Turkey in the Middle East Politics. Political Discourses, Identity and the National Interests

Scientific Study, 2020

78 Pages, Grade: 1.3



Preface and Acknowledgement




I The Review on Turkish Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East
I.1 Turkish Foreign Policy and Turkey’s Approach to the Middle East after the 1980s
I.1.1 Theoretical Debate on Turkey’s Approach to the Middle East
I.1.2 Policy Analysis in Turkish Foreign Policy towards the Middle East
I.2 Limitations of Existing Research

II Theoretical Framework and Methodology
II.1 Realist Approaches
II.1.1 Limitations of Realist Approaches
II.2 Constructivism
II.2.1 Identity, Interest and Foreign Policy
II.3 Analysis of the Sources and Research Methods

III The M iddle E ast and T urkish F oreign P olicy (1923-1980)
III.1 Ottoman Governance Strategies in the Middle East
III.2 The Emergence of Arab Nationalism and the West in the Middle East
III.3 Turkey’s Early Middle East Policy and the West Oriented Foreign Policy Trend
III.4 The Political Ideology Factor on Foreign Policy Setting in Turkey

IV Turkish F oreign P olicy in the P ost -C old W ar P eriod
IV.1 Transformation of Turkish Foreign Policy after the 1980s
IV.2 Neo-Ottomanism as Turkey’s Foreign Policy Strategy
IV.3 The Approach of Turkey towards the Middle East

V Turkey in the M iddle E ast as a R egional Power
V.1 Turkey in Palestine Problem: the Change in Regional Dynamics
V.1.1 Turkey’s Involvement in Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
V.1.2 Turkey and Palestine Problem after Israel’s Gaza Operation
V.2 The Position of Iraq in Turkey’s Neo-Ottomanist Foreign Policy Approach
V.2.1 Turkey and the Gulf War in the Context of Foreign Policy Transformation
V.2.2. Turkey – Iraq Relations after Iraq War

VI Conclusion


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To my wife and son

Preface and Acknowledgement

Anumber of political and theoretical analyses came into conclusion that Turkey’s foreign policy in the post-1980s has been by being a part of western hegemonic system. Such approaches deal with involving Turkey itself within the regional projects (e.g., Greater Middle East Project) that became in line of organizing the policies of the Middle East in accordance with the US interests. In my opinion, these analyses do not offer an adequate perspective on how the changed sociocultural dynamics and the new identity perspective of Turkey affected the foreign policy approach in the post-1980s. Moreover, other rationalist perspectives such as realists do not provide a comprehensive answer to this policy approach because of this new political approach’s identity based positioning rather than a mere national interest understanding.

Instead of these hegemonic - rationalist perspectives, present work advocates an identity-interest approach that deals with the changes both in Turkey’s social structure and the balance of power in the Middle East politics. A view that focuses more on the changes in the hegemonic political ideology and everyday politics that brings the perspectives of commons, according to the view represented here, more adequately explain the transformation of identity and the directions of international relations of Turkey after the 1980s.

The present work focuses on two key socio-political developments in the period after the 1980s: The involvement of Islam and pro-Islamic movements in the public sphere that affected the foreign policy preferences and popularization of the discourse on social, cultural and political perspectives of the Ottoman Empire that reflected itself as neo-Ottomanism in the formation of foreign policy of Turkey. In the first part of the book, Turkey’s pro-Western foreign policy orientation in the pre-1980s and the major theoretical debates on the foreign policy change of Turkey towards the Middle East, after the 1980s, will be presented. In the second part, the conceptualization of Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist foreign policy approach will be presented. The case study on Turkey’s involvement in the conflict between Israel and Palestine and Iraq’s reconstruction process after the Iraq War in 2003 will be analyzed based on Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist foreign policy approach.

This book was developed from my submitted MA dissertation in the Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Kassel in 2010. It is the product of intellectual resources that was gained in the various years of research. Hereby, first, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my supervisor Dr. Friederike Habermann. With the opportunities she provided me during the process of writing this dissertation and her supervision, encouragement and feedback, this dissertation came to a conclusion. Also, I would like to thank to PD. Dr. Stefan Schmalz for being my second supervisor during the writing process of the dissertation. I am grateful for his insight and support.

My sincere thanks to my wife who has always been with me with her emotional support during the writing process of this book. My mother and father deserve the appreciation too, because their encouragement and all support during my all studies. Also, I thank to the friends at the University of Kassel and the Justus Liebig University of Giessen as their comments and feedback were constructive.

Gießen, 2020 Ahmet Görgen


AKP Justice and Development Party

AL Arab League

ANAP Motherland Party

BP Baath Party

CE Council of Europe

CUP Committee of Union and Progress

D8 Developing 8

DTP Democratic Community Party

EC European Community

ECO Economic Cooperation Organization

EEC European Economic Community

EU European Union

FM Foreign Minister

GAP South Eastern Anatolia Project

GMEP Greater Middle East Project

HLSCA High Level Strategic Cooperation Agreement

HLSCC High Level Strategic Cooperation Council

IAEA International Atomic Energy Association

IHH International Humanitarian Relief

IR International Relations

KDP Kurdistan Democratic Party

LN League of Nations

MBC Middle East Broadcasting Corporation

MEPP Middle East Peace Process

MFA Ministry of Foreign Affairs

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NP National Pact

OIC Organization for Islamic Conference

OPC Operation Provide Comfort

PAM Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean

PKK Kurdistan Workers` Party

PLO Palestine Liberation Organization

PM Prime Minister

PUK Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

SOFA US – Iraq Status of Force Agreement

SPA Sykes-Picot Agreement

SU Soviet Union

TBMM Grand National Assembly of Turkey

TOBB Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

TRT Turkish Radio-Television Corporation

UAE United Arabic Emirates

UK United Kingdom

UN United Nations

UNSC United Nations Security Council

UNSCOM United Nations Special Commission

USA United States of America

USSR United Soviet Socialist Republics

WWI World War I

WWII World War II


This book bases on the research related to Turkey’s relations with the Middle East in the post-1980s. Recent analyses clarify that the change in economic policy and the emergence of a new wealthy class of Anatolia motivated Turkish governments to follow a multidimensional foreign policy after the 1980s. The transformation of identity, cultural and historical connections effected to increase the relations with the countries in the Middle East. The research findings indicate that the end of the Cold War caused instability in the Middle East, where Turkey had historical, cultural, religious and territorial connections. The identity dimension in Turgut Özal’s foreign policy caused to remember the Ottoman past in the region. Neo-Ottomanism, which proposed that Turkey as the main power in the former Ottoman territories emerged as a both identity and strategy. After 2003, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has followed a more conceptualized foreign policy based on the neo-Ottomanist strategy. By researching the political dynamics, it becomes evident that since the Gulf War in 1991, Turkey has increasingly connected to the ethnic groups within Iraq and became one of the major players in Iraqi politics. Also, increased criticism of the Turkish government, coupled with the strong support of Turkish people, against to Israeli politics has been the important factor to attract both the people and the politicians in the Middle East. Overall, the research reflects that the strong public support and an appropriate foreign policy, based on the neo-Ottomanist strategy, have been the main factors to increase the Turkey’s political sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Key Words: Turkish Foreign Policy, Middle East, Identity, Neo-Ottomanism, Palestine, Iraq.


“We are a European country , and we are an Asian country. We have direct access to the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East. So, Turkish foreign policy has to be multiregional, multidimensional. We are also part of European history. But at the same time, the history of more than 20 [Middle Eastern and Balkan] countries could be written only using Turkish archives. We have more Bosnians in Turkey than in Bosnia itself, more Albanians than in Albania, as well as Kurds and Arabs. Because of these historic connections, all these countries have certain expectations from us .”

