This discussion in Parliament was about the Middle East and Turkey’s foreign politics. Intense debates took place, and the opposition parties’ statements placed strong provisions around Turkish action on this topic. It was perhaps the first time that a foreign policy agenda item in Parliament gave way to such a tension-laden argument. While the foreign minister discussed Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq he appeared as though he was engaged in a passionate debate on internal politics. The opposition parties’ acted as though they are a party to a conflict that is taking place within Turkey.
Turkey’s Middle Eastern policies have now become an issue of domestic policies. But even in this scenario, only within the unique environment of Turkey is it enough to determine the country’s status with respect to that which is taking place around it. Proactive, audacious, and assertive foreign policies are being reflected in the competition between Turkey’s political parties. It seems as though the situation will remain this way. In Turkey, while the line between foreign politics and domestic politics becomes hazier, Turkish foreign politics penetrates into deeper levels -- to regional countries’ internal politics. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has complained, “Turkey is meddling in our internal affairs.” It is an unreasonable thing to say, but a valid complaint. Turkey’s interference with Iraqi-directed movements that take a provocative stance against Turkish national interests is natural. Where is the fault in trying to block a foreign country’s internal politics that may impede Turkey?
For years now Turkey has been pursuing an ambitious regional foreign policy. Turkey is playing an effective role in maintaining the regional balance as a regulatory and balancing power. The foreign policy maintained by Turkey has promoted strengthening democracy and human rights as a moral issue, winning the support of the region’s people. This policy, which has been summarized as “Zero problems with our neighbors,” has as a result of the civil war in Syria, reached its limit and weakened. The Syria problem is not just a regional issue and by bringing the world, not just regional countries, face to face with the war this policy of Turkey can no longer be maintained. And this policy could not be maintained while the world’s superpowers are flexing their muscles over Syria. Turkey had to make a choice against the massacres in Syria, which had become a problem on a global scale. This approach meant resisting tyrannical regimes. The notion of “zero problems” was replaced with “minimal problems” in the political realm.
In order to implement this political policy, Turkey shifted up instead of pulling back. It began more aggressive, interfering attacks. In the past, Turkey used to look at Iraq and Syria like they were in its backyard; however, now it is as if they are within its house. Turkey sees that as time goes on, the problem grows larger, and Turkey expends more energy in looking for a definite solution by taking sides.
The messages that Davutoğlu has been giving for a while are truly quite ambitious. The messages that arise in Turkish internal politics contain words that evoke Ottoman pomp. Connected to “directing change” are aggressive words, just like “pioneering a new regional order.” These statements evoke pomp. But looking at these statements it is possible to develop an incorrect view of Turkish foreign policy. The foreign minister’s words are not an affront to the region or the world. These words have only one addressee: Iran
Turkey abandoned its attempts to contribute to regional peace by solving the problem between Iran and the US. Iran is pursuing a militant policy through Syria. The only change is that Turkey has come face to face with Iran. When Iran is the main topic of discussion it is natural to be reminded of the Ottomans. Turkey tries to direct the regional changes by facing Iran instead of having Iran by its side. This is the most important aspect of change in the region.