Atlantic Council

New Atlanticist

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has designated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to be its new leader and the country's 26th prime minister when current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is officially inaugurated as president next week. Davutoğlu will become the third prime minister to hail from the ranks of the AKP since it first came to power in 2002.

Erdoğan’s selection of Davutoğlu stems from a relationship based on mutual trust between two men. Davutoğlu continued to support Erdoğan in his most difficult days, most notably, during last summer’s Gezi Park protests, the December 17 graft probe operations, and Erdogan’s fight against the “parallel state”. Furthermore, Davutoğlu is generally regarded as having the same policy vision as Erdogan, which is especially important given indications by Erdogan that he hopes to run Turkey by employing rarely used powers of the presidential post and transforming the presidency into a more powerful executive office. If the AKP wins the 2015 general elections, Davutoğlu and Erdoğan will work together until at least 2019.

The New Prime Minister’s Agenda

While announcing the AKP’s choice for president, Erdoğan revealed Davutoglu was chosen due to his “determination to fight the ‘parallel state”, i.e. the followers of the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was once a supporter of AKP, but later became its priority target following alleged ramifications within Turkey’s bureaucracy –mostly its police and judiciary- for trying to overthrow Erdoğan. 

After his designation yesterday, Davutoğlu stated: "The movement of the AKP was not the product of a certain context. It is a movement rooted in a state tradition that walks to the future, and our president is our leader", and added that neither the "parallel state" nor any other force could stop this march.

Another important mission waiting for Davutoğlu as Prime Minister is the advancement of the peace process with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Davutoğlu’s most important task, however, is to secure a victory for the AKP in the 2015 general elections. The AKP must win a two-thirds majority in Turkey’s 550-member Parliament, in order to directly amend the constitution and transform Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.  Another option is to secure at least 330 seats to hold a referendum which will enable a change of the constitution. Therefore, Davutoğlu’s chief mission is to create the ideological foundations of the AKP’s “New Turkey” perspective and work on the drafting of a new constitution.

Turkey’s foreign policy

Davutoğlu’s book, “Strategic Depth,” laid the foundations for his foreign policy vision of "zero problems with neighbors" strategy, which has been defined by “soft-power strategies”, "multi-dimensional foreign policy" and "proactive and preventive peace diplomacy". Davutoglu's objective has been to transform Turkey into not only a regional power, but a world power as well, and “to win friends and influence by maximizing Turkey’s strategic position, its historical connections to its many diverse neighborhoods, cultural links and economic wellbeing”. To transform Turkey into a world power, Davutoğlu has also aimed for Turkey to play the role of mediator in Middle East conflicts. This policy was often criticized by academics and observers as neo-Ottoman for promoting "pan-Islamism" in order to restore Turkish influence throughout the former Ottoman Empire.

Arab uprisings, however, undermined this policy as Turkey found itself surrounded by crises which resulted in strained relations with Iraq, Syria, Israel and Egypt. In Syria, Turkey has been accused by some international observers of backing Al-Qaeda linked opposition groups in order to quickly overthrow the Assad regime and control the Kurdish group (the Democratic Union Party, or PYD) of northern Syria, which is linked to the PKK. On the other hand, Turkey has made extraordinary efforts to help Syrian refugees and in 2012, spent more than $1 billion on relief projects aimed mainly at Syrian refugees.

The coup in Egypt disrupted Turkey’s close cooperation once developed with Egypt and strained ties with Gulf monarchies. Relations with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s went sour after Turkey sheltered Iraq’s fugitive Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, in 2012, and conducted oil deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Turkey’s policies on Syria and Egypt gave rise to an image of the AKP as “a pan-Sunni Islamist force intent on empowering the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Although Turkey has gone from “zero problems” to “zero friends” in the Middle East, it was Davutoğlu’s strategic vision that makes it possible to even discuss Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East today, a vast and strategic neighboring region that was ignored and neglected by Turkey until the AKP came to power. 

On top of all these issues, the seizure of Turkey’s Mosul Consulate by the Islamic State in June and the consulate workers held hostage who have yet to be released, leave Davutoğlu and his successor in an extremely difficult position.

Several journalists close to the government think that Hakan Fidan, the current chief of Turkish Intelligence could be appointed deputy prime minister and simultaneously responsible for the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and the Foreign Ministry. Other rumored names include Ömer Çelik, Culture and Tourism Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (European affairs minister) and Numan Kurtulmuş, Deputy Chairman of the AKP.

About Ahmet Davutoğlu

After an academic career as a professor of international relations, Davutoğlu served the AKP since 2002, first as an adviser to Prime Ministers Abdullah Gul and Recep Tayyip Erdogan and as foreign minister for the past five years. In 2012, he was listed by Time magazine among the most influential people of the year. In her memoir, “Hard Choices”, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Davutoğlu as "a person who brought passion and wisdom to his post”. Davutoğlu is married to Sare Davutoğlu, a gynecologist and anti-abortion activist and is a father of four children. He speaks English, German and Arabic. 

