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Steven Cook and Anya Schmemann on the U.S.-Turkey Relations Task Force Report

Authors: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, and Anya Schmemann, Director of the Independent Task Force Program
May 8, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations


This is a guest post by Steven A. Cook and Anya Schmemann on the blog, "The Water's Edge."

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited a Syrian refugee camp in southeastern Turkey and declared that the Assad regime's days are numbered. Over the last few months, Turkey has taken a leadership role confronting the crisis in next door Syria.

As a new CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report on Turkey released today notes, Turkey's position on Syria is consistent with Ankara's increasingly active role in the Middle East. The Task Force report also takes stock of Turkey's recent political, social, and economic transformations, and how these developments have affected Turkish foreign policy.

I asked my colleagues Steven Cook and Anya Schmemann, who worked on the Task Force report, to explain why Turkey matters. Here's what they had to say:

Turkey is a rising regional and global power and is more democratic, prosperous, and politically influential than it was a decade ago. But it is not well understood in the United States.

Some observers have raised concern that the rise of the religiously-oriented AKP (as the Justice and Development Party is called), which came to power in 2002, and the subsequent decline of the military (historically, the protector of secularism in Turkey) means that Ankara is altering its Western orientation. It is true that Turkey has broadened its foreign policy beyond traditional concerns such as European Union (EU) membership, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Balkans, Cyprus, and relations with Armenia to include the Middle East, Russia, Africa, and even Latin America.

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