Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s flirtation with radical Islam in Syria and march from liberal democratic reformer to illiberal populist authoritarian have confused Americans trying to deal with Turkey, which is a nominal U.S. ally and a member of NATO, note Gregory Kist and the Middle East Institute’s W. Robert Pearson, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey.
But it’s important to remember that Erdogan has pursued these risky policies very deliberately, and now, once again, they have literally blown up in his face, they write for POLITICO:
The suicide bomber that struck the tourist heart of Istanbul on Tuesday is said to be of Syrian origins—a case of potential blowback from Erdogan’s risky adventures in Syria that have seen Turkish authorities turn a blind eye to Islamist activity on its southern border.
Since he took over as president in 2014, Erdogan has abandoned Turkey’s traditional pragmatism in favor of an Islamist ideological agenda that led to an open-door policy toward neighboring Syria; a relaxed policy directed at militants fighting Bashar al-Assad in turn resulted in the appearance of ISIL logistical support, recruiting and intelligence on Turkey’s doorstep—the same jihadists who today allegedly sent a suicide bomber to kill scores of tourists in Istanbul.
Erdogan tends to blame outsiders for Turkey’s growing litany of problems rather than government policy, notes Fadi Hakura, an Associate Fellow at Chatham House’s Europe Program:
He has even gone as far as to claim that the elusive ‘interest rate lobby’ and an ill-defined ‘higher mind’ are responsible for Turkey’s internal and external predicaments. Conspiracy theories can hardly, however, come close to explaining Turkey’s fragile situation. Its abandonment of a traditionally balanced, non-interventionist, flexible and pro-Western foreign policy in favour of a more ideologically-driven orientation has dragged this strategic country to the heart of the political fissures and sectarian schisms tearing the region apart. RTWT
Dr. Joshua Walker, a Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, discusses the Istanbul bombing on BBC News America.