Changing Geopolitics in the Middle East and Turkish Foreign Policy

Prof. Dr. Tarık OĞUZLU
29 December 2015
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The feeling of optimism and exuberance in the early stages of the so-called Arab Spring has already given way to feelings of pessimism and anxiety. It is now nearly a herculean task for the states in the region adopt contemporary values of liberalism and democracy, to take their legitimacy from the consent of the people, to shape the future of the region on their own independent of the geopolitical motivations of external actors and to end the Middle Eastern exceptionalism by integrating into the economic and political structures of the emerging world order.


The sense of confidence in Turkish foreign policy, as it had been quite evident till the end of 2011, has also been replaced by growing concerns for national security and geopolitical rivalries for some time. Turkish policy makers have finally understood that for Turkey to serve as a source of inspiration for the liberal-democratic transformation of the region is now impossible given the anarchic and conflict-producing environment in the Middle East. Rather than trying to help shape the regional developments through the employment of its soft power instruments, Turkey has long begun to put the continuation of its territorial integrity, the sustainability of its social peace and ensuring its geopolitical primacy at the center of its foreign policy practices.


The erosion of the Westphalian  dynamics of interstate relations in the Middle East with the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a corrosive transnational political actor, the weakening of state and society structures in many states in the region, the growing salience of ethnic and sectarian motivations in the pursuit of primacy among regional rivalries and the transformation of the region into a battle ground among great powers both curtailed Turkey’s maneuvering capability and helped underline the primacy of realism and security oriented calculations in Turkish foreign policy. It is now difficult for Turkey to help shape regional developments from its own perspective, particularly guaranteeing Assad’s departure from power in Syria, and to ensure that regional chaos and conflict do not spill over to Turkey. 


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