How Erdoğan bolstered Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist ideology - Cengiz Çandar
Turkey’s decades old neo-Ottomanist ideology has been transformed and strengthened under the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Cengiz Çandar, a senior Turkish columnist and Middle East expert.
In a discussion with Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar for the Hot Pursuit podcast, Çandar spoke about his latest book “Turkey’s Neo-Ottomanist Moment - A Eurasianist Odyssey”.
Çandar said that the idea for the book – which covers Turkey’s foreign policy post-Cold War - emerged when he attempted to explain the country's recent entanglement in Mediterranean maritime disputes with regional rivals such as Greece.
Turkey has now established a presence in several countries in the region under the banner of neo-Ottomanism, he said.
Turkey sent armed drones and Syrian mercenaries into Libya as its main assistance to the government in Tripoli. It also provided drones and military assistance to Azerbaijan, which proved instrumental in the latter's victory over its rival Armenia in a conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh late last year, Çandar said.
Çandar argued that Turkey under Erdoğan is gradually moving away from its transatlantic commitments and engagements towards the Asia-Pacific bloc.
The ideological composure of the new foreign policy regime under Erdoğan has something to do with what Turkey experts label as Eurasianism, which paved the way for the neo-Ottomanist revival, according to Çandar.
Neo-Ottomanism originated during the term of former Turkish President Turgut Özal and evolved during the office of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, he said.
For Çandar, a failed military coup in July 2016 proved a turning point in Erdoğan's pursuit of neo-Ottomanism.
Çandar explained that Turkey's previous neo-Ottomanist policies emerged after the end of the Cold War, when a unipolar world emerged. Turkey was no longer considered as the southern guard of NATO and started to exert political influence over former Ottoman territories in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe.
This previous neo-Ottomanism was considered pro-Western since Turkey became recognised by major international powers as an important actor. However, Davutoğlu adopted a different approach when he introduced his brand of neo-Ottomanism.
Çandar stressed that Davutoğlu is a political Islamist and critical of Özal’s Ideological mindset, which was pro-Western and secular. Yet, Davutoğlu advocated a neo-Ottomanism based on the soft power of Turkey over former Ottoman territories.
Çandar said that Erdoğan abandoned soft power and introduced an assertive foreign policy. He sought to revive the glories of the Ottoman empire as a means to consolidate his domestic power, according to Çandar.
It is no coincidence that Turkey began a military offensive into northeastern Syria one month after the failed military coup, after which Erdogan also established a new political regime, Çandar said.