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Über dieses Buch

This volume examines contemporary political relations between Turkey and the Middle East. In the light of the Arab Uprisings of 2011, the Syria Crisis, the escalation of regional terrorism and the military coup attempt in Turkey, it illustrates the dramatic fluctuations in Turkish foreign policy towards key Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

The contributors analyze Turkey’s deepening involvement in Middle Eastern regional affairs, also addressing issues such as terrorism, social and political movements and minority rights struggles. While these problems have traditionally been regarded as domestic matters, this book highlights their increasingly regional dimension and the implications for the foreign affairs of Turkey and countries in the Middle East.



Chapter 1. Introduction: The Politics of Power Amidst the Uprisings of Hope

Since the Arab Uprisings of 2011, popularly known as the “Arab Spring,” the Middle East—with its rapidly changing political setting—has been a key center of attention for media and academia. It has become commonplace to refer to this increasingly turbulent region as the “new Middle East” or the “postrevolutionary Middle East,” though uncertainties stemming from the indeterminate future of regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt as well as the civil wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq continue. In recent years, Turkey, a country that used to remain in the fringes of the region with its noninterventionist stance, has been heavily involved in the affairs of the Middle East. This has been reflected on the highly interventionist policies of the incumbent AKP (Justice and Development Party) administration toward the 2011 and 2013 uprisings in Egypt, the ongoing civil war in Syria, Iran’s controversial nuclear program, the region-wide tensions between Sunni and Shi’a groups, the rise of the ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Daesh in Arabic), and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Oğuzhan Göksel

The Turkish Model and the Arab Spring


Chapter 2. Turkish Foreign Policy, the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Crisis: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

When the “Arab Spring” struck the Middle East in 2011, the initial perceptions of Turkish foreign policy-makers were predominantly positive. Turkey, under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi—hereafter AKP), appeared to support any changes that emanate from the “people level” across the region. As the party had already been victorious in three consecutive parliamentary elections, with mass popular support in its own country, supporting “people” in their struggle against authoritarian regimes was a consistent and reasonable policy at the onset of the Arab Spring.
Hüseyin Işıksal

Chapter 3. Eurocentrism Awakened: The Arab Uprisings and the Search for a “Modern” Middle East

The 2011 Arab uprisings were initially hailed by many observers in the Western world as the harbinger of a “modern” Middle East. Finally, it was believed, the hegemony of corrupt autocrats and the prolonged “dark age” of the Arab world were coming to an end. In the context of this narrative that emerged in the wake of the Arab uprisings, the so-called Turkish model gained popularity as a potential guide for the modernization of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Accordingly, modernization has been defined as the inevitable path to a liberal democratic, free-market capitalist, and secular society within non-Western settings. This conceptualization is highly Eurocentric as the contents of modernization are solely limited to the contemporary characteristics of social, economic, and political life in Western Europe and Northern America. Moreover, the possibility that the complex transformation trajectories of non-Western societies may not produce the same outcomes as in the Western experience is completely overlooked.
Oğuzhan Göksel

Chapter 4. The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Model for the Middle East

In the decade between 2002 and 2012, Turkey was often proposed as a model for the Middle East and the broader Muslim world. However, this assumption has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.” This is not only due to Turkey’s inability to transform the 2011 Arab Uprisings into an opportunity to extend its political influence in the region but also because Ankara has begun to reorient its Middle Eastern policy, characterized above all by a less dynamic attitude from 2011 onward. This is caused, in part, by the emergence of major internal sociopolitical problems (e.g., the 2013 Gezi Park protests) that have distracted Turkey from the Middle Eastern scene. In addition, profound changes within the Arab world itself have also led to a shift in Turkish foreign policy as Turkey could not have possibly remained immune from regional upheavals pressing on its borders (e.g., the Syrian refugee crisis). Nevertheless, any study of the so-called Turkish model should begin with an analysis of the origins and contents of this concept.
Stefano M. Torelli

Chapter 5. Ties that Bind: Popular Uprisings and the Politics of Neoliberalism in the Middle East