Davutoğlu, quoted in Matthews et. al., 2009

After the 1980s, Turkey’s policy agenda started to change following high economic growth and industrial development. The economic development also brought changes in social structure and through following of a new foreign policy it affected to be more influential state over the region of Turkey.1 In this respect, restoration of democracy and a growing income enabled the political, ethnic and religious minorities to join the democratic system fully (Lowry, 1996: 103). Apart from the structural change and economic growth, exports started to increase as well. As a result of the problems with the European Community (EC) in the 1980s, Turkish businessmen focused on the Middle East economies such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia. So, for the first time in Republican history, Turkey became dependent on economic developments in the Middle East. The demand for a change the social structure and the identity, especially from Kurds and some other ethnic groups brought the new identity formation as Turkish citizenship within Turkey in Turgut Özal`s governance.2 In foreign policy it created Neo-Ottomanism, which is a wider identity abroad and Ottoman rather than Turkish covering all neighboring peoples and all minorities in Turkey. The collapse of the Soviet Union (SU) in 1989 increased the importance of neo-Ottomanist foreign policy. Thus, the end of the Cold War meant an end to capitalist-communist competition and support for cultural and ethnic similarities became increasingly important. After the 1990s, Turkey started to play an active role in the Middle East with the transformation of K emalist system 3. With the Gulf War, Turkey’s importance as regional power rose (Robins, 1991: 65-67). After 2003, the AKP government empowered the neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey by getting the majority of the votes in elections. The identity politics of Turkey conceptualized more with ‘Strategic Depth’ concept of Turkish Foreign Minister (FM) Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Since its inception, Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East has become a highly debatable topic, attracting attention in the academic literature.4 The existing research focuses on various aspects of this new policy. Thus, contrasting the international identity of the post-1980s period of Turkey with before, some scholars (Davutoğlu, 2001) analyze the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s, including the discourse of the soft power, which refers the cooperation with the neighbors rather than the coercion. The fact that the Turkish foreign policy was directed by the Turkish FM Davutoğlu with his strategic depth concept, which was created to show Turkey’s political sphere of influence with the identity politics (Şeker, 2009). Other authors (Gülmez, 2009) perceive the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East as an effort to create a stable region, which affects Turkey’s internal economy and security politics, to be more influential actor in the world politics. Finally, some scholars argue that Turkey’s foreign policy transformation affected the regional stability of the Middle East and intended to solve the long-term problems in the regional politics (Daly, 2008; Baca, 1995: 3).

Moreover, some scholars (Iba, 2009; Özdalga, 1999) attempt to explain how Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist foreign policy ideas originated. However, up until now, the academic literature analyzing the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East has not offered a comprehensive, theoretically-informed account, related to the origins and evaluations of this policy to show the effect of Turkey in the Middle East. Attempting to fill this gap in the research on the Turkish foreign policy, in this book I intend to conceptualize and evaluate the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, arguing that the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East may be best understood by looking at the identity dimension of it.

I put the hypothesis in this book as two-fold. Drawing on the insights of the theoretical concept of social constructivism, I argue that the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East has been largely developed in neo-Ottomanist identity perspective with Turkey’s foreign policy actions in the Middle East after the 1980s. The neo-Ottomanist nature of the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East displays the optimistic belief of the Turkish politicians that the broader identity connections may be successfully adapted and used to intervene in the policies of the Middle East for increasing Turkey’s political sphere of influence. Common culture, values and interaction among Turkish and the Middle Eastern societies are regarded as the main factors to empower the success of Turkey’s policy. These important factors of Turkey’s foreign policy formulations stay at the core of the second part of my hypothesis, which states that in its multidimensional perspective, neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey has increased Turkey’s political sphere of influence in the Middle East. In order to verify my hypothesis, I ask: Does neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey increase Turkey’s political sphere of influence in the Middle East? Other questions guiding this analysis are: what factors (actors, circumstances) contributed to the identity perspective of the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East? Is there evidence to confirm that the policy is designed on identity perspective? What are the main differences of Turkish foreign policy before and after the 1980s, which effect to strengthen or weaken the political influence of Turkey in the Middle East? Can the contingency work in the context of the increase in Turkey’s political sphere of influence in the Middle East? What are the costs and benefits as a result of Turkish governments` policy actions in the Middle East? Finally, which aspects in both foreign policy design and regional politics prevent to successful application of neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey in the Middle East?

In analyzing the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, this book divided into six chapters. In the first chapter, I will present the existing research on Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East. In doing so, I will first mention theoretical approaches and then theoretically informed analysis on Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East with their importance to this research. After having presented the main theoretical perspectives and the analyses on Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, I will mention the limitations of the existing research and what the research focuses on alternatively.

In the second chapter, I will introduce the reader to the theoretical underpinning and the methodological framework of this book. In doing so, I will first mention realist perspectives and the realist premises on Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East with their analytical limitations. After having presented the core features of social constructivism, I choose identity, interest and foreign policy concept to explain the emergence and development of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s. In the remaining part of the second chapter, I will describe the sources and the research methods I used for the analysis presented here.

In the third chapter of this book, I will provide a comprehensive background of the situation in the Middle East and Turkish foreign policy in the period of 1923-1980, starting with the Ottoman governance strategy in the Middle East. In addition, I will discuss the reasons behind the end of Ottoman governance in the Middle East and the political formation of Turkey in terms of the relations with the Middle East. Importantly, in this chapter, I will discuss the key issues related to the political ideology of Turkey, which had been the main reason to prevent the influence of Turkey in the Middle East.

The fourth chapter will present a theoretical informed empirical investigation, which will intend to verify whether the transformation has occurred on the identity dimension in Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s. In doing so, the chapter is divided into three sections. The first section will analyze the transformation of Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s. The second section will explain the concept of neo-Ottomanism as Turkey’s foreign policy approach and the third section will analyze the factors, which motivate the approach of Turkey towards the Middle East.

Drawing on neo-Ottomanist perspective, which offers the Turkey to be the influential power of the policies in the former Ottoman territories, in the fifth chapter, I will address the key questions related to the effect of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East. The analysis will include the policy actions and the outcomes in Palestine and Iraq cases from the 1980s till the 2010, before the start of uprisings in the Middle East. This historical formulation is important to show the roots of Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist policy framework that is seen in Turkey’s recent policy actions. In the concluding chapter I will present the summary of main analytical findings of this research, thereby answering the research questions. I will then provide some policy suggestions based on the findings of the analysis presented here.

With the organizational character of this book being explained, I would like to make some remarks, relevant to the analysis put forward in this book. First of all, it is necessary to point out that the transformation of Turkish foreign policy has occurred in a certain period, thus I will show the evolution of neo-Ottomanist concept and Turkey’s policy approach towards the Middle East to some extent. However, the purpose of this book is to show mainly the effectiveness of neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey towards the Middle East. This will be done by drawing on theoretical literature and on empirical evidence from the cases, where Turkey effectively involved in foreign policy transformation period. Due to the limited scope of this study, the structural alternatives to the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East are not discussed. However, by showing some limitations about the construction of the policy, this research will be a reference point for future research regarding improvement possibilities.

I The Review on Turkish Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East

Turkey’s foreign policy transformation after the 1980s and approach to the Middle East affected the emergence of a broad academic debate. Controversial in the field of Turkey’s approach towards the Middle East is the conceptualization of Turkey’s foreign policy approach in the Middle East politics. The purpose of this chapter is to give an overview to the reader about the existing literature and to explain the main policy analysis. The first section includes different theoretical approaches to the Turkish foreign policy and theoretically informed analysis of Turkey’s approach to the Middle East after the 1980s with their importance to this research. The second section includes the limitations of existing research to illustrate the foreign policy transformation of Turkey.

I.1 Turkish Foreign Policy and Turkey’s Approach to the Middle East after the 1980s

The studies about the factors, which shape the foreign policy of Turkey generally focused on Turkey’s geopolitical and strategic importance since its establishment. Moreover, these studies were based on the historical explanations and analyses. However, the main internal factors, which were shaping the foreign policy of Turkey, were not given enough attention. Especially, the post-Cold War period in Turkish foreign policy was mainly related to the end of the Cold War. Hence, the change of this bipolar distribution of power affected the Turkish foreign policy behaviour. In this context, Turkish foreign policy before the 1980s was mainly linked to the effect of Kemalist regime to follow the Westernization as being dependent to the West and how the foreign policy norms have been shaped according to the security of the state especially in the Cold War period. On the one hand, the post-Cold War foreign policy of Turkey was analyzed by considering Turkey as dependent to the Western system and following the actions according to the role, which was drawn by the hegemonic powers. On the other hand, Turkey’s involvement of some problematic areas were shown as the power politics of Turkey on rationalist perspective and state interest was emphasized of these interventions (Bulut, 2003: 162-163; Ürer, 2001: 74; Kodaman, 2003: 41).

I.1.1 Theoretical Debate on Turkey’s Approach to the Middle East

The actual role and the influence of Turkey in the Middle East politics have been debated by different theoretical perspectives in academic literature. Depending on the different theoretical perspectives, the concepts of Turkey’s role in the Middle East politics changes significantly. In the following, I first review the conceptualization of this role in two theoretical approaches in Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, which are rationalism and neo-gramscianism. Additionally, I introduce the social constructivist approach on Turkey’s foreign policy transformation.

