Source: Arab Center Washington DC
Author(s): Daniel Brumberg
Over the past month, Turkey has taken steps to restore diplomatic relations with Egypt. That President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spearheaded this effort is paradoxical. After all, his disdain for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and his allies in the Egyptian military has played no small role in sustaining an Egyptian-Turkish cold war that has endured since Fall 2013, when Egypt’s generals toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Sisi stands for a model of military rule that Erdoğan has worked hard to banish from Turkey. But the Turkish president’s opposition to Egypt’s military rulers was also part of a far wider bid to advance a religiously based, “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy. If that policy galvanized Erdoğan’s followers, it has also limited Ankara’s ability to pursue a foreign policy that can adapt to changes in the regional and the wider global arena. These changes now include the arrival of US President Joe Biden, whose twin focus on NATO and global human rights will probably complicate relations with Erdoğan.
There is little in his bag of tricks that will easily shield the Turkish president from a mounting economic crisis at home or from a foreign policy whose many contradictions—not least of which is Ankara’s fraught relations with Moscow—have magnified Turkey’s diplomatic retreat. Turkey did flex its military muscle successfully in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example, but it has seen its fortunes wane. Hence Erdoğan’s outreach to Cairo. Yet Sisi is unlikely to help him climb out of a hole that Erdoğan dug for himself. Qatar might offer him an assist, but now that a reconciliation has helped it smooth its relations with other Gulf Cooperation Council states, Doha may have other priorities. In short, Erdoğan’s effort to reenergize Turkey’s foreign relations will face an uphill battle.
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