At the same time, miscalculations on the consequences of reckless interventions in Syria and Iraq, siding with Al Saud regime and other regional states, the refugee crisis, political deal with the EU, showing willingness for improvement of ties with the Israeli regime on regional and international levels, have made ups and downs in the Turkish policy.
A look at internal problems
Turkey’s social conditions witnessed a transformation following the outbreak of Gezi Park anti-government protests in Istanbul and uncovering financial corruption cases of the officials of JDP in May 2013. Commenting on Turkey’s domestic conditions and problems, the Turkish journalist and analyst Levent Gültekin has written that corruption charges, economic decline, the daily deaths of tens of military and civilian people, destruction of cities, suicide attacks, child rapes, constitution suspension, politicization of the judicature, foreign policy fiascos and more factors have given to the world a horrible picture of Turkey.
However, people’s preference of the political parties has not changed. The latest poll figures suggest popularity rates of the JDP, Republican People’s Party, Nationalist Movement Party and People’s Democratic Party are successively 49-51, 23-25, 10-12 and 9.5-10 percent.
Despite all of the incidents, the political picture is not changing. But there is a deadlock in the country’s politics. People, though living in desperate conditions, do not set their confidence on any of the political parties and so do not make an outright preference of one of them. How is it that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party JDP holds nearly 50 percent of the votes in such difficult conditions while the opposition partied during the past seven elections have failed to challenge seriously the share of the ruling party? A set of questions are now trending in the Turkish society: How Erdogan and his party would lose? By a military coup or they would resign?
“Nobody inside Turkey is groundbreaking enough to make things different from what they are currently,” Gültekin maintains.
While the Islamists and conservatives have given in to the government, the opposition parties- the leftists as a whole- show opposition only through reaction, vowing and condemnation in newspaper articles. ORC, a notable Turkish polling company, has conducted a polling in 36 Turkey’s cities and 27 universities on transformation of the country’s administration structure from parliamentary to presidential system. The published figures showed that 52 percent of the Turkish academic community were against and 48 percent were for the political change. Furthermore, 58.7 percent of ordinary Turkish public approved of political system transformation while 41.3 rejected the idea.
Concerning dispute with the Kurds, Mehmet Tezkan, a Milliyet newspaper columnist and analyst, has said that return to the negotiating table and resumption of peace talks with the PKK was not but a pipe dream. It has been a long time that the guns were talking, because they want to seal the mouths and pass new bills to clamp down on the journalists, added Tezkan, commenting on the lasting government-PKK fight.
So, it would be an offense to get into politics, the Milliyet journalist continued.
In the present deadlock Turkey is striving to curb a deepening and difficult-to-maintain crisis. Such a fight with PKK could spill over to Iraq and Syria and thus Ankara would find itself in face-off with the superpowers. PKK holds a good deal of popular support in all countries where there is Kurdish population. The separatist group is well-organized, shares alliance with the superpowers and is in no shortage of human sources, therefore, it could resiliently weather strong strikes from the Turkish side. While it is said that military action is useless and impractical, would end of battle with the Kurds mean end of Erdoganizm?” wonders Tezkan.
Having this image in the head, it can be figured out that Turkey would go on living in a state of civil battle and large-scale hazards. No matter Erdogan finds his favorable presidential political system- as a dictatorship- in the future, he would use battle with PKK, which has brought the country to the brink of a real crisis, as a means for proceeding with his presidential system plan. Tezkan maintains that It was necessary that Erdogan broke the links between war with PKK and his presidential system agenda, but Erdogan stood as a hurdle ahead of that end.