From a rationalist perspective, in the post-1980s, political approaches of Turkey can be examined as adapting to the changed conditions within Western oriented policy perspectives (Sander, 1998: 70). The increase in Kurdish separatism mainly after the Gulf War affected Turkey’s relations with the neighboring countries in the Middle East, based on the security of the state, because of their support to the separatism in Turkey (Ayman and Ateşoğlu, 1994: 146-148). Moreover, one of the motivations that Turkey and the US empowered their alliance in the post-Cold War period was related to the balance of power because of the regional threat of Russia and their interests merged to be against to Russia’s influence in the region (Koni, 1994: 5-14). In this context, mainly because of the developments in the post-Cold War period were happening in the neighboring places of Turkey, Turkey intervened to the regions in terms of the national interests (Baharçiçek, 1998: 377). Even, Turkey’s relation with the European Union (EU) was problematic after the 1990s, Turkey did not abandon the relations with the EU because of the interests of Turkey was merging with the EU`s political approaches (Bağcı, 1998: 313-314). Moreover, Turkey’s strategic location as a passageway for European energy resources and possible effects to the post- Soviet countries and the Middle East motivated the West to continue the relations with Turkey on mutual interests (Şimşir, 1993: 59-98). In this sense, Turkey’s actions in the post-Cold War period were related to its own interests, rather than the global interests during the Cold War (Gönlübol et. al., 1996: 312). These developments brought the Turkey to be in the central role.

From a neo-Gramsican perspective, the reason why Islamic references were mainly used after the 1980s in Turkey was related to the passive revolution concept, which was formulated to eliminate the effect of Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 (See Parla, 1995). Thus, the revolutionary sources demobilized in the country. As Gramsci argued, “revolution-restoration” process after the French Revolution in the European countries satisfied the demands of the people; but, empowered the regime of the dominant class in the European countries (Gramsci, 1971: 114-120). In this case, neoliberal policies were applied to Turkey, because of the new Anatolian entrepreneurs, who were the proletariat before and changed their vision to a market economy (Erbakan, 1991: 29, 65-66; Buğra, 2002). Furthermore, Erbakan`s aim to create an Islamic union in economical matters with the Muslim countries was banned with a post-modern coup in 1997 to continue the hegemony of the West over Turkey by force as neo-Gramscianism mentioned (Özdalga, 2002: 134). After 2001, a hegemonic capitalist project was applied in Turkey by dividing the main Islamist party. In this context, Tayyip Erdoğan founded the AKP, based on the classification of the US, as a moderate Muslim and was shown as an example to the Muslim countries to prevent the radical Islamist groups. Moreover, the approaches of the AKP were supported by the majority of the people from different perspectives because of it was originated from a civil society movement (See Casanova, 1994). In the last two decade, AKP`s actions in the Middle East were to have a role in the US based Greater Middle East Project (GMEP) and send the message of the West to the Middle Eastern countries. For instance, Hamas declared to follow the same policies with AKP as a result of this policy perspective (Tuğal, 2007: 125).

Finally, as the role of the ideas and the identity in the foreign policy preferences, a social constructivist perspective on Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s assumes that Turkey’s involvement in the foreign policy actions has been based on the identity of Turkey. In this context, this assumption implies that social interaction affects the identity and interests of the actors, and they are not constant, may change in the process of social interaction. Hence, the volatile situation of Turkey’s region such as in the Middle East, Balkans, the Caucasus and the Eastern Mediterranean motivated Turkey to actively involve itself in these regions in accordance to own identity (Laçiner, 2009a). When Turkey increased the interactions with the countries in the region, socioeconomic interactions increased both Turkey’s influence and economic capacity in the region (Eralp, 2000: 241-245). In addition, Turkey’s relations with the West were also related to the identity of Turkey, because the West saw an opportunity from Turkey’s identity connections with the multiple regions. Furthermore, Turkey aimed to create a common market with the Muslim countries in the second half of the 1990s and the main driving force for these developments was the Islamic factor in Turkey’s identity (Özcan, 1998:5-34). In the first decade of the 21st century, the identity politics of Turkey were conceptualized with the work Strategic Depth of Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu. So, historical, cultural, religious and nationality factors were added to the foreign policy norms of Turkey. These political principles increased interactions and empowered with agreements, abolition of visas and regional alliances of former Ottoman territories (Kirişci, 2009: 29-57).

I.1.2 Policy Analysis in Turkish Foreign Policy towards the Middle East

This section covers the policy analysis of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, including different approaches by considering them as useful or not for the content of the book. Concrete studies have been putting the policy transformation of Turkey at the core of their research since the 1980s. While the early foreign policy of Turkey was analyzed mainly on national interest factors, the Cold War period was analyzed both with the national interests and dependency of Turkey to the West by living under the hegemony of the US. In addition, the identity factor in the Turkish foreign policy analysis was mainly included after the 1980s. In this context, research to date has confirmed the idea of this book that Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s can be best analyzed using the identity factor.

The analysis shows that with the foundation of republic, Turkey had arranged its political system according to the western values and followed the policy developments, which were originated from the West in international politics. This has been the continuation of the late Ottoman political system based on the Westernization. Moreover, because of Turkey was established as a nation-state, national interests were the main driving force of Turkey’s policy actions since the establishment (Gönlübol and Kürkçüoğlu, 1985: 462). In this context, Turkey had cooperation first with the United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) against to the threat of the West starting from the national liberation war. Then, with France and the United Kingdom (UK) against to the threat of Germany in the World War II (WWII), when Germany occupied the Albania (Hurewitz, 1959: 226-228). In the Cold War, because of the threats coming from the USSR, Turkey moved to the Western alliance and joined in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 after the successful operations in the Korean War in the 1950. In addition, Turkey received the aids from the West with Truman Doctrine for the development and modernization of the country, which was the rational choice of political elites (See Ekinci, 1997). In this sense, the analyses in rationalist perspective have been useful for the arguments of the book mainly to show the time, when the identity perspective was not applied to the foreign policy setting and how Turkey has been directed by the political elites.

Moreover, Turkey’s involvement within the Western alliance was presented as the acceptance of the hegemony of the West with the consent explained in neo-Gramscian approach (See Parla, 1995). However, Turkey’s position was not considered by neo-Gramscian perspective, which Turkey had no other options to secure itself in the region, and their analyses were not applicable. Then, the rationalist approaches explain the issue usefully as Turkey applied to the EC membership for the economical benefit, based on the rational choice. Furthermore, Turkey’s only action different from the Western alliance was the intervention to Cyprus in 1974 and it was also related to the national interest of Turkey, which differentiated from the Western interests in the region (See Gürel, 1993). In this sense, the rationalist analysis of Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus has been useful to show the situation of Turkey in the pre-1980s period as the rational actor to follow the self interests. In contrast, the analysis in neo-Gramscian perspective shows that Turkey faced with the embargoes from the West after the Cyprus intervention, which was in neo-Gramscian analysis as the continuation of Western hegemony over Turkey through coercion (See Parla, 1995). However, the results of the Western embargoes have not happened like how the West desired, which put into question the utility of the neo-Gramscian analysis with regard to Turkey’s policy toward Cyprus question since 1974.

The end of the Cold War brought an era when the US became dominant with the “new world order” projects (Gökırmak, 1996: 4). In terms of Turkey’s internal politics, neo-Gramscian analysis argue that the Islamic references have been used with Turkish nationality after the 1980s because of a passive revolution to eliminate the effect of Islamic revolution, which had happened in Iran in 1979. In this context, these were not for the demands of the people, but to increase integration into the US conservatism. In addition, the liberalization of the economy and privatizations were made with the demand of the US, which could not be achieved in the 1970s because of the strong opposition from the proletariat in Turkey (See Buğra, 2002). However, neo-Gramscian analyses are not useful to explain the internal transformation and its effects to foreign policy preferences of Turkey because of the internal dynamics of Turkey have not been considered. Then, as constructivists usefully analyzed that the abolition of the restrictions on religious rights in Turkey was the main desire of Turkish people since emergence of Turkey. In this sense, Turkey has found its main identity by satisfying the demands of Turkish people. Subsequently, the main identity, which emerged after the 1980s, shaped the foreign policy preferences (Anderson, 2008).

