The labyrinthine alleyways of street politics... - SÜLEYMAN SEYFI ÖĞÜN

The labyrinthine alleyways of street politics...

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, we've been living in a region surrounded by wars on all sides. How strange! is it not? This happened while everyone thought the Cold War was over, and that we would then have a yearning for peace, though we know that the Cold War-era world, as the name suggests, was one where wars were mitigated.

Since it was after all a war in and of itself, we believed that the end of the Cold War would automatically bring peace. The end of the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 and 1988, which we deemed as episodic, was also a development that boosted the prospects for peace. But starting with the first Gulf War, the neighboring country of Iraq in the 1990s, then Yugoslavia, and finally, Syria turned into hell. We can add to this the various conflicts and wars witnessed in the Caucasus.

The Cold War may not have had a scent, but it had a color. I think the most suitable color for it was a misty grey. By the end of that war, gray faded, and black and red prevailed. The Ukrainian war is in fact the last stage of it.

Türkiye has somehow intervened in these wars and civil strifes, albeit not directly. Together, we acted on the side of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against the massacre of Bosniaks in Yugoslavia. And we became one front in Iraq and finally in Syria regarding the issue of the PKK terrorist organization. We secured our presence in Libya, in the Caucasus, and in the Azerbaijani-Armenian war.

During the Arab Spring revolutions, Türkiye supported the growing opposition to authoritarian regimes such as the Baath. Some of these interventions were very right and some were wrong. Who can argue that we should've watched idly in the face of the mass slaughter of our Bosnian brothers? I wish we could've done much more than we did.

Meanwhile, what can be said about the support provided to the Azerbaijani Turks against Armenia? However, getting involved in the overthrow of the late ousted president, Muammar Gaddafi, in Libya was a very wrong decision. While Türkiye's anti-Israel stance on the Palestinian issue was very correct, it would have made Türkiye's reputation in the Arab street hit its peak. As for Türkiye's position vis-a-vis the events witnessed in Egypt and Syria during the Arab Spring period, it had very serious political and diplomatic ramifications.


Doubtless, the policies of neutrality and balance adopted by Türkiye in its attitude towards the Ukrainian-Russian war and which have been successfully implemented so far, make it possible to achieve what we have set out to do. The success achieved in the recent grain crisis is a success for Türkiye and its foreign policy, and that success has been feted by the whole world.

One cannot help but think, if Türkiye had adopted a similar stance in Syria and Egypt during the Arab Spring revolutions, would the turbulent picture we live in today would have emerged? It is likely that it would have produced some of the problems that this situation would cause. But I don't think the picture would have been as bleak as it is today. Perhaps the main issue should be addressed by properly managing political relations and street politics.


The political street is not a phenomenon that can be neglected in policy making. Policies based on contempt for the political street and ignoring the prevailing social reactions in it have no chance of success. But this is far from an absolute standard. On the contrary, the policy that is drawn up according to the aspirations of the street is also doomed to failure, because the aspirations of the street are dominated by complex emotions.


Politics, at the end of the day, is a logical question. If we make an analogy, the corridors of politics are like straight main streets without meanders. Political success is not achieved by transforming the main streets into sub-streets, but by linking the secondary streets to the main street without neglecting the network of sub-streets. If not, it is easy to get lost in those labyrinthine side streets and their mazes.

Adopting a foreign policy in accordance with the tensions that arise in the political streets of other countries is doubly wrong.

The year 2023 is a very important one; Where elections will be held in Türkiye and Greece. We have known for a long time that the Turkish threat is fodder for Greek politics. We hope that Greece will not continue to provoke Türkiye. But Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is surely intent on continuing the policy of provocation, and it is also clear that they will test our patience to the end.

The incident of shutting down the radar and shooting at a Turkish ship (Ro-Ro) was a clear example of this provocation. We can understand the perception of the Turkish threat spreading like wildfire in the Greek political street. But the strange thing is that the Greek political street is wholly built around this threat, to begin with.

Türkiye will prove to be a great country to the extent that it will be able to spoil these plots against it and resolve issues at the diplomatic and political levels. What is befitting of a great country like Türkiye is to not dignify street politics with even the slightest response.

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