Istanbul -- Last week I asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. The dean of Middle East historians speculated that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran—even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic.
Reading the news about Turkey from afar, it's easy to see what Prof. Lewis means. Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dramatically recast the traditional contours of Turkish foreign policy. Gone are the days when the country had a strategic partnership with Israel, involving close military ties and shared enemies in Syria and Iran and the sundry terrorist groups they sponsored. Gone are the days, too, when the U.S. could rely on Turkey as a bulwark against common enemies, be they the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Today, Mr. Erdogan has excellent relations with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, whom the prime minister affectionately calls his "brother." He has accused Israel of "savagery" in Gaza and opened a diplomatic line to Hamas while maintaining good ties with the genocidal government of Sudan. He was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his fraudulent victory in last year's election. He has resisted intense pressure from the Obama administration to vote for a new round of Security Council sanctions on Iran, with which Turkey has a $10 billion trade relationship. And he has sabotaged efforts by his own foreign ministry to improve ties with neighboring Armenia.
The changes in foreign policy reflect the rolling revolution in Turkey's domestic political arrangements. The military, long the pillar of Turkish secularism, is under assault by Mr. Erdogan's Islamist-oriented government, which has recently arrested dozens of officers on suspicion of plotting a coup. Last week the Turkish parliament voted to put a referendum to the public that would, if passed, allow the government to pack the country's top courts, another secularist pillar, with its own people. Also under assault is the media group Dogan, which last year was slapped with a multibillion dollar tax fine.
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