In terms of the foreign policy actions in the post-Cold War period, rationalist perspectives argue that micro nationalism increased in the post-Soviet countries and mainly conflicts occurred in the regions of Turkey. Thus, Turkish governments followed the foreign policy because of the threats in the region to Turkey on rationalist perspective. In this context, the increase in Kurdish separatism with the effect of the Gulf War and the supports of the neighbors to Turkey’s separatist groups shaped the relations of Turkey with the neighbors based on security and power politics after the Cold War (Ayman and Ateşoğlu, 1994: 146-148). While the rationalist analysis of security policies of Turkey shows the issue partly useful for the analysis in this book, they have been weak to explain mainly how Turkey became a part of the major conflicts in the region. Then, constructivist analysis usefully shows that Turkey involved in the problems in Turkey’s region, according to the identity of Turkey, rather than threats (Khalilzad et. al., 2000: 97). This is because Turkish governments followed a strategy based on cooperation, rather than the balance of power. In this sense, Turkey had coalitions with the US in some interventions because of Turkey’s identity politics overlapped with the interests of the US.

When the Cold War ended, political analyses mentioned that the importance of Turkey would decrease in the Western alliance. However, the major regions for the intervention of the West were around Turkey and its importance increased, unlike the suggestions as the analyses usefully mentioned in the book. In addition, the strategic location of Turkey and possible influence to the post-Soviet countries affected to empower the relations of the West with Turkey based on the mutual interests. This has been a basic fact, as addition to the construction of the book to show how the interests of the West in Turkey’s identity policy overlapped after the 1980s (Baharçiçek, 1998: 377; Şimşir, 1993: 59-98). Moreover, neo-Gramscian analyses show the issue on partly useful for the analysis in this book as Turkish governments` any attempt to separate from the hegemony of the US was not allowed by the internal dynamics, which were supported by the US and these initiatives empowered the hegemony of the US over Turkey (See Özdalga, 2002). In this sense, the political groups in Turkey were forced to integrate into the Western system and act according to the demands of the hegemonic powers as explained in neo-Gramscian conception. However, as rationalist analyses usefully mention for this research that the post-Cold War period of Turkish foreign policy mainly based on the self interests of Turkey different than the global interests in the Cold War period. This is because Turkey’s active involvement of the regional politics was the own projects of Turkey to increase the relations with the countries in the Middle East (Gönlübol et. al., 1996: 59-84).

Furthermore, Turkey started to follow a more conceptualized identity policy with the AKP`s governance since 2003. In this sense, historical and cultural roots have been included to the foreign policy preferences to be effective in the policies of Turkey’s region (Davutoğlu, 2008: 78). As constructivist analysis usefully mentions for the basis of the book, mainly Turkey became a part of the problems related to its own identity. However, neo-Gramscian analysis shows the foreign policy actions of AKP as they were related to the combining religious groups and the provincial bourgeoisie to demobilize them to create the hegemony of the US. This system was supported as a model to export to the Middle Eastern countries, which is an Islamized Americanism in the analysis of neo-Gramscianism. However, when the Turkish foreign policy during the AKP period is analyzed, there have been so many clashes of the interests between the US and Turkey. The US-Turkey relations have been in the worst period especially after the Iraq War in 2003, which shows the analysis of neo-Gramscianism is not useful. Alternatively, rationalist analysis showed the issue partly useful for the research as Turkey has followed the economic benefits in the Middle East politics and Turkish companies became the main traders in the region, which shows the dimension of it on material interests. However, constructivist analysis usefully showed the effects of socio-political interaction with the Middle Eastern countries, which have resulted in the removal of visa restrictions and multiple agreements to bring the countries closer. In this context, the main driving force to fasten the process was the identity dimension of the foreign policy setting (Laçiner, 2009b).

I.2 Limitations of Existing Research

The studies, which have been dedicated to analyze the foreign policy transformation of Turkey after the 1980s, are including different perspectives in their formulations. These studies have contributed to the academic debate on broader perspective; however, these studies have major limitations to explain the foreign policy actions of Turkey especially in the post- 1980s period. When the general findings of the research are analyzed, the domination of traditional and critical perspectives is seen with their regard to show Turkey’s location in the world politics. Such research, based on rationalist perspectives, showed the issue on more state interests bases without considering the internal factors that affect the foreign policy of Turkey. Critical neo-Gramscian perspectives place Turkey as the main actor in the region, which follow the policies on the bases of the hegemony of the US, and mainly policy success extended the area of global capitalism. In this context, they created their analyses based on some data, which were acquired as a result of the policy actions and the policy mechanisms. However, these perspectives did not fully mention the policy actions in a broader perspective and their analyses to explain the foreign policy of Turkey after 1980s have been weak.

Furthermore, Social constructivist analysis has been presented well by considering the internal dynamics of Turkey and the changed conditions of the world from power politics to the identity based foreign policy approaches after the 1980s. Their focus is clearly linked to Turkey’s identity connections with the neighboring countries on a normative dimension to show Turkey’s sphere of influence that resulted in the creation of strong ties with the formal agreements and strategic alliances. The role of Turkey has been conceptualized in this context mainly with the AKP period in Turkish foreign policy. The identity references on foreign policy became on the top-level in this period mainly to express the political sphere of Turkey in the region. However, while constructivist analyses mainly show the importance of identity to examine the foreign policy of Turkey, they have some limitations to explain the identity transformation of Turkey from Turkism to neo-Ottomanism, which cover wider nationality as the former Ottoman nations. In this context, the identity based foreign policy of Turkey remains a reactionary policy related to the identity of Turkey in their analyses, which prevents understanding the main strategy of Turkey. In contrast, this book intends to show that the foreign policy actions of Turkey after the 1980s have been based on a neo-Ottomanist strategy to make Turkey as the main actor in the Middle East as the successor of state of the Ottoman Empire. In this sense, the book will link the policy actions of the post-1980s period Turkish foreign policy and the policies of the Ottoman Empire to show how Turkish governments have acted in neo-Ottomanist perspective. In sum, basically, the results of the analysis will show the reasons behind the increase in mainly Turkey’s political sphere of influence in the Middle East different than other countries, which have identity connections and foreign policies based on their identities, in the region.

II Theoretical Framework and Methodology

Charles Ragin (1994: 25-60) pointed out that “[…] theory is an attempt to specify as clearly as possible, a set of ideas that pertain to a particular phenomenon […]. Social research is a dialogue between ideas and evidence”. In the first section, I will cover the realist approaches and the limitations of them to illustrate Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s. In the second section, I will cover constructivism as the main theoretical approach, which relates to the empirical evidence. Then, in the third section, I will cover methodological setting and resources that I have relied on in my research.

II.1 Realist Approaches

As the topic in my book is related to the foreign policy, which is already dealing with the interests of the states, and the main theory for application to my research is constructivism mainly emerged against to realist premises, I will start to briefly explain the realist approaches in connection with the topic of the book. The roots of realism in international relations (IR) come from the 1930s. The most famous authors on realist theories are E. H. Carr, Georg Schwarzenberger, Reinhold Neibuhr and Hans Morgenthau (Archer, 1983: 75). Realism became a dominant paradigm since it has emerged and especially in the Cold-War period, it was the main theory of research in IR. According to realism, states are the basic actors and states act on the zero-sum game principle in IR (Kegley & Wittkopf, 1993: 22-25). In addition, for the realists, the international system is anarchic and international anarchy increases the competition, which causes a decrease in demand for cooperation among states. In this respect, realists argue that the international organizations do not eliminate the anarchic structure of the international system and a pessimistic approach about the international cooperation exists (Grieco, 1988: 492). As it is seen, non-state actors are not considered in realism and international and human rights are not universal because there is no universal morality (Klarevas, 2004: 18). In this sense, all activities of states are connected to war; because of this military power is of paramount for states (Carr, 1946: 109).

According to Morgenthau (1978:10), power is not only military power. The shape and the structure of power are determined according to the political situation. In this respect, power can be something, which is used to control other entities. Moreover, for Carr (1946: 109), power can be grouped in three aspects: military, economic, and propaganda. The importance of military power originates in its importance for the competition among states and military power is both as a tool and as a final goal. According to Carr, war is made to make the military power of one state supreme or eliminate to increase the power of another state (Ibid., 111). Realists argue that the collective security is not effective in international politics because of the states act on zero-sum game perspective. In this sense, strategic cooperation with Iraq has been important for Turkey’s security to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq and fight against the separatist Kurdish groups. Another important issue for realists is the “balance of power” (Sofka, 2001: 147-148). In this system, when there is a threat outside of the state, a state tries to balance the power by increasing its own power or creates coalition with the other states.

