One of the unexpected consequences of the unrest in the Middle East is the elevation of Turkey’s role in the Middle East, making Ankara a potential regional power.
On Feb. 8, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, said in Istanbul that he was taking refuge in Turkey, where he will remain until the demonstrations to remove Mubarak from power succeed. Mr. Abdel Ghaffar then praised Turkey, referring to the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, political role, and said that his movement considers the AKP to be a model for Egypt after Mubarak. And on Feb. 10, Turkish media quoted Abdel Ghaffar as saying that “there might be dialogue” between the Muslim Brotherhood and the AKP.
These developments and the AKP’s recent comments against Mubarak make Ankara a de facto protector of the Muslim Brotherhood, a potential powerbroker in post-Mubarak Cairo. More importantly, it provides Turkey with access to hitherto unimaginable power in the Egyptian capital.
Since the AKP came to power in Turkey in 2002, a debate has formed over whether the party’s Middle East-focused foreign policy has made Turkey a regional power with influence in Middle East capitals. Until the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, this did not seem to be the case. The AKP’s foreign policy line, for instance, which defends Hamas and Iran’s nuclear program, fell on deaf ears in most Arab capitals where regimes were worried about Hamas-related instability and Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.