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Posted By Daniel Pipes On April 18, 2011 @ 12:01 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 1 Comment
[Editor’s note: the following article was originally published at National Review Online .]
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu  grandiloquently proclaimed recently that, “If the world is on fire, Turkey is the firefighter. Turkey is assuming the leading role for stability in the Middle East.”
Such ambition is new for Ankara. In the 1990s, it contentedly fulfilled its NATO obligations and followed Washington’s lead. Starting about 1996, relations with Israel  blossomed. In all, Turkish policy offered an attractive exception to the tyrannical, Islamist, and conspiracist mentality generally dominating Muslim peoples. That the country’s political leaders were corrupt and fumbling seemed of little consequence.
Those faults, however, proved extremely consequential, leading to the repudiation of long-established political parties and the victory of an Islamist party, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP), in the elections of November 2002. By March 2003, in advance of the coming war in Iraq, the new government signaled that a new era had begun by refusing to permit American troops to traverse Turkish territory.
Over the next eight years, Turkish foreign policy become increasingly hostile to the West in general, the United States, France , Israel in particular, even as it warmed to governments in Syria, Iran, and Libya. This shift became particularly evident in May 2010, when Ankara both helped Tehran avoid sanctions  for its nuclear program and injured Israel’s reputation with the Mavi Marmara-led flotilla .
But the full extent of Ankara’s Middle East ambitions emerged in early 2011, concurrent with the region’s far-reaching upheavals. Suddenly, Turks were ubiquitous. Their recent activities include:
Providing a model: The Turkish president,Abdullah Gül , holds that Turkey can have a “great and unbelievable positive effect” on the Middle East – and he has some takers. For example, Rached Ghannouchi , leader of Tunisia’s newly legalized Ennahda movement, has stated: “We are learning from the experience of Turkey, especially the peace that has been reached in the country between Islam and modernity.”
Offering an economic lifeline to Iran: Gül paid a state visit to Tehran  in February, accompanied by a large group of businessmen, capping an evolution whereby, according to the Jamestown Foundation, “Turkey is becoming a major [economic] lifeline for Iran.” In addition, Gül praised the Iranian political system .
Obstructing foreign efforts in Libya: Starting on March 2 , the Turkish government objected to any military intervention against Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s regime. “Foreign interventions, especially military interventions, only deepen the problem,” Davutoğlu put it on March 14 , perhaps worrying about a similar intervention to protect Kurds in eastern Turkey . When military operations began onMarch 19 , Turkish forces did not take part. Turkish opposition delayed NATO ‘s engagement in Libya until March 31  and then freighted it with conditions.
Supporting Qaddafi: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan helped Qaddafi by issuing bothdemagogic proclamations  (“Turkey will never be a party that points a gun at the Libyan people”) and practical proposals (e.g., that Qaddafi salvage his rule by appointing a president ). Ankara also offered , according to Hürriyet newspaper “to be involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Libya, to manage the Benghazi airport and to deploy naval forces to control the area between Benghazi and the Greek island of Crete.” In gratitude, Qaddafi replied , “We are all Ottomans.” In contrast, Libyan rebels fumed  at and marched  against the Turkish government.
Helping Damascus: In January, Ankara agreed totrain Syrian troops ; in March, Erdoğan publicly advised  Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad how to maintain power, perhaps fearful that Syria’s 1.4 million Kurds might win more autonomy  and cause unrest among Turkey’s approximately 15 million Kurds.
Anti-Zionism: Ankara has emerged as the leader in delegitimizing Israel. Davutoğlu tries to unify its enemies  while predicting Israel’s disappearance ; agovernment-affiliated organization  plans a new Gaza “freedom” flotilla  with at least 15 ships taking part; and the deputy prime minister calls for a Libya-style bombing  of Israel.
Ankara’s ambitions must be checked. Less provocatively and more intelligently than the Iranian regime, it aspires to reshape Muslim countries in its Islamist image. The opening salvos of this effort have gone well, being both effective and largely unnoticed.
Possible methods to block AKP influence include: expressing displeasure with Ankara’s “neo-Ottomanist” policies; publicly questioning whether Turkish actions are compatible with NATO membership; quietly encouraging opposition parties in the country’s June 2011 elections; and, at this moment of AKP hostility and of Kurdish  uprisings  in eastern Turkey, reconsidering the delicate question of Kurdish civil rights.
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URLs in this post:
 Image: http://frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/IRAN-Turkey-deal-nuclear1.gif
 National Review Online: http://www.danielpipes.org/9671/ambitious-turkey
 Ahmet Davutoğlu: http://www.hudson-ny.org/2027/turkey-more-democratic-than-some-eu-members
 relations with Israel: http://www.danielpipes.org/293/a-new-axis-the-emerging-turkish-israeli-entente
 France: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/24/turkey-france-clash-libya-campaign
 avoid sanctions: http://www.mideastweb.org/teheran_declaration_2010.htm
 Mavi Marmara-led flotilla: http://idfspokesperson.com/2010/05/31/pictures-of-weapons-found-on-the-mavi-marmara-flotilla-ship-31-may-2010/
 Abdullah Gül: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=president-gul-turkey-must-raise-its-standards-to-be-regional-model-2011-04-07
 Rached Ghannouchi: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=tunisian-islamist-leader-embraces-turkey-praises-erbakan-2011-03-03
 state visit to Tehran: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=37534
 praised the Iranian political system: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/171353.html
 March 2: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=an-external-intervention-to-libya-would-make-the-situation-worse-turkish-fm-davutoglu-says-2011-03-02
 March 14: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/turkeys-pm-erdogan-voices-opposition-to-any-nato-operation-in-l
 protect Kurds in eastern Turkey: http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/world/news/64904/
 March 19: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-238700-turkish-minister-says-turkey-did-not-join-operation.html
 delayed NATO: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=126461
 March 31: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/africa/news/article_1629882.php/Rasmussen-NATO-has-taken-full-control-of-Libya-operations
 demagogic proclamations: http://yenisafak.com.tr/Politika/?i=309664&t=22.03.2011
 appointing a president: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/turkey-criticises-frances-role-in-libya-intervention/
 Ankara also offered: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=pm-criticizes-air-strikes-says-un-should-be-umbrella-for-humanitarian-operation-2011-03-22
 Qaddafi replied: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-237762-gaddafi-cites-turkeys-kurds-vows-to-fight-no-fly-zone.html
 fumed: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/6/libyan-rebels-blame-airstrike-lull-on-turkey/
 marched: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=72133
 train Syrian troops: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-234036-turkish-army-to-train-syrian-army.html
 publicly advised: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=beyond-demand-for-reforms-some-circles-try-to-stir-up-trouble-assad-told-erdogan-2011-03-27
 win more autonomy: http://www.ikjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=623:protests-erupt-in-syrian-kurdish-region-activist&catid=34:news&Itemid=79
 unify its enemies: http://todayszaman.com/news-240500-davutoglu-hopeful-for-palestinian-unity-after-talks-with-mashaal.html
 Israel’s disappearance: http://antisemitism.org.il/article/13271/turkey-turkish-foreign-minister-%E2%80%9Cisrael-will-disappear-independent-country%E2%80%9D
 government-affiliated organization: http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=204948
 new Gaza “freedom” flotilla: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/turkey-group-plans-new-gaza-flotilla-with-at-least-15-ships-1.350994
 Libya-style bombing: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/17328326.asp?gid=233
 Kurdish: http://en.firatnews.com/index.php?rupel=article&nuceID=2116
 uprisings: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4051380,00.html
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