Bringing Turkish foreign policy’s problems in spotlight
For a series of strategic, economic, political and social factors West Asia region is always immersed in wars and crises. The global superpowers, specifically the US, have a significant hand in the West Asian security order in a bid to secure their own strategic interests. Change of behavior of any of the superpowers concerning the region results in changed approaches and strategies of the regional powers. Certainly, Ankara’s current struggles for establishing regional partnerships and breakup and rapprochement of the major regional players with each other are in direct connection with shifts in the superpowers’ attitudes and policies. Shedding light on the issue, Turkey’s newspaper the Daily Sabah has written that following Ankara-Washington’s emergence of deep gaps over Syria’s Kurds- Democratic Union Party and its affiliates including People’s Protection Units- Turkey sought rebuilding its relations with different regional countries, especially those with which Ankara held differences.
Shaban Kardash, the head of the Turkish Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), has said that other regional players were also looking for alternatives and so should Turkey. Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime, too, are looking forward to build a strategy to lead them to normalization of diplomatic ties. Earlier Saudi attempts to isolate Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood have winded down and now Riyadh seeks strong relations with Ankara. At the same time, the Americans have reviewed their vision on the region as Washington no longer wants to play an influential role in the Middle East, according to Kardash. Also David Hearst, the editor of the Middle East Eye website, has said that Saudi Arabia resumed attempts to amend Ankara-Cairo relations and the Saudi King Salman and President Erdogan have made many discussions on the issue.
The new strategy of Justice and Development Party
Ankara has adopted a multiple-line policy in West Asia, moving across Washington, Riyadh, Tehran and Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and aiming at restoring Turkey’s lost place in the regional equations. The leaders of JDP in Turkey believe that the fresh approach could recover the Turkish strength, which during the past few months saw a harsh decline, as a major regional player. They consider the visits, negotiations, the high profile signed agreements of Ankara with Riyadh and Tehran as the fruits of the new JDP’s policies. While Ankara is at loggerheads with Tehran over Syria’s crisis and the fate of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it moves in the same track with Riyadh on Damascus. On the other side, Turkey is critical of Saudi Arabian anti-Muslim Brotherhood policies and the kingdom’s supports for the Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi. It seems that now Tehran and Riyadh are showing more flexibility on approving a Turkish willingness to have good ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia because they share common interests with Turkey.
The political leaders in Turkey believe following King Salman’s rise to the throne, they observed a shift in Riyadh’s approach on the Muslim Brotherhood. Following Erdogan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which gave rise to speculations that its aim was to form an anti-Syrian government Sunni alliance, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey being in center of it, Riyadh and Ankara agreed on continuing backing of Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the face of the Syria’s Assad. The FSA contains factions seen by Russia and Iran as terrorists. Even Washington is critical of some segments inside the FSA. Building a Sunni front led by Ankara and Riyadh is of great importance because Turkey and Saudi Arabia feel that they have lost part of their diplomatic strength as Tehran and Washington become closer following nuclear negotiations. Such a feeling drove Riyadh closer to Ankara, though it is not very likely that Turkey would have a serious participation in the anti-Shiite Iran Sunni alliance.
Of course Iran’s growing regional power and role could impair its regional rivals, including Turkey. The Israeli regime as well as the Saudi-led reactionary Arab states are deeply anxious about Washington’s shifting approach on Tehran and thus try to transfer the same anxiety to the Turkish government of JDP in a bid to get into same track of them and enter new anti-Iranian coalition. The insistence and strains of “Tel Aviv-Riyadh axis” have pushed Ankara to reluctantly join countries which have common hands in promoting Iranophobia across the region. The JDP and Erdogan himself have become leaders of Turkey by votes of Turkey’s Muslims and during the past years of experience they developed the potentials to deal with internal and foreign challenges.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey, despite a regional rivalry, are two historical neighbors with cultural commonalities. They stand like necessary supplements to each other. So, ongoing internal insecurity and crisis in Turkey and the scenario to separate Ankara from its position in the Muslim world are points of concern for its neighbors and the whole region.
Generally, in the current circumstances of Turkey no other choices could be better than the government of JDP, and certainly it is the Turkish Muslim people who decide what is good and what is bad. At the same time, beyond economic partnership, the growing Kurds’ struggle for independence is a common concern drawing Turkey and Iran close to each other in the region’s present turbulent conditions.