At the same time Turkey continues to engage Iran, despite criticism that Tehran uses these efforts to buy time for further uranium enrichment. And it continues to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in every available forum. On this score, Turkey’s persistence seems to have paid off. The Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York recently passed a resolution, with US support, calling for Israel to open its nuclear program to international scrutiny.
In light of this larger context, the unnecessarily harsh and bloody Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla was widely seen in Turkey as the result of a strategic decision by the Israelis to frustrate this new activism.
Even if there is a discernible Islamist ideological undertone to Turkey’s current foreign policy when it comes to Israel, Turkey’s increasing involvement in the broader Middle East is mainly interest-driven and should be understood as such. Those who insist on an Islamist explanation of Turkey’s new foreign policy conveniently ignore the openings to non-Muslim countries in the Balkans and the Caucasus, not to mention Russia.
The most clearly elucidated vision of Turkey’s new interest-driven activism comes from Ahmet Davutoğlu, the current foreign minister. In his view, Turkey’s location at the center of what he calls the Afro-Eurasian space – where the great empires of history once reigned – enables it to rise to the status of a center power of the whole region. By eliminating conflicts with its neighbors, Turkey will be able to consolidate its regional leadership and play a key global role in the post-cold-war strategic environment.