Abstract

It is sometimes argued that Turkish foreign policy under the AK Party government reflects its ideology, and Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East is often used as an illustration of this influence. When it is closely examined, however, one can easily see that the government has often followed a mainly realist foreign policy approach in the Middle East and used the idealism for the maximization of Turkish national interests. In contrast to the power resources at the disposal of other regional powers, including the support of external powers, sectarian identities, or ethnic-linguistic ties, the key asset of Turkish foreign policy is its successful combination of democracy and Islam. Utilizing this image, Turkey has emerged as the most outspoken supporter of democratic transformations, aiming to create a liberaldemocratic regional order. This, however, brings Turkey ultimately into conflict with other aspiring hegemonic powers, including both Israel and Iran.

Key Words

Turkey, Middle East, Liberalism, Realism, Arab Spring.

Introduction

It is often asked whether it is objective material interests or ideas and perceptions that are decisive on Turkey’s Middle East policy during the AK Party era. However, it is quite hard to answer this question since the AK party acceded to power in a rather critical stage with regards to relations with the Middle East. At this critical juncture the intellectual and structural context of the Middle East had been significantly shaped by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent Iraq war in 2003. It could be therefore argued that many policies that emerged with the AK Party government’s initiatives and ascribed to intellectual factors have actually reflected changes in the strategic and structural environment surrounding Turkey. This does not mean that the AK Party leaders had no effect on the formation of policies. However, with the advantage of the intellectual foundations it represents, the AK Party government has been able to portray a more flexible and dynamic foreign policy perspective as regards the Middle East.