Tag Archives: Ahmet Davutoğlu

1998 Türkiye-Suriye Krizinden Çıkarılacak Beş Ders


6 Eylül 2013

[For the English version, click here.]

Bugünlerde unutsak da 1998 sonbaharında Türkiye ve Suriye savaşın eşiğine gelmişti.

Ankara’nın Beşar Esat rejimine karşı gerçekleştirilmesi olası Amerikan hava saldırılarına verdiği destek, Türkiye’nin Suriye macerasının 15 yılda nasıl dönüp dolaşıp aynı yere geldiğini gözler önüne seriyor. Ancak Amerika’nın Suriye’ye saldırması daha muhtemel hale gelse bile Batılı ve Ortadoğulu müttefiklerinin Esat rejimini çabucak devirmek için her türlü olanağı kullanmaktaki isteksizlikleri Başbakan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’da ve Dışişleri Bakanı Ahmet Davutoğlu’nda hayal kırıklığı yaratmış durumda. Bu ortamda 1998 olayından ve sonrasından alınacak beş ders Türkiye’nin Suriye üzerindeki ulusal çıkarlarını korumasına yardımcı olabilir.

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Barın Kayaoğlu Virginia Üniversitesi Tarih Bölümü’nde doktora adayı ve Yale Üniversitesi’nde Uluslararası Güvenlik Çalışmaları programında misafir araştırmacıdır. Kendisini Twitter’da (@barinkayaoglu) ve Facebook’ta (BarınKayaoğlu.com) da takip edebilirsiniz.


Five Lessons from Turkey’s 1998 Standoff With Syria


6 September 2013

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It tends to be forgotten, but in the fall of 1998 Turkey and Syria almost went to war.

Today, Ankara’s enthusiasm for possible US airstrikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad makes one realize how Turkey’s Syrian odyssey has come full circle since that fateful fall of 1998. Even as US military action against Syria is becoming more likely, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are disappointed that their Western and Middle Eastern allies are unwilling to use all means necessary to quickly topple the Assad regime. Five lessons from the 1998 episode and its aftermath could help Ankara devise policies more in tune with its national interests in Syria.

[To read the rest of the post, click here.]

Barın Kayaoğlu, a visiting fellow in International Security Studies at Yale University, is finishing his doctorate in history at the University of Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).


Watch Out for the “Rover”: Turkey’s New Foreign Policy According to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara


December 3, 2010

The Wikileaks documents have caused a political ruckus in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is threatening to sue Eric Edelman, the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, for reporting rumors to Washington in 2005 about the Turkish leader’s alleged bank accounts in Switzerland.

It’s going to be entertaining to see if Mr. Erdoğan actually takes Mr. Edelman to court for a classified report he wrote at a time when he had diplomatic immunity.

Now, a less sensational but more important Wikileaks document shows how the U.S. government has perceived analyzes Turkey’s new foreign policy. According to a report, which the U.S. embassy in Ankara allegedly sent to the State Department early this year, Turkish foreign policy in the last few years appears to both fascinate and worry American officials. In the report, titled “What Lies Beneath Ankara’s New Foreign Policy,” former Ambassador James Jeffrey jokingly asserts that Turkey’s new activist foreign policy has “Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources.”

Discussions about Turkey “moving away from The West” and becoming a “neo-Ottoman” power in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus have been raging for nearly two years.

In line with those discussions, Ambassador Jeffrey’s January 2010 report takes a cautious line. For example, Mr. Jeffrey correctly points out that the ruling AKP’s “desire to be more independently activist and Islamic orientation” informs Turkey’s new foreign policy. According to the report, however, “rational national interest, particularly trade opportunities and stability considerations also drives Turkey’s new slant.” (Turkey’s trade with the Arab world and Iran has increased from $6.5 billion in 2002 to nearly $30 billion in 2009.)

Nodding to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” maxim, Ambassador Jeffrey seems to appreciate Ankara’s efforts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, its rapprochement with Erbil and Baghdad, mediating the indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria from 2006 to 2008, and attempts to bring the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks closer for a safer and prosperous Balkan peninsula (which, after the report was drafted, resulted in Serbian President Boris Tadic apologizing for his country’s role in the Bosnian War and his participation to the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica last summer).