The momentous uprisings classified under the epithet of the Arab Spring and the Gezi Park protests in Turkey have spawned a considerable interdisciplinary academic literature that strives to account for the origins, evolution, and gradual dissolution of the social mobilizations that shaped these events (Yom 2015). While the initial response to both events, in academic circles as well as in press outlets, was shaped by a significant degree of surprise and disbelief, the emergent literature has already provided important sets of analytical and conceptual tools to contextualize and explain the uprisings (Patel et al. 2014, p. 57; Gause 2011). Insights from critical strands in international relations (IR) and international political economy (IPE) as well as economic and political sociology have helped fashion refreshing lenses through which the events have been analyzed. Viewed from such perspectives, these episodes of popular struggle have been contextualized as “a concatenation of political upheavals” that were triggered by a growing discontent with neoliberalism, though the Arab uprisings’ roots in the inner contradictions of neoliberalism have arguably received a more sustained analytical scrutiny than the Turkish case so far (Anderson 2011, p. 5).
Cemal Burak Tansel

Turkey’s Relations with Middle Eastern Powers After the Arab Spring


Chapter 6. Political Chaos in Iraq, ISIS, and Turkish Foreign Policy: The High Cost of the Westphalian Delusion

The political chaos in Iraq is not a contemporary phenomenon, and it was prevalent in the country prior to the recent global attention focused on the emergence of the radical Islamist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (hereafter ISIS). Moreover, it requires the elucidation of various dynamics and challenges, deriving from both the internal and external dynamics of the Middle East in the form of not only political- but also religious-, cultural-, economic-, and identity-related factors. Similarly, any analysis that disregards the problematic state formation, artificial borders, legitimacy problem, paradox of the Westphalian principles in the Middle East, and negative impact of the deceptive Orientalist discourse on the international relations (IR) literature would be unable to provide convincing and sufficient answers to this sophisticated problem. Therefore, analyzing the emergence of ISIS as an independent variable is comparable to focusing on “mosquitoes” without taking the “swamp” into consideration.
Hüseyin Işıksal

Chapter 7. The Arab Spring and Turkish-Iranian Relations, 2011–2016

The origins of 2011 Arab Spring can be traced to the postcolonial political order that emerged in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region after World War II. Authoritarian regimes dominated all aspects of life in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, brutally repressing voices of dissent and preventing the establishment of liberal democratic open societies in the Arab world. Turkish policy-makers believe that long overlooked socioeconomic and political frustrations fueled the unprecedented mobilization of massive crowds across the so-called “Arab street” (i.e., the countries that experienced large-scale protests such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain). Accordingly, Arab Spring was about a popular demand for political change, freedom, and social justice. The protestors aimed to alter the nature of state-society relations via developing a new social contract that would empower the “ordinary citizen” vis-à-vis the elite that controlled authoritarian state mechanisms thus far. As such, the post-2011 Turkish foreign policy toward the Middle East has been shaped by a liberal idealist understanding of the Arab Spring.
Süleyman Elik

Chapter 8. Assessing the Regional Influence and Relations of Turkey and Saudi Arabia After the Arab Spring

Over the past two decades, several narratives about the creation of a new Middle Eastern regional order have appeared in academic and journalistic circles. The main aim of this chapter is to assess the relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia who have gradually assumed important roles in the emerging strategic environment. After exploring the ongoing transformational procedure in the context of the Arab revolts, the analysis focuses on the respective foreign policies of Ankara and Riyadh over four issues of regional significance: the Syrian war, the Iraqi conflict, Iran's containment and finally the intra-Sunni competition. These fields of interaction create incentives for both cooperation and conflict between the two regional powers who are seeking to extend their influence throughout the region. In order to grasp the security dynamics of this area, a regional approach of international politics is applied.
Konstantinos Zarras

Chapter 9. Turkey, Cyprus, and the Arab Uprisings

The end of the Cold War and the tragic events of 9/11 in 2001 brought about a radical shift in international political landscape and led to a remaking of the world order. In the field of foreign policy-making, it is these “major changes in the geopolitical context generally [that] bring the reformulation of geopolitical visions, a re-articulation of geographical representations that is necessary to acknowledge and justify foreign policy changes” (Mamadouh and Dijkink 2006, p. 357). The 2011 Arab Uprisings has yet again validated the above statement as it has resulted in the formulation of new foreign policy strategies for many countries, not just in the Middle East but across the world.
Nikos Christofis

Turkey’s Domestic Politics and Relations with Non-State Actors of the Middle East


Chapter 10. Reevaluating the Sources and Fragility of Turkey’s Soft Power After the Arab Uprisings