Furthermore, while the balance of power is expressed mainly the coalition among states, ‘bandwagoning’ express that being closer to the base of the threat. In other words, bandwagoning occurs when weak states enter a coalition with stronger states (Walt, 1987: 17). While strategic agreements between Turkey, Iraq and Syria in 2009 can be seen as a coalition for security policies; in realist perspective, it includes the alliance for protection from their potential threats of these states. Another important issue that realists insist is ‘national interest’. For realists, national interest is the most important aspect to analyze the international politics. Because for realists national interest is important to understand the realities in international politics and without this political and non-political aspects cannot be separated (Morgenthau, 1978: 11). However, realists argue that it is not possible to make a single, definite explanation of national interest just like power. According to Morgenthau, while national interest is more continuous and constant, power is a more changeable aspect (Eralp, 1996: 81). Realist account of IR means the relations between nation-states and these relations based on national interests and power (Ibid., 75). In this sense, Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East is considered the maximization of national interests by increasing the relations among the states in the Middle East. According to Carol Migdalovitz (2008: 6), Turkey interested in linking Iraq’s natural gas to the Nabucco pipeline project; in this sense, the interest factor is driving the relation with Iraq rather than its identity.

Realists are divided shortly into realists and neorealists. Both theories have a lot of common points such as that both theories are state-centric. They mention that the international system is competitive, material benefit is more important for states, and states are egoist actors, which try to maximize their benefits. While the basic common points exist, they separate to explain the actions of states in international politics. Neorealism started to be popular in the 1970s. Neorealists try to interconnect with other approaches by protecting realist premises (Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, 2001: 119). In their book, “Power and Independence: World Politics in Transition”, Keohane and Nye argued that there are different actors in the international arena, but there is no hierarchical structure in it. The transformation of power is seen in the international arena and this can transform from military power to economic power (Donnelly, 2000: 29). While Keohane accepts that there are different actors, he emphasizes that states are only rational actors in the world politics to maximize their interests (Ibid., 7). However, the end of the Cold War brought to decrease the popularity of realist approaches in IR. According to Eralp (1996: 85), realist approaches could not predict the changes in international politics after 1989 and realism could not be successful in the analysis of this process. Yet, these developments did not remove realism totally from IR. Mearsheimer in his article titled “The False promise of International institutions” in 1994 collects realist premises as the international system is anarchic, each state has the own military power and this authorizes states to protect themselves, states are reasonable, and they act for their survival (Donnelly, 2000: 7).

II.1.1 Limitations of Realist Approaches

One of the deficiencies of realist perspectives is their excessive concern with the nation state. The state is the most important actor in realism as such that realists insist that international politics is the interaction among states (Nye, 2000: 4). The common point for realists is the state exists as a single unit (Eralp, 1996: 85). However, this excessive emphasis on state causes an unclear understanding of global issues. In the last two decades, there are a lot of global actors other than states (See Hall & Biersteker, 2002). If the different actors such as international organizations, individuals and the differences among the structures of nation states are analyzed, the basic nation state concept of realism is not enough to understand global politics (Ferguson & Mansbach, 2003: 88). If Turkey’s political influence in the Middle East is analyzed, there is the effect of Turkey’s political culture, which is called “Turkish Model” as a synthesis of secular democracy and Muslim identity (Rashwan, 2007: 13-22). So, the groups, individuals and identity factors are important and realism does not deal with them. In this respect, it is not possible to see IR as only the interstate relations (Klarevas, 2004: 22).

Secondly, according to realists, competition exists among states like it does among individuals (Rourke & Boyer, 1998: 13). In this sense, struggles between states are the basic actions in the world scene. So, power determines the supremacy of states and the aim of foreign policy is to increase, protect and exercise power (Ibid., 15). However, the realist assumption of power as a mainly military power which is the basic determinant of global relations is not valid. For instance, while the US spends half of the world’s military budget, it does not reflect on the success of the foreign policy of the US (Nye, 2004: 16-21). Turkey has felt insecure and uncertain about its Middle East neighbors because of the negative historical experiences. In this respect, Turkey’s foreign policy approach to its neighbors was as they were potential threats to Turkey. However, the new foreign policy approach with the AKP governments changed Turkey’s relations with its neighbors and fewer problems with its neighbors made Turkey more politically active in the Middle East.

Thirdly, realists do not accept changes in global relations. According to realists, the anarchic nature of the world system shapes world politics. The basic actors are states and the relations between states are shaped by their power. Both classical realists and neorealists argue that this structure will not change (Rourke & Boyer, 1998: 17). In addition, realists argue that the balance of power structure can change only with the war, and it creates one of the most important problematic to explain the changes, which occurred without the war (Eralp, 1996: 87). When Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s is analyzed, conditions in the world politics and the domestic factor in policy involvements effected to change foreign policy principles (Sayarı, 2000: 169). This change occurred without war and was mainly conjectural changes affected by the new foreign policy set of Turkey unlike realists insisted.

Fourthly, realists do not relate with the political ethic. Hans Morgenthau (1978: 12) argues that nations are seen as the entities that follow self interests, which would be just. According to realists, global ethical principles cannot be applied to the state actions with their abstract formulations and ethic-based foreign policy will weaken the states in comparison with the other states, which follow their self interests (Donnelly, 1998: 30). The Individual can say that justice should be applied even if the world collapses; but the state cannot say this kind of expression on behalf of its citizens whose protection is under the state’s responsibility (Morgenthau, 1978: 13). However, realist theory forgets about the fact that the state is the construction of individuals by arguing that individuals can bind him or herself with the ethical rules, but the state cannot. In this sense, the change in Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s has mainly occurred, unlike the premises of realists with the effect of ethnic, religious and political groups in Turkey. They supported and sponsored main political parties, both financial and voter power and it led politicians to deal actively more with their demands in foreign policy (Laçiner, 2009a).

In this section, I presented the theoretical foundations of the realist approaches and critique about the limitations to explain the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s. Because of the excessive focus on the centrality of state sovereignty, the realist perspective is not able to offer a plausible explanation to global developments. If the states are only actors in international politics, how can the effect of groups, individuals and identity be explained in Turkey’s political influence in the Middle East? Why has Turkey become more influential while other militarily powerful states exist? If changes occur only with war, why has the foreign policy changed and the influence of Turkey in the Middle East increased without it? If only states decide about foreign policy without considering the individuals, how can Turkey’s social change and its effect to foreign policy change be explained? In the following section, the insights of social constructivism will be applied to provide plausible answers to these questions.

II.2 Constructivism

“A theory of society should provide conceptions of the nature of human social activity and of the human agent, which can be placed in the service of empirical work.”

Giddens, quoted in Hopf, 2002: 1 Constructivism is not a theory of IR. However, the discussions about social constructivism are rapidly increasing in the debate of theories of IR. As a social theorem, constructivism stands in the middle of rationalist and materialist approaches (See Wendt, 1994; 1995; 1999). In this sense, constructivism had been affected from positivist and post-positivist debate on the theories of IR and developed on the critiques of neorealist and neoliberal approaches (Ruggie, 1998: 862). After the Cold War, identity, norms, culture and institutions became important topics to analyze the world politics and the increase in research in these areas brought the constructivism to a central position (Lapid and Kratochwil, 1996: 105-126). Rationalist and constructivist approaches differ mainly on social and spiritual explanations. Anarchy, sovereignty, political interests and identities are socially constructed and vary over time. As Wendt stated, international structure emerges from the social interaction, not from the material satisfactions (Wendt, 1995: 73).

Culture and ideas are important in shaping the IR discourse and reality. Interests are subjective and associated with changing identities. There are some differences in social constructivist intellectuals, but mainly they focus on the identity, norms, culture, national interests and international management. In this sense, constructivism is about the human consciousness and the role of its plays in international life (Ruggie, 1998: 878, 883). Here, the consciousness is a socially constructed fact and constructivists focus on the roles of ideas, culture, norms, knowledge and arguments in both social life and in politics. This approach indicates (like in critical theory) that the social reality has been configured by the people and can change. In this respect, the analysis of the social formation of international politics requires the analysis of the social structure which shapes the identity, interests and interactions of the actors (Wendt, 1995: 81). This approach contradicts with the rational theories.

