Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Role Reversal

Nation states suffer when they aren’t compelled to face the consequences of deliberate policy goals.  This usually happens in political economies rent with autocracy; although the West is not immune from the iron law of unintended consequences its leadership often masks reversals that would fatally damage other regimes.  Turkey’s recent welcoming of normalizing relations with Israel is a case in point.  Hopefully Caracas is watching as it starves its citizens from the socialist agenda of the Caudillo, certainly Moscow, Riyadh and others have quietly creeped back to favorable relations with the U.S. despite the geopolitical consequences of our retreat abroad.

From the shooting down of Russian jets, to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque terror attack in January, to the recent killing of 41 people in Ataturk’s airport last week, Turkey is suffering badly from its political habit of embracing jihadi rhetoric as a formal, albeit populist policy agenda.  The truth of the matter is more prosaic than foreign intelligence agencies often admit; Turkey is encircled from inside and out, its eastern border with Iran is susceptible to incursions from Chechen radicals, the Kurds continue to demonstrate frightful independence while Iraq and Syria burn.  The Turkish chancellery finally woke up and made a call to Jerusalem.


The Islamic State recruits have been notified to demonstrate their lethality in regions closer to home than abroad.  The radicalization of home grown terror now confronts an exhausted Turkish economy that must find the confidence and public strength to confront indigenous jihadi’s that roam wild throughout Turkey’s open borders.  For decades, the Turks had a policy of “zero problems with friends”, a framework that matched Turkish geography, but Erdogan began to openly congregate with jihadist populist imagery like Pakistan only to find itself out played, broke, isolated and vulnerable.  This fatal conceit extended geographically west where Istanbul opened its gates unleashing Syrian refugees into the Balkans, currently a satrap for Iran. These policy contortions have now come full circle and Istanbul is beginning to see a need for diplomatic force multipliers.  A role reversal is emerging.

Having credible and capable regional allies is now on Istanbul’s agenda, the Israeli’s have responded favorably and have accepted normalized relations after a six year hiatus.

This will work favorably for Turkey because all evidence regarding the terror attack last month point to Chechen jihadi’s on Turkey’s eastern border.  They continue to have their sights on Moscow, Turkey’s traditional regional nemesis.  The stakes are growing exponentially, and Istanbul wants to favorably position itself to capitalize on Kurdish independence while serving its diplomatic needs abroad.

What haunts the Turks after Ataturk airport is a stark reality they cannot manage, like Pakistan and Riyadh, the terror masters recognize that the pathologies of the Arab world will not stay confined.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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