When the Justice and Development Party (JDP) came to office, Turkey has started to create soft regional influence by using the Islamist discourse. It also employed Arab Spring to cement this influence through its cooperation with the US and some of its Arab friends in the region. Furthermore, Ankara employed Islamist movements to become more influential. This led some analysts to talk about Turkey’s imperial expansion in the region, which was dubbed, “Neo-Ottomanism”. These aspirations of Turkey, however, have clashed with the Arab stand which curtailed Turkey’s aspirations.
Turkey appears as a pragmatic state seeking to unite a great deal of contradictions; it is a Sunni state, yet it transcends its doctrinal dimensions and seems to hold no reservations about improving its ties with Iran, despite the latter adopting a sectarian regional project. Furthermore, the rise of JDP, with its Islamist orientation, has not stopped Ankara from pursuing membership into NATO or the EU or ties with Israel. It is expected that the economy and energy factors will define the nature of Turkey’s approach towards the region during the next decade.
The historical formation of the Turkish national identity faced huge challenges; the constitution of modern Turkey considers “Turkishness” as a supra-identity, one that transcends all others, whether they be religious, sectarian or even ethnic. The formation of Turkey’s national identity was born out of the historical conditions that gave rise to it, a seemingly natural progression to Ankara. What emerged as the national identity in Turkey is, however, a strange mix that is full of contradictions and inconsistencies, a mixture that depends on misrepresentations and historical claims, even though some are grossly incorrect.
Kurds were the only people to be recognized as a minority in the Turkish constitution which excludes Arabs, Armenians or Alawites. Despite their formal recognition, Kurds have not yet received cultural, educational, political or administrative rights, because Ankara is still dealing with this minority on national security bases, not on constitutional rights.