Confusion at home, Confusion abroad: Turkey between Copenhagen and Iraq



In November 2002 it looked as though Turkey was about to make a fresh start. A new post-Islamist political force, the AKP, had swept to power in national elections. Lobbying was in full swing for the EU to name a date for the commencement of accession negotiations. Ankara was talking to Washington about how Turkey could best help the US in the event of war with Iraq, and the Americans were fully prepared to reciprocate. There was even hope that the Cyprus problem might be solved. Some five months later those hopes are smouldering wreckage. Cyprus, and indeed the Kurdish issues, have returned to haunt EU—Turkish relations. The AKP is divided and discredited. The much-vaunted relationship between Turkey and the US, apparently built on the rock of geo-strategic relations, has dissolved into bitter recrimination. This article explores how and why the auspicious outlook for Turkey five months ago has dissolved so quickly and so thoroughly. It will be argued that the shortcomings of leadership, domestic ideological competition and the difficulty of managing a relentless and complex foreign policy agenda have all played their part. Turkey has been left with an economy on the edge of collapse, war on its borders, turmoil in its traditional friendships, a new crisis of domestic governance and the perception of rising existential threats. In view of these combustible components, there is little doubt that worrying about Turkey will continue to exercise the Atlantic community over the years ahead.