Turkey's re-imagined neighborhood policy after the Arab Spring Actuelles de l'Ifri, April 19th, 2012
Joshua W. Walker was a speaker at the international conference on “The international consequences of the Arab Spring” held at Ifri on March 13th, 2012. This paper is a follow up on his oral intervention.
Turkey’s emergence in the 21st century as a regional power has been in the making for the last decade, but only fully crystallized in the wake of the “Arab Spring” in 2011. Unlike regional powers like Iran and Saudi Arabia that actively supported counter-protest movements to deflect attention away from their own domestic shortcomings, Turkey’s vibrant civil society nudged the government onto the side of the Arab street even at the expense of investments made with previous regimes. Given Turkey’s recent economic success and democratic character in a Muslim context, Ankara’s courtship of the newly emerging Arab democracies in the Maghreb region has been notably successful in contrast to underlining tensions with its own neighbors that has limited the potential of Turkish influence.
Turkey did not transform itself from a defeated post-Ottoman Empire state to a flourishing market-based Muslim-majority democracy overnight; it has been almost a century in the making. The lessons learned and the opportunities offered by Turkey are unique, yet it is still being offered as a “model” for how “neighbors” might be able to transform themselves. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), that prefers to be an “inspiration” rather than a “model”, has been quick to seize the opportunities presented to it in 2011 by inserting itself in every possible arena and role wherever possible in the region. Under AKP’s rule, Turkey has earned a reputation for being pragmatic and active actor in the Middle East.