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From Distance to Engagement: Turkish Policy towards the Middle East, Iraq and Iraqi Kurds

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.

From Distance to Engagement Turkish Policy towards the Middle East
The message is clear. The KRG must get along with Turkey or else, in a showdown between the two, the KRG will not be able to count on U.S. support.The change in the attitude of Turkey towards the Middle East can be easily grasped by examining its policy t
 

Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East since 1999 has witnessed revolutionary changes. Turkey’s traditional policy in the region aimed for the country to be as distant as possible from the region, but currently Turkey is very much engaged in regional politics and today it is one of the countries that is considered as a mediator in regional problems. The term engagement here refers not to military interventions but to engagement in regional politics. It can be argued that Turkey was also engaged in the Middle East during the 1990s because of its military operations against the PKK in Iraq. However, today Ankara is an active player in the region using non-military means of diplomacy, such as economic tools and international conferences, and Turkey has become an indispensable actor in Middle Eastern politics. The change in the attitude of Turkey towards the Middle East can be easily grasped by examining its policy towards Iraq.

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