The sovereignty approach in constructivism is different from the main theories of IR as well. Mainly, sovereignty is seen as the notion between subjects. In this context, sovereignty means nothing without other factors. Sovereignty is an institution for constructivist logic and this institution reduces the threat of anarchy (Wendt, 1994: 388). The sovereignty claims of the states create a social environment where the state can have interaction with other states. Sovereignty in a historical context has been socially constructed. Thus, it will be wrong to see sovereignty as constant, unchangeable and based on some data (Biersteker & Weber, 1996: 2, 11). The social construction of state sovereignty leads us to think that the constructive relation between state and sovereignty. The sovereignty approach in constructivism is also same for the security notion. As a requirement for social mentality, for constructivists, security cannot be reduced to defence, balance of threat and attacks or these kinds of material objects. Being secured or not is related to the quality of the relation and reflects the stability and change in the parties of these relations. The important thing is that the security relates to the interests to be defended (McSweeny, 1999: 101). The end of the Cold War effected the change in the security notion. While the notion of security for states is related to sovereignty, security for society is linked to the identities. In this sense, the security notion is institutionalized to cover widely accepted values as well (Tanrısever, 2005: 118-122).

The application of the social constructivist approach to explain the Turkish foreign policy is a new phenomenon affecting the discipline of IR. A social constructivist approach is different from the rational ontology based theories such as realism and liberalism. According to Wendt (1995: 71), the basic structures of international politics are more social rather than material and these structures shape the identities and the interests of the actors. In this sense, while explaining the interests of the actors, constructivism meets with rational theories. This approach stands on the ongoing construction of the Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s and shows the issue on both materialist and idealist factors. Idealist factors have both normative and institutional aspects and reflect not only individual but also collective meaning. In this sense, idealism and constructivism are related. Thus, while idealism mentions that the world exists from the ideas, constructivism insists that anything that is known must be created in the mind of the person (See Glasersfeld, 1995).

In a social constructivist approach, first, identity consists primarily as the social group of the distinctive ideas of individuals within the community (Wendt, 1995: 81). ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ as the combination of Muslim, Turkish and liberal features, can be given as an example of this. Secondly, a partnership, which makes it different from the other societies, is sought. In this sense, ‘Past-Ottoman nations and others’ issue has become important especially in the Middle East. In addition, social identity is not identified as being a member of only one group. Furthermore, it requires a multidimensional perspective. According to constructivists, the emergence of collective identities is possible on the bases of cooperation among states. The understanding of how the social constructivist approach sees IR require checking the ontological assumptions. Ontologically, constructivism is a theorem, which is based on the construction of social reality (Guzzini, 2000:160). So, constructivism made possible to effectively analyze IR by adding the identity, culture and speech factors, which were excluded by other theories of IR.

Understanding neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Turkey requires these factors as well. In this sense, re-articulating Turkish identity and respect for cultural diversity as in the Ottoman past and the elimination of economic boundaries by respecting political borders in the Balkans, Caucasus and Middle East are the main characteristics (Yavuz, 1998: 40). Constructivism does not exclude the classical power and interest factors, basically deal with how identity and ideas effect on them, to understand the state actions (Walt, 1998: 29-46). The meaning of identity and the scope of interest are related to the shared information among the people. In this sense, analysis in IR should start with the culture and then tend to power and interests (Wendt, 1999: 193). Some elements in Turkish culture, such as the “voluntary donation”, “donating to the relatives, poor and orphan” and “relieving” were the most important issues to empower the social structure of the Ottoman Empire (Yediyıldız, 1991: 4-7). The construction of neo-Ottomanist foreign policy is also based on the inclusion of these elements in the formation of foreign policy norms. In this sense, Turkey’s foreign policy norms have been based on sharing the wealth by removing the barriers among the peoples in the region (See Hürriyet, 2009; Kardaş, 2009a; BBC, 2006).

The theoretical concept of constructivism provides valuable insights for the understanding of the specific cases assessed in this book. Thus, applying these insights to the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, I argue, that the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East represents the transformation in the identity setting in Turkey and it affects to foreign policy changes since the 1980s. Looking at the developments since the 1980s, underlying the design of the Turkish foreign policy and exploring the driving forces behind it, I in particular, argue that the Turkish foreign policy has developed in the identity perspective with the agreements and Turkey’s active involvement in regional issues. With the analysis of the social constructivist concept I show how Turkey was able to increase its political influence. Also, as I demonstrate, Turkey became a model for the Muslim world with its democratic and secular structure with the majority Muslim population, a trusted mediator for the solution of regional conflicts and a culture exporting country for mainly Middle Eastern countries.

It is necessary to mention that the arguments of constructivism have been criticized on several grounds. Neorealism is the main opponent for many constructivists and many critiques come from its theorists. For instance, neorealists are sceptical about the existence of international norms. Scepticism in neorealists is about whether states can be friends with the interaction, because for neorealists the anarchic structure of the international system forces states to act as an egoist. For realists, it is not possible to implement the states with the community norms (Mearsheimer, 1995: 82-93). Nevertheless, anarchy is a more complex entity and does not always lead to a violent conflict. Without a focus on ideas, social interaction in the formation of identities and interests, anarchy cannot be understood. In this sense, when the norms are internalized by the actors, they become a part of the identity. Then, norms start to identify the identity and the interests. So, in constructivism the norms are constructive, not regulatory (Searle, 1995: 27).

Another critique from neorealists is related to the constructivist view of change. For neorealists, constructivists point out that some factors may lead to changes in the discourse of IR and in some cases; they argue that the change in material world effect to change in the discourse (Mearsheimer, 1995: 369). So, for neorealists, constructivists provide few insights about the changing of the discourses. However, constructivism deals with change, mainly. Actually, neorealism is dealing with the constant situation of the anarchic structure of the international system (Wendt, 1999: 17). The analysis of social interaction is the most important concept, especially to show how constructivism is dealing with the change. Applying this terminology to the case of the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, I associate the change in Turkish foreign policy since the 1980s and Turkey’s active involvement in the problematic issues in the Middle East. Indeed, the experiences from the history motivated Turkey to deal with the issues more seriously by considering public demand. In short, the new identity set as from ethnic Turkish to multicultural and multiethnic Turkish affected to follow a new multidimensional foreign policy, shortly neo-Ottomanist foreign policy. This is mainly related to increasing Turkey’s influence on former Ottoman regions.

II.2.1 Identity, Interest and Foreign Policy

Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, theoretical literature on Turkish foreign policy has been dominated by rationalist approaches. By the mid 1980s, however, the new economic policy created a new wealthy class in Anatolia, which affected the re-invigoration of Turkish foreign policy with the emergence of the culture and the value centered foreign policy norms. Nevertheless, because of the individualist approaches in their methodology, the starting point for rationalists is individual-actors in social explanations. In this context, rationalists could not illustrate the post-Cold War foreign policy approaches of Turkey. According to Wendt (1987: 342), the main weakness of rationalist theories is that they could not propound the notion of state, which is the basis of their theories. In this sense, they cannot explain how the modern state gained a continental and sovereign identity. Individualist methodology created a “hidden ontology” (Ruggie, 1986: 131-136). Because of this, rationalists cannot ask the social and cultural sources of the identity and interests of the actors. In short, rationalists could not develop identity and interest theorems (Ruggie, 1998: 862-863).

Moreover, rationalists can only analyze the actions of actors in the context of assumed identities and interests. But, constructivists mainly deal with how identities and interests are both constructed and emerged at first. While rationalists developed mainly theorem for actions, constructivists developed identity and preference theorem. For instance, after the 1990s, some liberal and conservative intellectuals in Turkey began to make reference to the multi-religious and multicultural feature of the Ottoman Empire (Çetinsaya, 2003: 378-380). Subsequently, there was a discourse that emerged, both with the concepts of liberal conservative intellectuals and the ideas of ordinary people. While people follow these ideas, the conceptualization of these ideas was done by the liberal and conservative intellectuals in the society. In this sense, the majority of the people supported the liberal conservative parties, which follow these neo-Ottomanist policies. This perspective led politicians to deal with the liberalization of the country more and the new identity setting changed the preferences of traditional foreign policy from one dimensional western oriented foreign policy to multidimensional neo-Ottomanist foreign policy.

Furthermore, rationalist approaches cannot see the possible changes in identity and interest portfolios, nor the effect of these changes in foreign policy or structural results of them. However, constructivists argue that the main sources of the interest are ideas and identities. Foreign policy trends or national security understandings and strategies are internalized on the identity construction process of the states (See Katzenstein, 1996). In this sense, Turkish foreign policy was set on the idea that Turkey has multiple connections such as religious with the Middle East, both religious and nationality with the Caucasus and historical links with the Balkans and these connections should be the norms of Turkey’s foreign policy (See Davutoğlu, 2001).

