Turkey’s fiery rhetoric following an Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara in May and its decision in June to vote against additional United Nations sanctions on Iran have led the West to question Ankara’s future course. Moreover, far from subsiding, areas of disagreement appear ready to flare up at any moment. Flashpoints include the role of Hamas in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and how to respond to Iran’s nuclear program.
In European capitals and Washington, it will be tempting to conclude that Turkey is already “lost,” that it is inevitably fated to become a rising theocracy that will work against rather than for international order.
This would be a grave mistake.
Turkey's unique role
In the Middle East, the other regional heavyweights are either authoritarian allies – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – authoritarian and antagonistic toward the United States – Iran – or democratic but besieged on all sides – Israel. No other state can substitute for Turkey as a pillar of stability and democratic values.