Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

When an Israeli raid on an activists' flotilla trying to deliver aid to Gaza caused an international outcry, it was no surprise that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, had something to say. Turkish aid groups had been part of the flotilla, after all, but his rebuke of Israel was notable because of his refusal to tiptoe diplomatically around the issue. His rhetorical takedown of Israel, which he repeatedly accused of "inhumane state terrorism," was particularly striking given Ankara's history of warm relations with Israel and the U.S. Indeed, Erdogan's outspokenness was just one of many instances in 2010 in which Turkey displayed a newfound willingness to flex its diplomatic muscle. The ultimate bellwether of a shift in geopolitics may have been when Erdogan teamed up with Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to offer a second-track fuel swap in the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program to compete with the U.S.-led sanctions plan. Having encouraged an entrepreneurial boom in Turkey and aligned himself with a nationalist wing of his country that still denies the Armenian genocide, Erdogan has shown that Turkey will no longer shy away from throwing its weight around in the volatile Middle East.