According to constructivists, the actors follow the actions which are appropriate to their identity, statute, social environment and cultural structure (March & Olsen, 1998: 943-969). As we can say that the social construction of reality, for constructivism, actors do not exist free from the social environment and the value system, which is brought by the social environment (Onuf, 1998: 59). For instance, different segments of Turkish society, from political parties to student unions exercised a great support for Palestinians against the attacks came from Israel (Aras & Bıçakcı, 2006: 367-381). Turkey has initiated a campaign against Gaza tragedy and Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had regional and international visits to end it by calling international society to lift embargoes and isolation over Palestine (Çandar, 2009). Here, the appropriateness to norms in foreign policy setting is seen starting from individual and groups` norms in national level, which is mainly related to the identity. Moreover, the protests in other countries in international level have been in accordance with the humanitarian support.

The Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, which is the subject of analysis in this book, represents the domestic context of Turkey’s foreign policy toward the Middle East and Turkey’s role for the cooperation as a regional power. The success of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East in achieving its objectives is, thus, inextricably related to the effectiveness of Turkey’s continuation of social reforms in facilitating domestic transformation in the country. While domestic transformation causes an emergence of new foreign policy norms, interactions between individuals and the groups also affect the foreign policy directions, both in Turkey and in the Middle Eastern countries as well. In this process, the transformation in society occurs both in Turkey and Middle Eastern countries. But, mainly the domination of Turkey’s political, social and religious culture as democratic, secular state and Muslim identity is seen. Therefore, in my further investigation of Turkey’s impact on the domestic and the political realm of the Middle East, I employ the insights offered by social constructivism.

In this section, I presented the theoretical foundations of constructivism for the empirical analyses, which is conducted in upcoming chapters. The theoretical base of this research is constructivism as the main concept. Constructivism will theoretically inform the empirical investigation of the social and political origins of the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s. Starting with the realist approaches, the previous section showed that the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s cannot be explained by realists` premises, because of the identity dimension behind it. In particular, constructivist analysis will help to explain why Turkey’s political sphere of influence increases in the Middle East since the 1980s. Since constructivism is hypothetically expected the effect of interest and identity to the emergence of foreign policy norms, with this in mind it is also important to mention the effect of strategic agreements to the common interests of the people in the region. After the introduction of theoretical background, I now briefly describe the sources and methods that I have used in my research.

II.3 Analysis of the Sources and Research Methods

This research relies on the analysis of primary sources, such as discourses of politicians and researchers on Turkey and the Middle East and publications of researchers in different countries related to the topic. The primary factual information is predominantly acquired from the reports and the official documents developed in the context of Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, such as Turkey’s contributions to Iraq report and Turkey - Iraq High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) report.5 While no interview was made during the research period, instead of this the published interviews, which were made by the other researchers or journalists with some politicians, are used to collect some data. The argumentation put forward in this book also makes use of a broad range of the key up to date secondary literature. This includes the books and articles from the journals, such as the Journal of Turkish Weekly, Journal of the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University, Journal of Society and Science, Journal of Middle East Review, Journal of International Affairs.

Having presented my sources, I would like to discuss the methods I used in writing this book. In order to support my line of argumentation in analyzing the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, throughout the fourth and the fifth chapter, I employ a qualitative research method. The purpose of the qualitative analysis is the same in these two chapters. Thus, in the fourth chapter, I collect the key issues and the concepts of the transformation of Turkish foreign policy after the 1980s until the start of uprisings against to the authoritarian rulers in 2010. In doing so, I attempt to show that the effects of foreign policy transformation of Turkey in the approach of Turkey to the Middle East. In the fifth chapter, I use qualitative methodology to collect data onto Middle East politics and the foreign policy actions of Turkey. Additionally, I employ the discourses of the politicians and journalists in the cases to support my argument. Although Turkey’s involvement in Iraqi politics and the Palestine problem is seen as the case studies, in order to reinforce some aspects of my argument. Finally, I present the case studies by selecting from Turkey’s foreign policy areas in the Middle East. Having presented the theoretical core of the empirical analyses and having introduced the research methods, I will now turn to presenting the key factual background information on the situation in the Middle East and Turkish foreign policy from 1923 to 1980.

III The Middle East and Turkish Foreign Policy (1923-1980)

The purpose of this chapter is to provide the reader with the necessary background on the Middle East since Ottoman Empire and the Turkish foreign policy until the 1980s, before proceeding with actual analysis of the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East. Since the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East after the 1980s builds on neo-Ottomanist perspective, in the historical context, the first section will briefly sketch out the Ottoman governance strategy in the Middle East. The second section will discuss the emergence of Arab nationalism and the involvement of the West in the Middle East. Then, the third section will show Turkey’s early Middle East policy, and West oriented foreign policy trend. Finally, the fourth section will introduce the reader that the political ideology factor in foreign policy setting in Turkey.

III.1 Ottoman Governance Strategies in the Middle East

If a comparison is made with Anatolia, Mesopotamia or Caucasus, the term Middle East was not used until the 20th century. When the British army needed a place between London and East for logistic support to its eastern colonies, the term Middle East emerged. This region was in the middle of the East (Mumbai) and the West (London) and closer to the colonies in the East (Davison, 1960: 665-675). Subsequently, this region was called as the Middle East for the first time in the correspondences between Ministry of India in Britain and the colony officers in India. In the 1900s, the boundaries, which show the Middle East complicated. After World War I (WWI), while Greece and the South of Italy were mentioned as the Near East, the region between the eastern part of the Near East and Afghanistan were referred as the Middle East. The geographic theme of the Middle East was clearly set after WWII because Britain had based the most important armory in Egypt in the name of “The Middle East Logistic Centre of Britain” during the WWII (See Adelson, 1995).

The relations among the Ottoman Empire and other Muslim sultanates in the Middle East had existed since the emergence of the Ottomans. However, the Ottoman hegemony was constructed after the Battle of Marj Dabiq 6 and the Battle of Ridanieh, 7 when the Ottomans annexed the Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt. Afterwards, the Ottoman Sultan Selim I conquered the territories of Egypt in 1517. Mekka Sheriff Ebu Numey obeyed the Ottoman rule and the governance of Harameyn 8 became officially under the control of the Ottomans. Furthermore, with the conquest, Ottoman Sultans were called as the Servants of Harameyn (Hadimu`l-Harameyn) (Kazıcı, 2003: 127). As a tradition in Muslim society at that time, the protector of Harameyn should spend the whole expenditures of it, which is called Surre 9 . Until to the end of the 18th century Surre was sent by both Istanbul as the capital of the Empire and Egypt as the commonwealth. In addition to Harameyn, Surre was being sent to Jerusalem because of Al Aqsa Mosque10 as another holy place for Muslims was located. For instance, during Sultan Murat III (1574-1595) reign, Surre was sent as cash money within 196 pockets to Medina, 87 to Mekka and 11 to Jerusalem (Atalar, 1991: 34). As it is seen, the highest amount was sent to Medina, where the grave of the Mohammed was located. This tradition continued until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as one of the factors, which was keeping the Muslim people under control.

The Ottomans were sending this aid to Harameyn because of being the strongest Muslim country at that time and owning the Caliphate 11 title of Ottoman Sultans. Because of this holy mission, the Ottomans did not apply any taxes to Hejaz region 12 and have sent substantial aid (Yavuz, 1984: 179). In this respect, the main success of Ottoman governance in the Middle East was depending on the protection of Islam and Muslims (Inalcık, 1995: 26). Since Mehmet II (1451-1481), Ottoman Sultans believed that they were the ruler of the greatest Muslim country since Prophet Muhammad (Ortaylı, 1999: 33). A famous Egyptian Muslim scholar Abdulaziz Cavis (1918: 16) argued that all Muslims agree that the Ottomans deserved the Caliphate. Thus, Ottomans showed great respect to Holy places, which were located in the Middle East and the importance of their aids were as the presents to the people in that region.

Mainly, the success of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East was related to their socially constructed Muslim identity and priority in internal politics to take care with the holy places. Another important issue in Ottoman aids, which were sent to Mekka and Medina, was large numbers of poor people were living in these holy places and the people, who come from Prophet Mohammad’s family was living there as well (Sarıcık, 2003: 53). The Surre tradition shows the Ottomans` governance strategy in the Middle East. It also disproves the claims of Arab nationalists that Ottomans exploited them. Then, the analysis showed that there was no petroleum industry in Ottoman time and the lives of many Middle Eastern nations was dependent on trade and the aids of the Ottomans. However, many orientalist studies in Europe and the US at the end of the Ottoman Empire showed that the Ottoman rule in the Middle East was exploitative. This was especially to increase the nationalism in Arabs for facilitating the colonial intervention (Faroqhi, 1999: 273).

