New opportunities: Turkey in the Middle East

Published 21.09.2019 02:18

When the Arab Spring erupted, a wave of hope and joy spread over the world. The countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which had long been ruled by dictators since they gained their independence from Western colonial powers, suddenly had the potential to establish democratic regimes and guarantee people's enjoyment of individual, social and economic rights. In the beginning, the world was baffled by such a rapid spread of democratic protests in the unlikely countries of dictators, and Western powers seemed confused about taking an open stance.Revolutions occurred in Tunisia and Egypt, and a full-fledged civil war erupted in Libya. When the Syrian people revolted to overthrow the Syrian regime, all global and regional powers rushed in to take the upper hand in their own fierce competition. Despite the presence of all these global and regional powers in Syria, the Syrian civil war has now lasted almost 10 years.

Western powers have always been concerned about Israel's safety; therefore, Arab peoples' right to self-determination seemed to be expendable by the United States and other Western states.

Occupied before the beginning of World War I, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa waged their struggle for independence between 1950 and 1970. After they gained their independence, dictators ruled the countries until the eruption of the Arab Spring.

After a few months of a democratic government, a military dictatorship has emerged in Egypt. The civil war in Libya concluded with a division of the country into two parts. Thanks to the political genius of Rached Ghannouchi, only Tunisia has maintained its democratic regime. External interventions did not work out. Paying the price of losing political power, Ghannouchi succeeded in establishing a democratic constitution. Later, Ghannouchi regained the chance to come to political power.

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, a devastating war erupted between Iraq and Iran. Under the presidency of Turgut Özal, Turkey maintained its good relations with both conflicting parties. Adopting a neutral foreign policy in a war between its two neighboring countries, Turkey's political stance in the region has begun to crystallize.

During the Syrian civil war, when the aspirations of the Barack Obama administration to integrate Iran into the world order were misunderstood by Iran as a sign of weakness and as a chance to establish an empire, a temporary rapprochement occurred between Turkey and the Gulf countries. During the Qatar crisis, Turkey adopted a pro-Qatar foreign policy that was similar to that of Iran. In Syria, Turkey has played key roles by negotiating and cooperating with the United States, Russia and Iran. When one compares Turkey's stances during all these regional crises, it is possible to ascertain that Turkey has successfully adopted a multidimensional and multilateral foreign policy approach.

As the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia approaches full-fledged war, Turkey's regional role has become even more significant. Whenever a war occurs in the Middle East, not only the warring sides, but also their neighboring countries and then the whole region are dragged into political instability.

The murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey concluded with the deterioration of relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Is it possible that an intelligence agency of the President Donald Trump's administration, which has close control of the Saudi state, was behind the planned murder, which would lead to not only the deterioration of Turkey's relations with the Saudi Arabia, but also the tightening of the control of the Saudis by the U.S.?

Turkey is a regional political power. Therefore, Turkey has the responsibility to determine its foreign policy stance according to regional stability and peace, rather than the interests of the U.S. and its allies. Israel seems content with the emergence of war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although the relations between Turkey and Egypt have been cool as of late, Egypt must take the initiative for negotiating urgent issues among regional countries.

All member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could establish a committee for peace in the United Nations. Thanks to its good relations with almost all existing powers in the region, Turkey must work for regional stability and peace. Maybe it is time for us to adopt the British model in foreign policy.

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