The rapid economic growth and prodemocratic political reforms of the 2000s had propelled Turkey to the position of a regional power as it was ranked 25th in the globe according to the 2010 Soft Power Index, rising to 20th by 2012 (McClory 2010, 2013). Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, international politics of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region has witnessed a dramatic transformation, and sudden changes have started to become the norm rather than the exception—particularly after the 2003 Second Gulf War and more so after the beginning of the 2011 uprisings. In response to the rapidly shifting geopolitical situation, Turkey has had to continuously reformulate its foreign policy. In this context, the possession of “soft power” has become a useful strategy for gaining more control over the outcome of international political issues, because it has become more difficult to compel international actors through the principal levers of hard power in our age (Gallarotti 2011).
Michelangelo Guida, Oğuzhan Göksel

Chapter 11. Comparing the Political Experiences of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Sociopolitical movements with “conservative” character tend to share some commonalities, particularly those operating in developing countries such as Turkey and Egypt. The presence of similar conditions drives these movements to adopt common organizational and programmatic features. Relatively less wealthy developing countries, in contrast to developed countries, generally tend to have similar conditions such as military dictatorship or tutelage, bureaucratic authoritarianism, low-level industrialization, and external pressures from the Western world for liberalization and integration into the global economy (Calvert and Calvert 2007). Close economic and political ties with the Western world often serve as motivating or limiting agents for conservative movements to refrain from pursuing radical “fundamentalist political projects” and instead search for power within the rules provided by existing political mechanisms (i.e., remaining within the status quo). It is argued in this study that Turkey and Egypt are similar in their possession of such a sociopolitical and economic background to some extent. Thus, conservative political movements operating in these two countries bear notable resemblances.
Hakan Köni

Chapter 12. Turkey’s Evolving Relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq Since the Arab Spring

Turkey’s economic and political relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq have continued to deepen since the 2011 Arab Spring, despite shifts in Turkey’s domestic politics and its other regional relationships. This study examines the history of Turkish relations with the predominantly Kurdish part of Iraq, the development of economic ties from the 1980s to the twenty-first century, and the shift toward deeper political engagement since 2008. It considers these developments in relation to Turkey’s own internal Kurdish conflict and also in relation to Turkish foreign policy in the wider region, especially the trilateral relationship between Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad. In analyzing Turkish economic penetration of the KRG, Turkish-KRG energy deals, and still highly fluid political realignments of the region, this study suggests three possible trajectories for the future of Turkish-KRG relations: firstly, a retreat to securitization; secondly, the consolidation of a Turkish sphere of influence in Kurdish regions as a buffer against instability in the Fertile Crescent; and, thirdly, deeper engagement with the KRG as a lever for wider Turkish engagement with Iraq and the region. This third trajectory, built upon the established AKP (Justice and Development Party) policy of “strategic depth,” could be described as a post-Arab Spring “strategic depth 2.0” approach.
Nathaniel Handy

Chapter 13. The Arab Spring and the Emergence of a New Kurdish Polity in Syria

This study seeks to shed light on the preliminary results and potential fruits that the era of so-called Arab Spring bears concerning the Kurds as an increasingly visible actor and an emerging nation in the region. Since the turn of the last decade, several countries in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region have witnessed to large-scale social and political upheavals that have since then been popularly referred to as “the Arab Spring,” “Arab Awakening,” “uprisings” or “revolutions”, “grassroots movements,” and “regime changes.” Usually one considers these changes either as optimistically progressive as springs based on revolutions or pessimistically dangerous for the future of the people in the MENA. It cannot be underestimated that these protest movements have had devastating effects for the shaping of the region and its geopolitical neighborhood (i.e., Europe). In this context, the Arab Spring cannot be seen as an exclusively Arab-related phenomenon due to several reasons.
Şeref Kavak

Chapter 14. Conclusion: Turkey and the Middle East in an Age of Turbulence

Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Turkish foreign policy was predominantly based upon Westernization, the balance of power, and the preservation of status quo principles. In connection with these norms, Turkey followed an isolationist approach and avoided Middle Eastern entanglements during the Cold War era. However, these principles were no longer responding to the needs and ambitions of modern Turkey in the early twenty-first century. The US withdrawal from Iraq and the corresponding decline in its regional influence, the Sunni-Shi’a sectarian divisions, and the relatively passive stance of Russia left a power vacuum in the Middle East that paved a way for increased Turkish interventionism. Not surprisingly, Turkish foreign policy has been transformed noticeably under the AKP (Justice and Development Party) rule since 2002. More importance has been given to historically neglected areas and regions, particularly the neighboring countries and the Middle East. Turkish foreign policy has tried to be more proactive, more multidimensional, and more assertive regarding its own policy priorities.
Hüseyin Işıksal
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