In its 15 years as Turkey’s ruling party, the AK Party has left its imprint on foreign policy. Besides bringing its own style to bear in dealing with Turkey’s long-standing issues of foreign policy, the AK Party has also diversified both the areas and the tools of Turkish foreign policy. In its early years, after dealing with the very urgent issues in Turkey’s immediate vicinity, the party focused its agenda on increasing Turkey’s engagement with neighboring regions. It also worked to diversify the nature of Turkey’s relationships with traditional allies and started to use international aid, conflict resolution, mediation mechanisms, and Turkey’s presence in international organizations as tools of foreign policy.
Turkey’s Middle East policy has witnessed revolutionary changes since 1999. The changes in the attitude of Turkey towards the region can be easily grasped by examining its policy towards Iraq. Today Ankara is an active player in the region using non-military means of diplomacy, such as economic tools and international conferences. This paper analyzes the changes in Turkish foreign policy towards Iraq through a framework of processes, means and outcomes. The article covers approximately the last ten years and looks at three turning points that triggered change. These turning points are the capture of the PKK leader Öcalan in 1999, Turkey’s refusal to allow the transfer of US soldiers to Iraq in March 2003, and the Turkish responses to the PKK attack on the Aktütün military post on the Turkish-Iraqi border in October 2008. The article contends that as a result of the transformations in Turkey’s foreign policy, it has become an indispensable actor in Middle Eastern politics.