Turkish Foreign Policy Toward Syria After 2011: A New Regional Order and the Role of Political Islam
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AbstractThis thesis researches the conditions under which Turkey's foreign policy toward Syria shifted following the Arab Springs events. It investigates the role of Political Islam in the Turkish elites’ role conception, and its impact on Turkey’s foreign policy toward Arab Spring countries and particularly Syria, that aimed at creating a new regional order with Political Islam as its unifying factor and Turkey as its major influencer.
The research findings highlight three roles played by the AKP elites before 2011. The first role ‘Defender of faith’ is clearly perceived through the AKP’s defense of Islam and its compatibility with democratic values, while the second role ‘Regional leader’ is summed up in the AKP’s calls for reform in Muslim countries and in the projection of their economic and political reforms as an inspiration to Arab and Muslim countries. The third role, namely ‘Liberation supporter’, is reflected in the AKP’s policy that champions Islamic causes especially in Palestine.
The findings also reveal the AKP elites’ post-2011 persistent role in defending Islam and its compatibility with democracy in addition to supporting the Palestinian cause on the one hand and the calls of Arab masses for reform and democracy on the other.
That said such liberal and humanitarian position is not sufficient to understand Turkey’s foreign policy after 2011. It is only by examining the AKP elites’ geopolitical and geo-cultural perspectives to the Arab Spring events that Turkey’s quest for a new regional order with Political Islam as its uniting factor becomes clear.
The AKP elites saw the Arab Spring as a long overdue natural flow of history. For them, the Arab Spring has brought closure to a period in the region’s history dating back to the era of colonialism that divided countries that were once interconnected under the Ottoman Empire and imposed secularism that separated Islam from political life, and such closure necessitates a new regional order. While the AKP elites did not champion Ottomanism or a pure Arab base for the new regional order they had in mind, their support of Islamic parties, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, clearly reflects their belief that Political Islam is the solution to the Arab regimes’ loss of legitimacy.
It is noteworthy that the AKP elites’ support to Islamic parties extended beyond the political limits to include their pre-2011 role of defender of Islam and promoter of the Turkish economic and political success stories as a source of inspiration to Arab Spring countries. The aim was to show Western countries that Political Islam is the solution to the problems in Arab countries as manifested by the Turkish experience.
Meanwhile, the Islamic parties acting as ‘audience’ to Turkish foreign policy roles not only approved of Turkey’s role but they saw in it a successful post-Arab Spring blueprint to present to the West despite their reluctance to embrace Western-style secularism.
Lastly, the research findings show that Turkey’s support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was based on its need for a strong partner in the new regional order. The AKP elites were not only betting on Egypt’s geopolitical importance but also on its influence on the rest of the Arab countries. Turkey needed an Arab partner for the new regional order and it found an ideal one in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood.
As I elaborate the findings of my research throughout my thesis, I will lead the reader to the conclusion that the Turkish foreign policy toward Syria after 2011 can only be examined in light of Turkey’s vision for post-Arab Spring Middle East.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37945085