The legacy of the Arab uprisings on Turkey’s foreign policy: Ankara’s regional power delusion

Release date: 2022-11

In the aftermath of the Arab upheavals, Turkey pursued an overambitious regional leadership agenda that appeared incompatible with its underlying capabilities. In retrospect, there was sufficient evidence in the wake of the Arab upheavals that Turkey’s power capacity did not match the assertive rhetoric used by Turkish ruling elites that the region should be remade in their image. However, Turkish foreign policy was not fine-tuned to the situation. On the contrary, Turkey increased the assertiveness of its tone. In the face of ample empirical evidence pointing to the unsustainability of Turkish leadership’s ambitions in the region, why did an overhaul not take place in its Middle East policies? Drawing from multiple qualitative data sources, this study argues that at least two factors explain this paradox: (i) overconfidence that led to glaze-over effects and (ii) the civilisational perspective of the ruling elite, which underestimated conventional international relations parameters.

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