As NATO leaders prepare
for their annual summit conference in two weeks, they should be ready to re-affirm the importance to the Alliance of nuclear weapons, including US nuclear warheads deployed in Europe, several Atlantic Council analysts say in two new essays.

Read More

The Islamist militant group ISIS executed US journalist James Foley as a political message aimed at changing US policy, with its recent air attacks on the group’s forces, says Atlantic Council resident fellow Faysal Itani. It also is meant to portray ISIS as a newly powerful player in the Middle East and thus to win new recruits, Itani said in an interview at the Council. Itani, a former risk analyst on the Middle East, now focuses on Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan at the Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. He spoke after President Barack Obama condemned the killing of Foley and announced that the US would sustain its current policies in Iraq and Syria.

Read More

Deadliest Fighting in 20 Years is Encouraged by Crisis in Ukraine

The often-forgotten conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has flared this summer into the worst violence since a 1994 truce, killing at least eighteen soldiers in recent weeks. The surge in fighting not only shows that renewed, all-out warfare is a danger; it also lets Russia step in as mediator to secure its own role in the Caucasus. The government of President Vladimir Putin, driven by its nationalist, imperialist foreign policy, is unlikely to want truly to resolve the fight, which keeps the region from serving as a secure transit route for oil, gas or other Western interests.

Read More

Despite Georgia's readiness to become a candidate for NATO, the Alliance announced in late June that Georgia will not be offered a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the Wales Summit this September. This is disappointing news for Georgia, which has undertaken years of political and military reforms and has long awaited to be welcomed into the Alliance. Although the United States was not able to persuade some of its fellow allies on MAP, US leadership must not only continue to press on the issue but also devote equally sustained attention to other elements of Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration. Russian recent aggression in Ukraine makes it all the more pressing for the United States to send a strong message that Georgia, and the region as a whole, is important by concluding a US-Georgia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Read More

With Kremlin's Proxy War Stumbling, Kyiv and West Guard Against 'Humanitarian Intervention'

As Russia’s government moves its proposed convoy of humanitarian aid toward the war zone in Ukraine that it has created with its support of separatist militias, Ukraine and Western governments are warning it not to try using Russian military forces on the border to push the purported relief supplies into Ukraine. Atlantic Council analysts say Putin’s dispatch of the convoy signals he may try some effort short of a conventional invasion.

Read More

Ukrainians' Traditional Loyalty to Moscow Patriarch is Strained by His Close Tie to Kremlin 

The longstanding divide between Ukraine’s two main Orthodox churches will continue with little change following the election yesterday of a new leader, or metropolitan, by the Moscow-aligned faction. Metropolitan Onufriy is a religious conservative loyal to his church’s formal subordination to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and its primate, Patriarch Kirill.

Read More

US Has Declined to Arm Kurdish Forces, But That Now Must Change

Iraq’s national army effectively has collapsed before the advance of the brutal guerrillas of the Islamic State, leaving only one effective fighting force – the Kurdish peshmerga – to confront them. As the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has seized much of northwestern Iraq, and as it threatens genocidal violence against minorities, including an estimated 40,000 people from the Yazidi sect now trapped on barren mountains, the peshmerga are doing the bulk of the fighting against this threat. Since early June, 150 peshmerga reportedly have been killed in the conflict.

Read More

Turkish Opposition Fails to Coalesce Around a Message and a Leader

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s widely-expected election to the presidency of Turkey won’t herald major changes in Turkey’s domestic or foreign policies, or in US-Turkish relations – at least in the short term.

Polarization, an increasingly predominant characteristic of Turkey’s politics for at least seven years, continues. A presidential campaign that could have been uniting but seemed more divisive than anything else, contributed greatly to this. Indeed, Erdoğan seemed to relish the politics of division; it certainly was a political winner for him.

Read More

Separatists Show No Unity Under New Donetsk ‘Prime Minister,’ Kremlin Paper Says

The Kremlin and its proxy rebellion in southeastern Ukraine seemed to recognize last week that as a supposedly Ukrainian uprising, it should have a titular Ukrainian leader, rather than a Moscow-based Russian ultra-nationalist with ties to the Kremlin. So after three months as “prime minister” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the Russian, Alexander Borodai, resigned in favor of a local militia leader, Alexander Zakharchenko.

But as the rebels fight an escalating battle against the Ukrainian army’s siege of the city of Donetsk, it was unclear this weekend just what loyalty Zakharchenko commands. The rebels’ two most powerful militia leaders have failed to publicly recognize him as their commander, and their willingness to do so is “an open question,” the Kremlin-controlled Russian daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, said Sunday. Tensions among the separatists, and changes in their leadership, have increased in the five weeks since a re-invigorated Ukrainian military has seized the majority of the territory once held by the rebels and encircled the city of Donetsk.

Read More