Turkey’s Vision of an Ottoman Commonwealth


From Jackson Diehl, the Washington Post:  Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu smiled cheerfully as he reiterated: Yes, the clash between Israeli commandos and Turkish Islamic activists off the coast of the Gaza Strip in May can be fairly compared with al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington.

"It was the Turkish 9/11 – I repeat it!" he exclaimed during a visit to Washington last week. "I don’t mean the numbers," he added when it was pointed out that 2,900 people died on Sept. 11 and nine in the flotilla fight. "I am trying to express the psychological shock in Turkey. Our citizens were killed by a foreign army. …"

Turkey is a member of NATO, a host of U.S. military bases vital to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a major purchaser of American weapons. But is it still really an ally? As some of the more interesting of the WikiLeaked State Department documents show, that is a question that two consecutive U.S. administrations have struggled with. During eight years of rule by the mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party, Turkey has become something of a model of the tricky 21st-century relationships the United States will have to manage.

Turkey used to be an authoritarian state that reliably lined up with the West. Now it is a democracy with a booming economy – and big geopolitical ambitions. The power of popular support has given Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the confidence to undercut U.S. policy in Iran, cultivate anti-American Muslim dictators in Sudan and Syria, and make Israel a near-enemy – all while deploying Turkish troops in Kabul and counting on the United States to help his army fight Kurdish insurgents. …

Davutoglu is something of an antihero of the WikiLeaks cables, described as "exceptionally dangerous" and "lost in neo-Ottoman Islamist fantasies." Having arrived in Washington a few hours after those descriptions were released, he accepted an apology from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, played down the damage – and embraced at least part of the embassy’s analysis. "Britain has a commonwealth" with its former colonies, he reminded me. Why shouldn’t Turkey rebuild its leadership in former Ottoman lands in the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia?  (photo: Reuters)

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