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Editor's Note | Spring 2024

This issue of Insight Turkey offers a thorough examination of the current state of Middle Eastern politics, exploring the characteristics, patterns, and progress in the region and their impact on global politics. Additionally, we address other subjects such as Türkiye’s bilateral relations with the Balkans and Indonesia, Indonesia’s foreign and domestic policy, and educational changes in Türkiye. We hope that the detailed discussions and diverse viewpoints presented in this edition will provide our readers with valuable insights and deepen their understanding of the complex geopolitical landscape

Editor's Note Spring 2024




The modern Middle East took shape following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. This event led to the establishment of the current regional system and the integration of Arab states into the international system. The Western colonial powers played a significant role in shaping the post-Ottoman Middle Eastern regional structure. The main developments at the beginning of the emergence of the regional system were the Arab Revolt (McMahon/British and Sheriff Hussein/Arab cooperation against the Ottoman state), the Sykes-Picot Agreement (the secret Anglo-French collaboration on the division of the Middle Eastern territories), and the Balfour Declaration (the process of the creation of a Jewish state in the region).

As the main root causes of Middle Eastern developments, these three factors continue to influence the current political instability and many regional conflicts. First of all, the Sharif Hussein Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1916 is a turning point in the recent history of the region. The Western states coined the term “the Arab Revolt,” which does not reflect reality since only a small percentage of the Arab people revolted against the Ottoman State. The same colonial powers crafted the image and perception of “Arabs stabbing Turks from behind” and “imperialist Turks.” Thus, colonial states sowed the seeds of hostility between Arabs and Turks and successfully built a wall or barrier between the two most influential states in the region. Despite the effective support given by a group of Arabs to the colonial Western states, they did not allow Arabs to establish a pan-Arab state after the First World War. They not only kept Arabs divided but also created many artificial political entities in the region. In other words, they kept the Arabs dependent on the Western global powers.

Second, Western colonial powers agreed to divide the territory of the region and to keep it dependent. Literally, the Sykes-Picot Agreement is a secret agreement signed by France and Britain in 1916 dividing the Ottoman Middle Eastern territories. In reality, it does represent the imperialist spirit of the division of the region by the traditional colonial powers. Similar to the spirit and trauma of the Sevres Treaty, the Sykes-Picot Treaty has been haunting the regional people and states since then. Hence, many scholars coined the term “Sykes-Picot Version 2” to describe the further fragmentation of Middle Eastern states following the so-called Arab Spring. These already-divided territories experienced another wave of division.

Third, the process of creating the Israeli state in the Palestinian territories was initiated by the colonial powers after the First World War. Historically, the Balfour Declaration was the first official document promising a “national home” for the Jewish people. In reality, it paved the way for the establishment of a Jewish state. The declaration of the Israeli state and its aggressive and expansionist policies since then are among the main reasons for Middle Eastern insecurity and instability. With the unconditional support of Western colonial powers, Israel has been using violence against both the Arab states and the Palestinian people.

The region has been experiencing one of the most dramatic transition periods since October 7, 2023. Representing the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, Hamas attacked the Israeli targets and caused great damage on the Israeli side. It was an overall reaction to the continuous Israeli expansionism and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The Israeli response was, or is, the most brutal one in the modern history of the region. Backed by some of the most powerful global powers, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, and Australia, Israel has been indifferently targeting innocent Palestinians, killing children and women, and destroying residential areas, hospitals, and schools. So far, Israel, with the support of its complicit states, has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, most of whom are civilian non-combatants. Approximately 75 percent of those who are killed by Israel are children, women, and the elderly. Most observers call the Israeli atrocities genocide.

Due to the longtime regional problems created by the colonial powers, the ongoing impact of Arab insurgencies and revolutions, and the persistent use of violence by Israel, the Middle East is on fire again. As a matter of fact, the region has been on fire since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. That is why Sezai Karakoç, a respected Turkish poet, writer, and thinker, descried the modern/post-Ottoman Middle East as “a rooster whose head is plucked” and remains in blood.

Today, there is still no regional leader/hegemon or institution/political platform to provide regional security. For instance, neither the Arab League nor the Islamic Cooperation Organization can play an effective role in the resolution of regional problems. Most regional countries experience certain difficulties in their domestic and foreign policies. Many regional states lack national unity, central authority, internal legitimacy, or economic welfare. While some states are quite vulnerable, others are failed ones. In addition, as one of the most penetrated regions in the world, the Middle East is still open to the intensive intervention of global powers, and the fate of the regional nations is largely determined by the very same global powers.

This issue of Insight Turkey focuses on the latest developments in Middle Eastern politics. It explores the trends and developments across the region, ranging from Israel’s war in Gaza to political affairs among Arab states. Our current issue includes four commentaries and seven research articles to provide a comprehensive analysis of the topic. Additionally, this issue includes an off-topic commentary and four off-topic research articles.

The commentary section starts with an analysis of the implications of Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip towards Palestinian people by Faed Mustafa. In his commentary, he examines the resilience of the Palestinian people in light of the Israel’s indiscriminate attacks and illegal settlements. Within a similar perspective, Sami al-Arian examines the implications of the al-Aqsa Flood for the regional order in the Middle East. Al-Arian contends that due to Operation al-Aqsa Flood, the conflict in the region may enter a new phase. He also discusses the failure of the strategic decision made by Arab states to exclusively support a political resolution with Israel.

