My last post passed on Michael Totten’s thoughts about Turkish-Iranian competition. Totten also linked to a short post at NOW Lebanon by Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Badran believes that Iran and Turkey are deploying the rhetoric of populism to gain influence in the region. He thinks that Turkey’s domestic considerations had more to do with the flotilla than the people of Gaza:
Since its rise to power in 2002, the AKP has steadily and systematically sought to marginalize its domestic opponents and secure total control over all power centers in Turkey. Just before the flotilla fiasco, a poll was released showing that the AKP had lost ground to its rival, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Erdogan exaggerated when he described Gaza as a “historical cause,” but he calculated that the confrontation there would be a perfect instrument to whip up Islamic and nationalist fervor to his party’s benefit.
Turkey is going through an identity crisis. Erdogan has all but demolished the legitimacy of the Kemalist state. And yet the state’s remaining secularist framework makes it very difficult to locate that legitimacy in Islam, the public and political uses of which are constrained by the constitution. Erdogan has had to walk a fine line in redefining Turkish frames of reference and political identity.
Badran believes that Arab nationalism is a force that can only be wielded by the non-Arab Turks and Iranians. Check out the link for more of his perspective. Badran is obviously pretty harsh on Arab nationalism (“There was something deliciously ironic in seeing two pillars of Arab nationalism sinking off the shores of Gaza.”), although from my reading it seems that the many in the Arab world have been disappointed Arab nationalism (at least the secular variety) for its failure to deliver that changes that people like Nasser and the Baathists promised.