Conflict and Fragility

Reports and papers

Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East from 2002 to 2018

23 Jul 2018 - 15:05
Source: Presidential Palace, Ankara / Wikimedia creative commons

Too big for its boots: Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East from 2002 to 2018

Over the past 16 years, Turkey has replaced its peaceful, economically-based foreign policy towards the Middle East with a more security-focused one that includes greater support for the Muslim Brotherhood, deals aggressively with Kurds in both Turkey and Syria, and adds a growing Eurasian focus to its traditional Western emphasis. These foreign policy developments have largely happened as a result of the deep and prolonged domestic political contestation over the Turkish state that occurred between 2002 and 2018. Understanding Turkish domestic politics requires understanding the development and fortunes of the political party that has been dominant since 2002 - the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP). 
From its pragmatic and moderate Islamist beginnings - which saw the AKP make representative popular politics and a liberal market economy a reality in Turkey - we are now seeing the reassertion of statism, nationalism and authoritarianism under the cloak of the party’s revived religious conservatism. The results are profoundly illiberal within the country’s borders and have reduced both the scope and effectiveness of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East as it has become less predictable, more revisionist and lacks an overall strategy.