Like all long political years, the year 2014 did not begin on January 1st; rather, 2014 politically began at the end of May with the Taksim events. Nevertheless, the year may end on an optimistic note. It could be said that, unless the date of the upcoming general elections change, the long political year of 2014 will extend to June 2015. Had the government been overthrown by the police-judiciary coup in December 17th., Turkey would have been sentenced to a neo-tutelage regime for many years to come. The first phase of the tripartite elections race in Turkey ended with Erdoğan’s victory. The upcoming presidential elections in August 2014 will be the second phase. The March 30 elections clearly demonstrated that the AK Party will continue to play an important part in Turkey’s political scene for years to come.
What happened in Egypt? The Egyptian regime moved to the offensive prior to the presidential elections, and the military and the judiciary did everything in their power to prevent Mohamed Morsi from becoming president and curtailed his powers and dissolved the parliament. Morsi, however, issued a decree granting himself broad powers and used his new authority to order the retrial of Mubarak. Egypt will continue to struggle between painful democratization and tutelage regime.
Over the past decade, Turkey has been experiencing a decisive transition that North Africa and the Middle East only recently have begun to feel. It will be misleading to interpret the changes in the Arab world as unique and isolated developments taking place in each country, on a case by case basis. “The Camp David Order,” that took shape after 1978, based on Western support for authoritarian Arab leaders, has dominated Middle Eastern affairs for the last three decades. The US invasion of Iraq intentionally or unintentionally shook up the status quo of the regional order. Turkey has been seen as a success story for those countries suffering from a lack of democratization, economic development and a more equitable distribution of income, while enduring a “Cold Peace” with Israel. Just as Turkey had a role in the transformation of the Arab world, the Arab world will also play a significant role in the formation of the “New Turkey.” Turkey will remain an actor helping to build this new democratic and more prosperous regional order, as long as it deploys its comparative, historical, and strategic advantages.
The questions about the direction of Turkish foreign policy have been voiced once more following the flotilla crisis between Turkey and Israel, which coincided with Turkey’s vote in May against a UN Security Council resolution on Iran. Is Turkey turning its back on the West? In the unfolding debate, one can see that such questions are being asked in order to send a tacit message of intimidation to Turkey or to give it a warning, rather than to conduct an honest inquiry into Turkey’s foreign policy direction. To explain the recent changes in Turkish foreign policy, this commentary, instead, proposes to look at the transformations in the US role in the Middle East. It argues that ignoring the fundamental change in the global order while treating Turkey’s every attempt to adapt to the new conditions as a form of “axis shift” are efforts to analyze Turkish foreign policy with parameters of a bygone time.
The Kurdish question in Turkey has a long history which was viewed within the framework of nation building, integration and underdevelopment until it was perceived as a security issue with the emergence of the PKK in the 1980s. During the 1990s, dominated by the security perspective, the scope of the question was reduced to terrorist acts alone under a state of emergency rule. A number of changes transformed the nature of question, such as the Kurdish political movement since the 1990s, forced migration, the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999 and the emergence of autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq. A permanent settlement of the Kurdish question must be based on developing new and alternative, strategies vis-à-vis existing policies. In this context, a comprehensive package of measures should include not only security measures, but more importantly democratic reforms and economic investments.