Turkey : Regional aspirations in a changing Middle East

This article will explore the causes for the change in Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, its accomplishments and shortcomings and conclude with an analysis of its future directions. Turkey made a historic choice to move towards becoming a pluralist secular democracy. Ataturk had little interest in maintaining historical ties with the rest of the Islamic world choosing Western European secular liberal democracy as the model for its political structure with the aim of making Turkey a modern, western state. Erdogan has revolutionized Turkish politics by challenging his country’s historic commitment to secularism and introducing a greater role for Islam in Turkish politics. Some see this religious freedom as a turn to Islamic roots, others see it as a basic civil right that most Western citizens exercise in their daily lives. This deep-rooted difference in opinion regarding the place of religion in the public sphere continue to shape Turkey’s social and political outlook. The new presence in the unstable Middle East has been variously characterized as disillusionment with a stalled European Union accession process or a desire to strike an “independent” foreign policy from the United States. In fact, Turkey’s new activism in the Middle East and the world in general is driven by the deep structural change that has transformed the Turkish economy from an inward looking to a robust export driven one.

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