But the report has less than flattering passages as well. For example, according to Mr. Jeffrey, Turkish mediation in the region’s conflicts “has not achieved any single success of note.” Worse, Ankara’s efforts to present itself as “a bridge between East and West” are not working.  Mr. Jeffrey observes that AKP’s efforts to present Turkey as a “successful meld” of “Europe’s secularism” with “oriental religiosity does not seem to carry much weight in most European capitals, let alone populations.”

In all fairness, Turkey’s foreign policy overtures have had their limits: The border with Armenia remains closed and Ankara’s efforts to re-establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan has angered its allies in Azerbaijan. In the Balkans, Bosniak-Serbian reconciliation runs the risk of relapsing into old enmities; in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus remains divided; in the Middle East, the Israeli-Syrian proximity talks have not resumed; the future of Iraq remains uncertain; and the Iran nuclear standoff is as troubling as ever.

(As for growing conservatism in Turkey, a 2008 study shows that it’s simplistic to claim that Turks are becoming more religious; the situation is a lot more complicated than that.)

To be fair to the Turks, only in the last five years have they begun immersing themselves in their region’s conflicts. In fact, they are getting some modest but tangible gains. For example, after coming very close to forging a peace agreement between Israel and Syria until the Gaza war, Turkey has reciprocally lifted travel visas with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Qatar. And last summer, Turkey agreed to create a free trade zone with Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

These results are not that modest if one considers how Turkey came close to fighting a war with Syria barely twelve years ago and only had basic relations with other Arab countries.

Since the aftermath of the Cold War Turkey has capitalized on its large population and rapid economic growth to become the political and economic fulcrum at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The process simply accelerated under the AKP government.

But will that process succeed? No one can tell at this point. But going back to Ambassador Jeffrey’s “Rolls Royce-Rover” analogy, we need to remember that luxury cars can be disadvantageous in rough terrain. Sitting at the eye of multiple geopolitical storms (the Balkans, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Middle East), if Turkey can get a skilled driver, its Rover just might outmatch the Rolls Royces in that part of the world.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can also follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).


Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East: “It Couldn’t Get Any Worse Than This”


June 14, 2010

A few months ago, after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s public humiliation of Turkish ambassador Oğuz Çelikkol, conversations in Turkey rang with the sentence “Turkish-Israeli relations couldn’t get any worse than this.”

Then came the fateful morning of May 31. The Israeli Navy attacked an international convoy of six ships and nearly 700 activists carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, which ended with the death of nine Turkish citizens (including a teenager with dual American citizenship). Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdoğan called the event “state terrorism” while the normally calm and composed Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, labeled the raid an “act of piracy” in a vitriolic speech at the United Nations Security Council. The Israeli government denied the allegations of massacre and defended itself by releasing videos of Turkish activists allegedly attacking Israeli commandoes with clubs and lead pipes. Furthermore, Israel has stated that it won’t cooperate with an international panel investigating the events of May 31.

Many wonder, once again, if the tense atmosphere between Turkey and Israel could get any worse. People in Turkey and around the world are understandably livid over the Israeli Navy’s bloody operation and the Netanyahu administration’s less-than-persuasive response to the raid. And, at the moment, there’s talk about Mr. Erdoğan forcing his way into Gaza on a military convoy and a former Israeli general suggesting that Israel ought to “sink it.” It’s uncertain if a majority of Turks and Israelis (and other Middle Easterners) wouldn’t mind seeing their armed forces “slug it out.”

That’s a fact too frightening to even contemplate.

So, how do we pull the Middle East out of this predicament? A combination of near- and long-term solutions should look like this:

–         The international community’s responsibility: An international peace-keeping mission must be dispatched to Gaza in order to lift the Israeli blockade and address the civilian catastrophe in the area. This international force should not only be physically larger than its counterpart in Southern Lebanon (which has about 12,000 troops on the ground) but it should also have a wider mandate in maintaining peace and order in the Palestinian enclave. It should have complete authority over the land and sea borders of Gaza in order to make sure that HAMAS doesn’t get any military supplies, thus preventing Israel from using HAMAS as a pretext for future incursions. Similarly, the development program for the West Bank, already taking place under the leadership of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, must be accelerated through international aid and investment.

