Concerns about Turkey's allegiance to Western values and allies began to simmer when the mostly Muslim population of this secular state elected an Islamic party, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to power in 2002. Turkey's refusal to let the US use a military base in Turkey to invade Iraq in 2003 strained ties with Washington.
Still, Erdogan pushed economic reform that led to significant growth. And he continued with other reforms that eventually allowed Turkey to enter formal negotiations to join the European Union.
Meanwhile, Turkey's regional outreach has yielded so many results that they stand out like minarets in Istanbul. In recent years, Ankara has seriously improved relations with Greece, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Bulgaria, and the latest – Armenia – with which it shares a century-old dispute. Turkey has also acted as negotiator between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as with Israel and Syria.
But worries abound that Turkey is now shifting too far away from Europe and to Muslim despots specifically. After the disputed Iranian election in June, Erdogan and the Turkish president were among the first foreign leaders to call with congratulations for Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Earlier this month Turkey disinvited Israel from a joint NATO exercise that it has participated in for years. Israel is a "persecutor," Erdogan explained. The next day it invited Syria to joint military exercises.
During the cold war, Turkey viewed Israel as a democratic ally in a hostile region. Indeed, a country such as Iran saw Turkey as a sell-out to the West. Syria supported terrorist separatists who wanted to carve out part of Turkey for their own.