Turkey between Europe and the Levant


By Pinhas Inbari

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an declared last week in Berlin that Turkey has not given up its aspiration to join the EU. He went even further and called on Muslims in Europe to integrate into their European communities. It is unclear whether the Turkish leader has actually reconsidered the decision to abandon the European project or if his remarks were delivered as a courtesy to please his German host.

While Turkey’s motives are uncertain, it is clear that Erdo?an’s strategic decision to get involved in Middle Eastern politics has put Turkey in grave danger. The decision of a NATO member state to engage in Syria has exposed the international alliance to unwanted conflict as it is bound to stand by Turkey in its Eastern adventure.

It seems, however, that Turkey has come to realize that its NATO membership and neo-Ottoman aspirations cannot coexist peacefully, and that the time has come to decide if it wishes to be either a part of Europe or the Levant.

Turkey, like many Islamic countries in the Middle East, tends to prefer the Caliphate ethos over pragmatic interests. This trend has been most glaringly manifested by the country’s preference of Hamas-ruled Gaza to its longtime ally, Israel. In the turbulent Middle East, rock steady Israel is more valuable to Turkey than ever before. Erdo?an’s return to the European sphere of influence begins with mending fences with Israel. However, in light of the prime minister’s declared intention to visit Gaza, it is unlikely to occur.

It appears that the nurturing of the Muslim Brotherhood, embodied by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is more important to Erdo?an than his country’s national interest.

Erdo?an’s call to Muslims in Europe to assimilate within the Christian continent signals a change of policy. On the eve of the breakout of the Arab Spring, when Turkey pursued a policy of “zero problems” with its neighbors, it warned Europe against ‘Islamophobia’ and hinted at the possibility of Turkey spreading its protection to the Muslim minorities in Europe. At the time, Turkey’s relations with Iran were at their peak, with the two Muslim powers coordinating European policy.

Today, the Turkish leader is delivering a different message. Yet, in spite of the Euro-centric rhetoric, his true test would be a return to the old alliance with Israel. However, a lack of movement on the Israeli front would indicate that Erdo?an has been motivated by other factors when he made the aforementioned statements in Berlin. The Prime Minister has been getting increasingly frustrated by NATO’s insistence against military intervention in Syria and feels that the alliance is becoming more of a burden than an asset.

Thus, his offer to help Europe with its Muslim contingent hinges on the West’s aid with Syrian politics. In other words, instead of returning to the Western fold, Erdo?an threatens to become more deeply engaged in the East and drag the West along with him.

November 5, 2012 | 1 Comment »

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  1. The assimilation is a call to deception. He knows that the christian population is turning secular. His goal is the supremacy of Islam. He is a megalomaniac.