Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Securitising Turkish foreign policy: Turning back the clock

Turkey′s armed forces chief is due to visit Tehran this week, the trip is the latest by the region′s top generals in and out of Ankara. This military traffic is being seen as evidence of a foreign policy increasingly dictated by security concerns, last seen in the 1990′s. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul

Turkey′s chief of staff General Hulusi Akar is to head to Tehran in the coming days after visits to Ankara by his Russian and Iranian counterparts. Associated with the increased side-lining of the Turkish foreign ministry, the intense military traffic is inevitably casting a shadow over the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

″What′s happening now is the securitisation of foreign policy,″ claims former senior Turkish ambassador Unal Cevikoz. ″Turkey is looking to change its foreign policy. The government is considering the threat of the use of force and the use of force as viable options in the realisation of its foreign policy objectives and that is dangerous.″

This week the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan regional government got a taste of Turkey′s robust foreign policy. On Monday, the Turkish army started an unannounced major military exercise on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, a move widely interpreted as a warning by Ankara not to hold the region′s planned independence referendum on 25 September. Regarding Ankara′s response to the referendum vote, the Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim declared on Monday that Turkey ″would take all necessary measures.″

Foreign ministry side-lined

The use of military muscle in Turkish foreign policy is underlined by the planned visit of armed forces chief Akar to Tehran. Akar will lay down the groundwork ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan′s trip scheduled for early October.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Mohammad-Hossein Bagheri, Iran's chief-of-staff, at a meeting in Turkey, August 2017 (photo: Entekhab)
Forging new alliances: "Erdogan argues that it is the failure of Turkey′s NATO partners to act as allies in helping the country confront current threats that is forcing his hand. But Turkey and the wider region could ultimately end up paying a high price," argues Jones

″Our chief of staff will travel to Iran prior to my visit to hold preliminary talks,″ Erdogan said.

Such a role is traditionally assigned to the foreign ministry. And yet, a military perspective in foreign policy is nothing new for Turkey. ″In the nineties, Turkish foreign policy and Turkish security policy was very much intertwined,″ recalls retired Turkish ambassador Cevikoz, who now heads the Ankara Policy Centre.

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