In the subsequent commentary, Hilal Khashan examines the implication of the al-Aqsa Flood on Hezbollah’s strategy against Israel. In that, Khashan argues that Hezbollah believed it was necessary to initiate an offensive act in Southern Lebanon in order to alleviate the military pressure exerted by Israel on Hamas. Finally, the commentary by Mohammad Sarmini studies the political stalemate in Syria within the context of international efforts and regional dynamics. He contends that the formulation of a peace agreement for Syria must take into account the security concerns and diverse interests of foreign forces on the ground.

Then, in our initial research article, Zeynep Burcu Uğur, Ömer Demir, and İbrahim Dalmış investigate the perception and the reaction of Turkish people to Israel’s war in Gaza. By using a survey of 1,393 respondents, the authors found out that preferences matter in understanding support for the Palestinian cause. In addition to this, Alptekin Cihangir İşbilir investigates the architectural and demographic dynamics of Jerusalem, examining public discourse to determine the presence of neo-colonial ethnic segregation and socio-spatial divisions.

In the next research article, Ali Kamel Darbaj shows how the U.S. recognition of Golan Heights creates a threat to international peace. According to Darbaj, it has several implications, such as this recognition threatening international peace, and this recognition contradicts all resolutions that have been issued in a legitimate manner, including those issued by the United Nations obligating Israel to return these lands. Within a similar issue, Saeed Baroud, Orhun Cem Karsavuran, and Emrah Atar explore the role of foreign aid as a soft power tool by providing an understanding of the interrelation between foreign policy and aid and by taking humanitarian aid in Syria as a case study. Accordingly, the authors suggest that foreign aid and foreign policy are closely connected, as foreign aid is typically managed by foreign ministries, reflecting the intersection of international assistance and diplomatic strategy. Additionally, the study also demonstrates how aid can become influenced by politics, for example, when the Syrian government instrumentalizes aid as a weapon.

In the next articles, we delve into the Middle East in the context of the economy. Firstly, Erhan Akkaş’s article analyzes the intricate economic ties between Türkiye and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It particularly focuses on exploring the multifaceted economic and trade relations that exist between the two regions. It suggests that although the AK Party era has led to increased overall connections, the ups and downs of historical business relationships have been influenced by regional and foreign policy decisions. In addition to this topic, Ömer Naim Küçük focused on the link between economic diversification and regional investment in the Gulf. Focusing on investment trends in Egypt by Saudi and Emirati leaders as a case study, the research delves into how these investments are used as tools of economic statecraft by Saudi and Emirati leadership. The objective is to reinforce diversification goals and tackle political, economic, and environmental challenges. The author found that although these local investments could help with diversifying the economy and fostering economic cooperation within the area, they are also influenced by the economic strategies of Saudi and Emirati leaders, who are looking to protect against political and economic instabilities.

To provide a comprehensive understanding of bilateral relations, Betül Doğan Akkaş provides a thorough study of Turkish-Bahrain relations. The role of Türkiye in Bahrain’s foreign policy within the context of the Middle East, especially in relation to Saudi Arabia’s regional dominance, is the focus of Doğan Akkaş’s analysis. She suggests that Bahrain’s approach to dealing with Türkiye is influenced by two main factors: its close alliance with Saudi Arabia and its strategic adjustments in the region.

Our first off-topic research article focuses on Türkiye-Balkans relations. Specifically, Nedim Emin and Mehmet Uğur Ekinci examine the issue of Türkiye’s military activism in the Balkans. In that, Emin and Ekinci analyze the renewed military and defense involvement of Türkiye in the Balkans since the late 2010s. Additionally, Türkiye has experienced significant growth in the export of defense industry products to the region, contributing to the enhancement of these countries’ defense capabilities. Ultimately, the increased activity in the military and defense sectors signals a new direction in Türkiye’s Balkan policy.

In addition, we feature three off-topic research articles focusing on Indonesia. Regarding Türkiye’s bilateral relations, Hadza Min Fadly Robby and Tufan Kutay Boran analyze the potential of the strategic partnership between Indonesia and Türkiye. This study argues that although military and commercial relations between Türkiye and Indonesia have reached a significant level, bilateral relations are still not sufficient for strategic partnership and investigates the reasons for this.

The second off-topic research article on Indonesia focuses on its foreign policy. Gizem Bütün, Yanyan Mochamad Yani, Arry Bainus, and R. Widya Setiabudi Sumadinata explore the connection between Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) and its “free and active foreign policy,” particularly in relation to the need for infrastructure investment and the tensions stemming from China’s economic influence through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Lastly, Zuly Qodir emphasizes Indonesia’s domestic policy within the context of contemporary Islamic thought. The author provides a perspective on the expansion of post-Islamist movements and the contested public sphere in Indonesian politics.

Finally, our off-topic commentary studies the state of vocational education and training in Türkiye, written by Mahmut Özer. In his commentary, Özer analyzes the changes occurring in the field of vocational education in Türkiye, discussing the obstacles it faces, the new ideas being introduced, and the consequences of these changes.

Overall, this issue of Insight Turkey offers a thorough examination of the current state of Middle Eastern politics, exploring the characteristics, patterns, and progress in the region and their impact on global politics. Additionally, we address other subjects such as Türkiye’s bilateral relations with the Balkans and Indonesia, Indonesia’s foreign and domestic policy, and educational changes in Türkiye. We hope that the detailed discussions and diverse viewpoints presented in this edition will provide our readers with valuable insights and deepen their understanding of the complex geopolitical landscape.

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