Staying Above the Middle Eastern Fray: Turkey’s Sectarian Temptations
Turkey’s foreign policy has traditionally been most powerful when it acts in the name of universal values and not of ethnic or religious affinities that is when it is not driven by its “Muslim” or “Sunni” identity, but rather by international rights and law. But Turkey’s emergence as a maturing power player in the Middle East means the country runs the risk of becoming entangled in the region’s most enduring and challenging division: sectarianism. Some have claimed that Turkey has been arming Syrian opposition forces secretly. At the same time, the sectarian split between Iraq’s ruling Shia coalition and the Sunni vice president provoked a harsh and immediate public rebuke from Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan. Ankara seeks to promote an air of proactive confidence and of being above the region’s sectarianism. Yet, having promoted a proactive strategy and template for regional order, the Turkish leadership has been caught off-guard by this confluence of regional factors.