Turkey’s Agenda in Middle East In An Era Of Change

Can Turkish foreign policy act as a catalyst for change in the Middle East?

by Heyecan Veziroglu for The International Chronicles

All signs indicate that modern Turkey has developed great confidence. Turkey is a perfect case study of a country with great regional influence. It is absolutely critical for policy analysts, democracy strategists, and journalists to offer rational solutions to domestic political tension that examine the Turkish political climate. Turkey can thus formulate good solutions for the other countries in the Mideast.

In this decade, we will witness the spread of radical movements and the fabrication of new social and political strategies in a global context. Many experts have failed to analyze the socio-psychological dimension of Islam for group mobilization. Yet there have been great reactionary movements by the secular communities and this social phenomenon has begun to shake some pro-Islamic movements in the Mideast. The shifting patterns in the Middle East present new challenges. Could the radicalization of the Islamist movements and authoritarian tendencies lead the Islamic administrators to deviate from democratic ways of life? Or could moderate tendencies foster democracy? The future of the Middle East hangs in the balance.

The central challenge and discussion Turkey faces today is to ensure that secularism becomes a positive force for the societies in the Middle Eastern region. Secularism is a key factor for countries with Muslim populations – it helps maintain democracy and human rights for their people, especially their religious minorities. Turkey has a multinational, multidimensional stable foreign policy and will certainly act as the rising actor in the region. Turkey’s role will have a boomerang impact in the Mideast. In fact, Turkey would like to have a ‘meeting of civilizations’, not, as Huntington has claimed, a ‘clash of civilizations’.

Turkey also needs a more consistent policy towards the EU. Turkish politicians of all persuasions should work to develop strong relations not only in Germany but in all parts of Europe. Turkish business has profited from greatly expanding to the West but its future also points to the East toward Arab lands.

A new face and voice for Turkish politics in the years ahead is necessary. Even if the Turkish policy is attaching great significance to European Union integration policies, setting the priorities in this cooperation is vital. The EU was considered to be the preferred path to structural modernization in the recent past, yet lately, Turkish integration into the EU has taken steps backward and seems not to be as important as it once was. New chapters in this relationship will have to be opened by the new government of Turkey, but the institutional uncertainties and the present-day factional tensions may bring new problems. Turkey could be a strong mosaic stone in the picture of Europe. Ultimately, the following question will have to be answered. When will Turkey’s pivotal partnership in Europe be confirmed? Will Turkey ever be accepted as an equal member within the EU? This litmus test will be judged in the coming years.

In the Middle East, the legitimacy of the governing regimes is put in question when there are explosive social movements fermenting and agitating the status quo. Turkey’s political and economic success depends on the implementation of creative and rational policies with a well-organized communication process. The new geopolitical trends have to be taken into consideration.

Turkey will need a new global agenda; flexible, not rigid, democratic, and not fragmented. In short, an inclusive civil society allowing for freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and strong, forward-looking economic and foreign policies led by secular and progressive government institutions. Turkey’s new agenda could be in a strategic alliance with both European and Middle Eastern governments. It is in a unique position to be a close strategic partner with both regions. The establishment of a Euro-Arab initiative to develop an Alliance to anticipate new patterns and policy initiatives during the Arab Renaissance is essential. Turkey will strengthen the power of regional authorities in promoting democracy and act as a powerful mediator for the disputes in the region.

Heyecan N. Veziroglu is a writer based in Ankara, Turkey. Ms. Veziroglu is a trained political scientist, a renown political advisor, and an awarded bilingual International Ambassador of Poetry