For much of the first decade of the 21st century, Turkey emerged as a popular regional player in the Middle East. Turkey’s refusal to participate in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, its increasing engagement with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, its ability to straddle the Sunni-Shiite divide by forging close ties to major Sunni states as well as Iran and Syria, its vocal support for the Palestinians, and its abandonment of a primarily security-focussed approach, bolstered its prestige and enhanced its soft power. So did its support for the 2011 popular Arab Spring revolts that toppled four autocratic leaders.
Popular Turkish soap operas appealed to the aspirations of people across the region. Turkish goods figured prominently in Arab and Iranian retail and flew off the shelves. The quest to penetrate markets and the ambitions to become a powerful regional player stroked with the identification and identity with the Middle East projected by Turkey ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AKP).
However, things did not work out the way Turkish leaders had envisioned. A successful counterrevolutionary effort to roll back the achievements of the Arab Spring turned the popular revolts into a game changer that fundamentally altered regional perceptions of Turkey. The evolution in Syria from peaceful anti-government protests into civil war made Turkey a party to the conflict. Developments in the Gulf and the 2013 military coup in Egypt put Turkey at odds with conservative Sunni Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
This seminar will explore the resulting multiple policy challenges that Turkey faces that are compounded by the failed 2016 military coup in the country and Turkey’s increasing turn towards illiberal democracy. It will also look at Turkey’s options in an environment of rapidly changing regional and global dynamics.
About the Speaker
Özlem Tür is Professor and Chair of Department of International Relations at Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. She holds a Ph.D. from the Center for Middle East Studies at University of Durham, UK. Her main expertise include Turkey’s relations with the Middle East (especially Syria, Israel and Lebanon) and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Some of her publications include: “Paradoxes in Turkey’s Syria Policy: Analysing the Critical Episode of Agenda Building”, (New Perspectives on Turkey, 2016 (with Mehmet Akif Kumral), “Engaging with the Middle East: Rise and Fall of Turkish Leadership in the 2000s” in Turkey’s Public Diplomacy, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, “Turkey and the Syrian Crisis: Deepening Regional and Domestic Challenges”, ORIENT, 2015, “Turkey’s Changing Relations with the Middle East: New Challenges and Opportunities in the 2000s” in Debating Security in Turkey – Challenges and Changes in the Twenty-First Century, Lexington, 2013, Turkey-Syria Relations – Between Enmity and Amity (London: Ashgate, 2013, co-edited with Raymond Hinnebusch); “Turkey and Israel in the 2000s”, Israel Studies, 2012; “Political Economy of Turkey’s Relations with the Middle East”, Turkish Studies, 2011.