Pepe Escobar: The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy

Pepe Escobar: The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy – The Saker

Professor Hasan Unal, a top political scientist based in Istanbul, explains the geopolitics of his region, the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea

When Vladimir Putin visited President Erdogan’s lavish new $500-million presidential palace in Ankara, he had one thing to say: “I’m very impressed.” Professor Hasan Unal, savoring the dry humor, derives as much pleasure in retelling the story as Putin’s remark may have been lost on Erdogan, who is famous for his lack of humor.

Professor Hasan Unal is one of Turkey’s foremost political scientists and international relations experts. I had the pleasure of spending a long afternoon with Unal at Maltepe University in Istanbul, where he now enjoys plenty of time to “just teach” after an extremely busy academic career in Ankara. These are some of the highlights of our conversation:

Tell me your views about the Khashoggi affair?

Unal: “The Turkish government played the first stage very well. When you get to the second stage, what you get is very dangerous articles in Turkish media suggesting that the Turkish government now has a wonderful opportunity to strike at the Saudi Crown Prince [Mohammed Bin Salman]. Once you move to that stage, it’s not in Turkey’s interest. Who’s going to sign on the future of the Crown Prince? Not Turkey. Not Russia. But the United States. They have invested so much in this Crown Prince. Would it be in Turkey’s interest to push the United States into a corner?

What about the explosive new equation in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Unal: “What Turkey should have done is to use this incident in Istanbul to cultivate the [Saudi] King and say, “King Salman, look, your son is implicated.” But if you attack his son, how are you going to cultivate that relationship? Turkey should have said, ‘Let’s improve our relations first’. And also, ‘I need your support over Egypt’. That would be basically a win-win situation. And I would sell it to my gallery as a major victory. We need Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean. What this government has done is a dangerous thing. They have pushed both Israel and Egypt into the hands of the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean. They have basically formed an anti-Turkish alliance. And that is foolish from the part of the Turkish government. But to get to that stage, Ankara should have realized something first: ‘Get your mind out of Idlib [in Syria]’.

This brings us to ideology and foreign policy. What is your take on this?

Unal: “What the Crown Prince represents is a region-wide, anti-Muslim Brotherhood policy. That is like a Russian matryoshka. You never know who’s going to pop up next. Turkish foreign policy should be focused on the national interest. I would say that an ideologically driven foreign policy went off-track in 2011. And events proved it could not produce the desired effect. That policy was reconsidered a few times, but there’s still fall-out – ideological baggage that seems to be poisoning Turkish foreign policy.”

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