Turkey, which was caught unprepared for the Arab Spring, starting in Tunisia in 2010, and which has not been able to find a way out of Syrian crisis, has been overshadowed by Mohammed Morsi’s Egypt, which is making strategic diplomatic moves.
Morsi’s criticism against Syria and Iran at the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) meeting in Tehran, his attempts to regain leadership in the region and his efforts to rebuild reasonable relations with Israel and the US have attracted the world’s attention to Egypt.
On the other hand, it appears that Turkey has suspended its relations with the region, with the exception of the issue of Syria.
The recent tension with Iran and Iraq, the ideological supporters of Syria, Israel’s failure to honor Turkey’s demands and the ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as other leading actors of the region in Syria have all narrowed Turkey’s sphere of influence. In addition, the failure of Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supported in the elections, to deepen strategic relations with Turkey has triggered some comments that Ankara’s Middle East vision should be revisited.
There are three reasons for Turkey’s inability to create a sphere of influence in the region.
First, earlier remarks by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during the Libyan and Syrian crises that “we know all tribes and groups very well; we have good relations with all of them,” hold no water. This led some commentators to suggest that Turkey is not well aware of the dynamics in the region.
Second, there is still a ghost of Ottomanism lingering in the region. The idea of neo-Ottomanism, associated with the statements and remarks by Davutoğlu, is frequently raised in the region, and this leads to a cautious approach towards Turkey.
Third, Turkey is actually not well represented at all in the region. Turkey has only a small number of diplomats in the missions in Middle East countries, and most of these diplomats do not speak Arabic. The diplomatic missions, which should normally serve as the eyes of Turkey in the region, are unable to follow the changes, developments and balance of power in the region. On the other hand, even the Azerbaijani diplomats in Cairo can speak Arabic pretty fluently.
Maybe we should also note the recent terror attacks in Turkey. The attacks that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have staged recently in different parts of Turkey have forced Turkish authorities to adopt a more domestic approach to deal with this problem.
All analysts agree that the region is being reshaped. And it is also commonly agreed that the strongest state in the region in economic, military and democratic terms should consider all these developments and reshape its national security policies.
In order to survive and become strong in the region, a state needs to have hard power. So far, Turkey has tried to become influential relying on its soft power in the region, and to some extent, it has been successful. However, it has become apparent that these policies will not work from now on. There are many reasons that Turkey needs to go through a process of radical change; however, the primary reason is Iran. It should be noted that if it is developing nuclear and chemical arms, Iran is doing so not for the US or Israel. It is developing these arms and weapons against Turkey and other countries in the region. With the deterrent associated with these weapons, it will try to intimidate its neighboring states and other countries in the region.
Undoubtedly, the other countries in the region will stand against the US and Israel after toppling their dictators and seek to acquire nuclear arms or stronger conventional weapons.
So far, some of the states in the region have made their intentions clear on this matter. A strong and powerful Turkey is the greatest assurance for peace in the region.