Turkey has enjoyeda sustained political stabilityand economic growth from thebeginning of the millennium.A stable government withsatisfactory economicperformance was an object of admiration in a region whereauthoritarian governmentsassociated with poor economicperformance were the rule. Theneutral stand in regional issuesthat had rendered Turkey anaccepted partner to all sidesbegan to erode beginning at the
end of 2008, rst with relations
with Israel, then NATO, and
nally with the Arab Spring andSyria. Whether it will succeed
in restoring its former role as atrusted partner for all countriesof the region is open to question.
The Rise and Fall of Turkey’sMiddle East Policy
by Ilter Turan
October 9, 2012
Go back a ew years, and you’ll see thaturkey was increasingly reerred to asa regional power. But which region? By the very nature o its location, history,and culture, urkey belongs to severalregions (the Balkans, the Caucasus,Central Asia, and the Middle East ando course, Europe), “regional leader”was more oen a reerence to theMiddle East. How had urkey come tobe identied this way?
The Roots of Becominga Regional Power
o begin with, urkey has enjoyeda sustained political stability andeconomic growth rom the beginningo the millennium. In the 2002 elec-tions, the Justice and DevelopmentParty (AKP) achieved a parliamentary majority, bringing with it govern-mental stability that had been longabsent rom urkish politics. Pre-2002politics was characterized by unstable,ineective coalition governments,and to make things worse, in 1999 thecountry had entered deep economiccrisis. Only a very strict austerity program under the watchul eye o theIMF and a series o structural reormshad put the country back on a pathto economic growth. o its credit,the AKP continued to implementthe policies devised by the precedinggovernment, thereby initiating aperiod o economic prosperity that hascontinued to this day. A stable govern-ment with satisactory economicperormance was an object o admira-tion in a region where authoritariangovernments associated with pooreconomic perormance were the rule.urkey’s export-led economic growthenticed it to take a deeper interest inMiddle Eastern countries since they seemed to be promising markets orurkey’s growing exports. Expandingeconomic means, on the other hand,urnished urkey with the ability toextend economic assistance, credits,and other acilities to cement therelationships. Relations grew morecomprehensive over time throughacilitating travel to and rom thesecountries by simpliying or, in someinstances, removing visa requirements,initiating new ights to regionalcenters by urkish airlines, openingurkish cultural centers, and oeringuniversity scholarships. Te increasein the number o Arab and Iraniantourists, growing Arab investments inthe urkish economy, and purchaseso real estate are testimony to the