–         U.S. responsibility: The United States has long been perceived as Israel’s enabler, especially because it bankrolls nearly 20% of Israel’s military budget every year. In order to change the current deadlock, America has to do a very important thing, aside from supporting the international community’s reconstruction efforts: Impress upon Jerusalem that Israel’s security would be best served only with the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Of course, the Obama administration already knows that. Furthermore, with an extremist government in Jerusalem (the hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has relatively moderate stance in the six-party coalition), getting Israel to agree to the formation of a Palestinian state will be easier said than done. In fact, just as previous Israeli governments that have used pro-Israel groups in Washington to avoid making hard choices and heaping the blame on the Arabs, it is only sensible to expect the same from the current Israeli government.

But the times are changing. Israeli unease over Iran’s nuclear program is understandably mounting at a time when American officials are becoming increasingly upset with Israeli intransigence over the Palestinian question. At his testimony to the U.S. Senate in March 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Central Asia and the Middle East, acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was undermining U.S. interests in the region. Washington needs to remind Jerusalem that it needs American backing against Tehran just as much as Washington needs Jerusalem to move on the Palestinian front.

–         Israel’s responsibility: Many people in the Arab and Muslim world – including the Palestinians – do not want to drive Israel to the sea. Those days are gone. Syria was on the verge of agreeing to the basic framework of a peace treaty with Israel right before Israel started the Gaza War in December 2008. In the run-up to that turning point, “the terrible Turks” had mediated the indirect talks between Jerusalem and Damascus. And earlier in 2008, HAMAS leader, Khaled Meshaal, had told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that HAMAS recognized Israel’s right to live in peace and that it would agree to a 10-year truce if Israel would withdraw from the Occupied Territories.

In order for the Middle East to move forward, all nations in the region – but especially the Israelis – have to elevate their thinking. At the Arab League summit of March 2002, with Saudi backing, Arab governments agreed to the “land for peace” principle. Arab governments have pledged to recognize Israel once it extends the same courtesy to the Palestinian state. The ball’s on Israel’s court. It has to decide whether it wants to start a new era by agreeing to integrate with other Middle Eastern nations or continue its behavior as a residue of Western colonialism.

–         Turkish and Arab responsibility: Although there are quite a few people who don’t mind the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East, there are many radicals who do. And because of that fact, a good portion of public opinion in the West – especially in the United States – supports, or, at least, tacitly endorses Israel.

In this context, the Turkish and Arab objective should be to change that distorted view of the conflict. These actors ought to impress upon HAMAS that, in the long-term, violence – especially against Israeli civilians – doesn’t pay off. HAMAS’s uncompromising attitude obviously puts the Palestinian people and other Middle Eastern countries in a bind. In the face of Israeli occupation of their lands, Palestinians are left with few options: either acquiesce to Fatah’s extremely unpopular method of working with Israel or follow HAMAS’s way of resisting the Israeli occupation by any means necessary.

But this is a dilemma that had complicated Israeli-Palestinian relations in the past. From the mid-1960s through the late 1980s, the PLO had refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. In fact, PLO did not formally recognize Israel until the conclusion of the secret negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords of September 1993.

Countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia need to develop Khaled Mashaal’s announcement of April 2008 that the Islamist group would agree to a 10-year truce in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

A final word on Turkey: In light of recent events and the fallout in Turkish-Israeli relations, Prime Minister Erdoğan should question whether his country’s interests – and the interests of the region – are served by his constant bickering with Israel. After all, down the road, Turkey, together with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is the best candidate to mediate peace between Israel and every other Arab and Muslim country.

Failing to end the Arab-Israeli conflict prevents the Middle East from reaching its full potential. Before more dangerous events sinks the region in a deeper quagmire, Middle Eastern countries and the international community need to take preventive measures. History teaches us that things could – and often do – get worse.

Barın Kayaoğlu is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The University of Virginia. He welcomes all comments, questions, and exchanges. To contact him, click here.

You can follow him on Twitter (@barinkayaoglu) and Facebook (BarınKayaoğlu.com).