What You Need to Know About Playing Turkey

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--Turkey put a lot of energy into the effort to secure membership in the European Union, only to find their appeal snubbed. As Turkey’s economy grows and it works to meet goals set by the EU to gain admission (raise GDP, lower inflation and its budget deficit) Turkey also seeks to assert its independence from the West, for example, seeking stronger economic and political relations with Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia.

--Historically, Turkey has had close relations with the United States, with a robust strategic and diplomatic partnership in place for years. That has remained largely the case of late, although Turkey and the United States have seen things differently in Syria, with the US focused on the threat from ISIS while the Turks, as ever, worry about the Kurds insurgency and the threat from the Kurdish militia, the PKK. Turkey does not wish to be taken for granted by the Western nations, and will continue to chart their own course.

--Turkey has long been a strong buyer of Israeli arms, and Israel and Turkey enjoyed a strong relationship for many years. This relationship soured dramatically in recent years, starting with Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, which took place as Turkey was actively brokering Israeli-Syrian talks, followed by Israel’s boarding of a ship in a flotilla (which originated in Turkey, with many Turks aboard) that sought to deliver aid to Gazans in 2010. Diplomatic relations were downgraded for much of this period, but in 2016, Israel and Turkey re-established full diplomatic relations. As a part of this deal, Israel agreed to set up a $20 million compensation fund for families who lost loved ones in the 2010 ship incident, and Turkey will end all claims against the Israeli government as the two nations begin talks on jointly building a natural gas pipeline.

--Your country’s leaders are from an Islamist party, and given that the vast majority of your citizens are Muslim, some in the West fear that Turkey may be “switching sides." From your perspective, you remind the world that Turkey is still very much a secular nation that isn’t going the way, say, of Iran. You are a proudly secular, majority-Muslim nation. You also view Turkey’s economic, political, and diplomatic renaissance with great pride, feeling that she is reaching back towards the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey will no longer be content to take on a complementary role in regional politics, and with the political upheaval in Egypt, Turkey saw an opportunity to fill a leadership void.

--Counterbalancing hopes that Turkey could provide a model for governance that is both Islamist and democratic, recent events in Turkey have given many the impression that Turkey is moving towards something that looks much more like a dictatorship. With efforts well underway to consolidate power under a strong presidency, you must work to convey an image to the world that Turkey is not turning its back on democracy. The world will be watching to see how harshly Turkey comes down on officers and others accused of involvement in a July 2016 failed coup attempt. Estimates at the time were that some 60,000 police, soldiers, judges and educators were suspended, which means that a convincing case needs to be made that the nation faced a far-reaching threat--otherwise, your government may see Turkish popular opinion turn against it.

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