Middle East Forum, September 6, 2016
Svante E. Cornell, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on August 30, 2016.
The failed July 15 military coup in Turkey brought to a head a long-standing struggle between President Erdoğan's overtly anti-Western approach and the alleged pro-Western orientation of the Fethullah Gülen movement led by the Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher.
On the face of it, Erdoğan emerged as the coup's undisputed winner because he survived the challenge and has become more assertive than ever. Yet the mass purges he unleashed have not only dented his international standing but have created a void in Turkey's public life that will make his rule increasingly tenuous. Hence the regime's conspiracy theories holding Washington culpable for the coup and hence its Syria intervention as a show of strength and an attempt to restore national pride.
Similarly, while Ankara's rapprochement with Moscow is in keeping with its anti-Western tendencies, the pragmatism of the Turkish leadership is likely to prevent it from breaking with the West. This pragmatism has also led to the normalization of relations with Israel, a tactical move to counterweigh Ankara's failed bid for regional leadership, while persisting in its anti-Semitic and Islamizing policies.
This pragmatic manifestation notwithstanding, Erdoğan's attempt to consolidate power while flouting the constitution and the most basic human rights is setting the stage for a chaotic and unstable Turkey. As there are no active pro-Western political forces remaining in Ankara, it is no longer a place that the West can work with to solve the Middle East's daunting problems. Policies need to be adjusted accordingly.