After Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was presented as the candidate for prime minister and new chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), articles that speak about "Turkey's failed foreign policy" have gained currency once again. Let's have a general look at what has happened in our region over the past decade to see whether this argument is right or wrong.
Saddam Hussein was hung and his administration was toppled. He was succeeded by another authoritarian regime that inflicted sectarian discrimination against the Sunnis and Kurds, alienating both groups. Turkey, for a long while, has stressed that this regime was unsustainable and it would inflame serious outrage among the Sunni majority; and this came true in a much shorter time than expected. The barbarous Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which emerged and grew in Syria, made progress by benefiting from the Sunnis' reactions against Nouri al-Maliki. They occupied a number of cities in Iraq including Mosul. This resulted in the deposition of al-Maliki, whose leadership was proven to be incompetent. Turkey's thesis, which suggested that Western countries should come to the table with Iran and that this was necessary for the normalization of the Iranian regime, was later approved by the West. But this time, the West had to consent to more severe conditions than Turkey offered, and came to terms with Iran, despite its overt support for the Assad regime.
Syria has become the bloodiest country among the Arab countries, which were inspired by the Arab Spring ethos of attaining freedom and democracy. Initially, Western countries promised that they would support the Syrian opposition; however, they left it too late before it disintegrated. ISIS filled this authority gap with the help of Iraq and the Assad regime. For the last three years, Turkey has suggested that unless moderate opposition groups are supported in Syria, the extremist groups will fill the authority gap in the region. The region we live in is undergoing a strategic fragmentation. This is an insurrection against colonialism, which has been continuing for more than a century, and against the artificial borders that were imposed on these countries. The people of this geography have suffered too much and, sadly, this will continue. Turkey did not step back and watch by adopting realpolitik like other countries.
Turkey is making a quick return to its sphere of influence, which was marginalized by the Kemalist regime. Its predictions about Syria and Iraq have proven to be true. Had it supported al-Assad and al-Maliki, this would have cost Turkey another century to rebuild its sphere of influence in the region.
When the masses, which dethroned Hosni Mubarak in just three weeks, are convinced that the military came into power to maintain colonial order rather than preventing quarrel between brothers, they will confront the masterminds of the military coup just as we faced the 1980 coup d'état. The day they achieve this, Turkey will stand out as the only country which defends democratic legitimacy in Egypt.
Again during Davutoğlu's tenure, Turkey has established friendly relations with Greece and Armenia as well as consolidating its ties with Georgia. Despite differences of opinion, Turkey initiated high-level strategic cooperation with Russia. It developed relations in a number of fields, including natural gas imported from Iran and missile purchases from China. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) whose existence was a regarded as a redline in the past, has become one of the greatest allies of Turkey. I cannot mention our strengthened relations with Bosnia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan due to space restrictions.
Then why did Turkey's foreign policy fail? Is it because it did not choose to reconcile with mass murderer Assad, authoritarian al-Maliki and dictator Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi? Leaving this oft-told argument aside, Davutoğlu's political adventure, which began with the foreign ministry and followed by his premiership, indicates that Turkey goes far beyond its borders. Turkey's current policy is not a neo-Ottomanist one as it proves that Turkey is not an unfounded and amnesiac country.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.