Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 1, 2017
This article proceeds from the premise that there has long been fundamental continuity both in the overall strategic vision of the Turkish leadership, and in the centrality of the Kurdish question in shaping the pursuit of that vision. This was true of Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tenure in office as foreign minister (May 2009 – August 2014) and then prime minister (August 2014 – May 2016), despite the fact that it can be divided into two sub-phases which to many observers appeared radically opposed to each other: the first from 2009 to about 2011 and best characterized by Davutoğlu’s famous “zero problems” formulation, and the second from 2011 to 2016 marked by escalating crises with almost all Turkey’s neighbors. I have already argued elsewhere that this apparent contradiction masked a deeper continuity in outlook –not just in Davutoğlu’s mind but also in those of the other main AK Party leaders– extending back even before 2002, and marked by a combination of hegemonic ambition with a realistic appreciation of regional power balances. The transition around 2011 was accordingly occasioned not by a change of outlook, but primarily by regional transformations such as the outbreak of the Arab Uprisings. Here I will argue that the subsequent unfolding of those upheavals, beginning with the turning point of the battle for Kobani in 2014, has brought Turkey’s leadership to a critical juncture in which the pillars of its long-standing strategic vision are being put to a decisive test.