (ACES) President Gian Francesco Lupatelli during a news conference at the city air facility, Ataturk Airport, Istanbul. The ACES committee surveyed various locations in the city, last week, before unanimously deciding on Istanbul as the 2012 capital. For his part, State Minister and Chief EU accession negotiator Egemen Bagis said this decision showed Turkey became “a very important actor of Europe.” This is the first time a Turkish city has been declared a European sports capital.
د. عبد راف
Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism; Educationalist;Chancellor-