Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Diminishing Role for Turkey?

Over at the World Politics Review blog, Judah Grunstein makes a very good point about how the Obama administration's rolling back of the Bush government's disengaged foreign policy might affect emerging regional interlocutors like Turkey. [Note: We're adding WPR's blog to our "Turkey Links" list. Although it's doesn't focus exclusively on Turkey, the blog devotes quite a bit of attention to Turkish affairs and is worth reading.]

Grunstein writes:
One of the things that will be interesting to watch as the Obama administration pursues its unwinding of Bush-era isolation policies is the degree to which it either supports or devalues the "influence inflation" the Bush policies allowed various middle powers to enjoy. I'm thinking in particular about Turkey, but I'd say France fits into this category as well.

The idea being that a policy of isolating countries and subnational actors that are inescapable interlocuters puts a premium on the ability of third-party countries to bridge the communication divide. What made Turkey such a valuable mediator between Israel and Syria was in part the fact that Israel and Syria refused to negotiate directly and in part Turkey's perceived (at the time) non-partiality. But it was also in large part due to the fact that the U.S. refused to engage in direct discussions with Syria, and therefore was unavailable to chaperone the talks.

The same goes even more for Turkey's potential to play a mediator role between the U.S. and Iran.
As mentioned in a previous post, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have rejected Turkey's offer to act as a bridge between Tehran and Washington. Meanwhile, in an interview with Japan's Asahi Shimbun, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad said that the indirect talks with Israel that Turkey helped mediate could only become direct talks with the U.S. as an arbitrator. 

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