Managing a More Assertive Turkey, an interview

Turkey’s recent diplomatic differences with the United States and its sharpened deterioration of relations with Israel come from Turkey’s desire to reestablish its role as a major influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, says F. Stephen Larrabee, an expert on Turkey at the RAND Corporation. “Turkey is returning to a more traditional role, one in which it was closely involved in the Middle East for centuries, going back to the Ottoman Empire,” says Larrabee. He says the days when Turkey was a “junior partner” of the United States are over.

“We’re dealing with a new Turkey, one that is more assertive and self confident,” says Larrabee. “That doesn’t mean our interests don’t coincide in some areas, but we have to recognize that when it comes to the Middle East, U.S. and Turkish interests only partially coincide.” He says the United States is “in danger of finding itself in a very weak position” unless it issues a stronger criticism of Israel for its attack on the Turkish ship headed to Gaza. And on Iran, he believes the Turks will abstain in the Security Council on new sanctions, which will only further strain relations with the United States and Turkey’s European allies.


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