Ottomans were the official and the substantive governor of the Middle East between the 16th and 20th centuries, and they were controlling the populations by creating developed governance relations. Because of a long term governance was bound to the consent of the people, Ottomans created autonomy to rule in their territories, where a wide variety of nations and cultures existed (Barkan, 1953: 303-307). This autonomy was including the cultural and ideological factors. Periodically, Alevis and Shias 13 in Anatolia were supported to eliminate their relations with Iran and on the contrary, the minority Sunnis14 in Iraq. For the regions, which were far from the centre, a family was selected to restore the rule or a clan was being empowered. This direct and indirect governance strategy continued until the 19th century and then the new governance strategies were needed to continue the hegemony in the Middle East (Deringil, 2003: 311-342 and Gilsenan, 1996).

The Ottoman economy and trade mentality was stagnating. At the same time, West’s dynamic economic and technological attempts were taking place. Subsequently, Ottoman trade and economic order started to corrupt and West’s dominance was obvious at the end of the 18th century (Önsoy, 1999: 9). The main reason was Ottoman Empire had no social classes and private enterprises occurred in the early capitalist development and state-private sector coordination, which required colonial policies. As the governor of a geography, which was economically dependent to the West, the Ottomans could not prevent its dissolution even they know the nature of required reforms. The reform processes and then latterly wars brought the great monetary problems. The main aim of the Ottoman bureaucracy after the 19th century was to create a new order. However, the Westernization and modernization movements in this new order created the social and institutional framework of Western colonial power. These colonial powers were the actors in the Middle East at the end of the Ottoman Empire and were the basic reasons to establish the nation states after colonization.

In sum, ‘Muslim’ identity of the Ottomans was the main factor in successful governance in the Middle East. Ottoman sultans exercised the greatest respect to holy places, and they have interested in the Middle East in terms of the religious feelings rather than a centre for profiting. While, this approach of the Ottomans motivated mainly Muslim Arabs to integrate the empire more, the wide autonomy for the non-Muslim Arabs for their religious rituals was another reason to integrate them. However, developments related to the rise of nationalist ideology in Europe, mainly affected the Ottoman territories starting from the Balkans to the Middle East. In this context, Ottoman bureaucrats tried to follow reforms to remove the problems and achieve the unity of the empire. Nevertheless, the dominance of the Europe over the Ottoman Empire rounded off the power of the empire in the Middle East.

III.2 The Emergence of Arab Nationalism and the West in the Middle East

Nationalism, as an emerged factor with the effect of some developments, is a problem for some and liberation of others. According to Anderson (1991: 52-58), when the press had become more prevalent, publishers started to publish more books in the local languages to earn more and the language of the people became the language of their states. Subsequently, it provided a great support for development of national culture and nationalist ideologies. In this sense, the emergence of Arab nationalism did not differ from the nationalist ideologies in Europe, because of the emphasis on Arabic language and the culture. As Gellner (1983: 27) stated that “the emergence of nations are dependent on some circumstances like states, and they do not born because of the obligations”, Arabic nationalism developed by depending on some circumstances as well.

The decrease in the military power of Ottoman Empire increased the interventions of Europe in Ottoman territories after the 18th century. The increase in nationalist ideology in Europe showed first its effect on the Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire, which started to undermine the Ottomanist policies to keep the whole ethnic and religious groups under the Ottoman rule. Later, it spread to the Middle East with the effects of foreign missionary education institutions, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. The analysis of the 19th century international politics shows that an Arab problem did not exist at that time. Mainly, identities are referred as the Muslim and non-Muslim and Arab only represented non-resident Bedouin people, who live in the desert (Zeine, 1958: 36).

In the 19th century, there was religious competition between the super powers to increase their influence on Christian minority and religious places. The cultural influence of Europe emerged mainly in Christian Arabs in Syria. The main aim of these missionary activities was to construct an Arab generation, who would know the Arabic past and get influenced by the European culture (Lewis, 1993: 172). The Christian intellectual Arabs, who had been trained in the missionary schools started to publish newspapers in Arabic both in Egypt and Syria to influence the people. The lack of official Arabic newspaper in Ottoman Empire accelerated this process. In this sense, Arab nationalism triggered after Britain’s formal annexation of Egypt in 1882 (Ibid., 173).


1 The notion of the region of Turkey or Turkey’s region emerged after the 1980s to refer the geopolitics of Turkey both in terms of the territory and identity connection with the Caucasus, Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. Also, Ahmet Davutoğlu (2001) in his book “strategic depth” conceptualized it as Turkey has religious, cultural, historical and nationality connections with these regions to show that Turkey cannot follow one sided foreign policy like in the Cold War period only towards the West.

2 Turgut Özal was the leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP), which won the elections with the majority of the votes after the coup, and he later became the 8th president of Turkey. As a Kurdish person, his vision was the liberalization and democratization of the country. He created the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) for the development of southeastern Anatolia, where the majority of the people are Kurdish, and he first argued for the solution of the Kurdish problem in a more democratic way after the Military Coup. In his governance time, Turkey’s domestic dynamics were changed and Turkey started to follow more active policy in Turkey’s region based on the neo-Ottomanism (Anderson, 2008).

3 Kemalist system was based on the Kemalism as a doctrine represented the ideas, principles and the actions of Atatürk. Atatürk did not write anything about the doctrine of the Kemalism. However, after he died, his ideas and principles were mentioned as Kemalism and became Turkey’s main ideology, which was protected by the republican institutions. Kemalist ideology mainly includes the principles of Atatürk such as republicanism, populism, secularism, reformism, nationalism, and statism. Also, Atatürk’s foreign policy ideas were including non-intervention to other states` internal politics, relations base on the nation-state structure and Westernization (Uyar, 2006; Şansal, Undated).

4 For contribution to the debate on Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East, see: Robins, 1991; Bağcı, 1998; Sander, 1998; Gözen, 2000; Davutoğlu, 2001; Barkey, 1996.

5 These reports and documents have been acquired by me on the web pages of the governmental institutions and the Ministries.

6 The battle was between the Ottoman Empire and Mamluk Sultanate in 1516 near Aleppo-Syria. After the battle, the Ottomans annexed the Syria, Lebanon and Palestine (See William, 2007).

7 The Battle of Ridanieh was between the Mamluk Sultanate and the Ottoman Empire in 1517, in the city of Ridanieh. After the Battle, Mamluk Sultanate collapsed and the Ottomans annexed the Egypt (See William, 2007).

8 Harameyn represents the holiest places in Islam, such as Mekka and Medina. Since the emergence of Islam, Harameyn has been ruled by Sheriffs, and it continued during the Ottoman reign as well.

9 Surre was an amount of money that was being sent to Harameyn with a special ceremony. The amount of money was being spent on the needs of Harameyn and the poor people in that region (Atalar, 1991: 3-5).

10 Muslims believe that the Mohammed went to his night journey from Mecca via Al Aqsa Mosque and also Muslims were praying first there and then Mohammed led them to pray towards the Ka’aba (Lundquist, 2007: 45).

11 Caliphate represents the governors of Islam, which gets its power from the rules of the prophet Mohammed. The Caliphate was seen as the leader of all Muslims, and this institution continued until to the end of the Ottoman Empire. The Caliphate was abolished after the establishment of Turkey in 1924 (Crone, 2005: 308-309).

12 Hejaz region is on the west side of the today’s Saudi Arabia territory. Hejaz region is very important in Islam because it includes the holy places Mekka and Medina.

13 As in other Muslim sects, Shias and Alevis are based on the Quran and Prophet Mohammed’s sayings. However, Shias are differentiating on that the first Caliph after Mohammed would be Ali, who was Mohammed’s cousin, so they reject the legitimacy of Rashidun Caliphs. Also, Alevis are considered in one of the many branches in Shia Islam (Episoto, 2002: 40).

14 Sunnis are the largest group in Islam. The word Sunni comes from the actions and the speeches of Prophet Mohammed, which called ‘Sunnah’. Sunni school of law is divided into four as Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali. Ottoman sultans and the majority of present Turkey’s population belonged to a Sunni Muslim group and Hanafi in Sunni School of law (Meri, 2005: 5; Ramadan, 2006: 26).

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Turkey in the Middle East Politics. Political Discourses, Identity and the National Interests
University of Kassel  (Faculty of Social Sciences)
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Turkish Foreign Policy, Middle East, identity, Neo-Ottomanism, Palestine, Iraq
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Ahmet Görgen (Author), 2020, Turkey in the Middle East Politics. Political Discourses, Identity and the National Interests, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/916221


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