Long, unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – coupled with the global recession triggered by the excesses of Wall Street – are widely seen as symptoms of the relative decline in the economic and military clout of the United States. Rising middle-level powers such as Turkey and Iran in the Middle East and Brazil in South America now are challenging the diplomatic supremacy of Washington.
Earlier this month, the new contours of diplomatic power were on display in Istanbul. The city was the site of the summit of the 20-member Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia, which was presided over by the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The event also provided a venue for the first Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum, also chaired by Turkey. A member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – and until recently a rare regional ally of Israel – Turkey basked in the international limelight. An emboldened Turkey also defied Washington, voting against the United States-sponsored resolution imposing new sanctions Iran for its nuclear program, which was passed by the United Nations Security Council.
Radical changes in the domestic Turkish political configuration as well as an altered external environment for Turkey have spurred the largest Muslim nation bordering Europe into playing a leading regional role.