What is Turkey's endgame?

By Robin Shepherd, September 15, 2011

All the evidence on the Gaza flotilla incident last year in which nine Turkish jihadists were killed - including the Palmer Report, which did criticise Israel for "unacceptable" use of force, while also acknowledging the violence of the activists aboard - has shown beyond doubt that this was not the act of mass murder it was initially portrayed as being.

It's therefore beginning to look as though there are much deeper reasons for Turkey's cancellation of its diplomatic relationship with Israel.

First, the slow but sure Islamisation of Turkish domestic politics may now be seeping into the foreign policy establishment. That establishment is widely thought to be pro-Western; at least it has become very good at projecting that image for many years.

Secondly, there is a general sense that the Obama administration has effectively withdrawn America's leadership role in the Middle East as a response to its perception of the allegedly overbearing attitude of its predecessor. On this reading, Turkey is stepping into a kind of power vacuum.

Thirdly, and simultaneously with the above, the turmoil of the Arab Spring has opened up a new opportunity for a country which once dominated the region to reassert itself, and it is using widespread hostility to Israel as its animating and unifying idea.

Robin Shepherd is director, international affairs, at the Henry Jackson Society

Last updated: 1:32pm, September 15 2011