Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Highs: After years of unsuccessfully banging on the EU's door, Turkey's Prime Minister and leader of its governing AKP party, known for its economically liberal though moderately Islamic politics, decisively shifted Ankara's gaze toward the Ottoman empire's old stomping grounds east and south. He won plaudits among many in the Arab and Muslim world for his tough stance on Israel following an Israeli raid on ships heading to Gaza with relief supplies. Bucking a longstanding Israeli-Turkish alliance, he branded the raid an act of "inhumane state terrorism." Later, joining forces with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Erdogan met with Iran's embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and unveiled what's called the Tehran Declaration on May 17. It offered a fuel swap as part of an alternative solution to U.S.-backed sanctions on Iran as the world tried to rein in Tehran's nuclear program — the move was received as a mark of a burgeoning new world order.

Lows: The Tehran Declaration got snubbed by the U.S. and its allies, undermining Erdogan's attempt at diplomacy power-brokering. In February, Erdogan found himself in the midst of a political crisis, and had 31 former or current military officers arrested on charges of plotting to foment a coup. The struggle accentuated the divide between Erdogan's more religious democratic party and secular-nationalists tied to the country's military, which has been a longstanding force in Turkish politics.

Ishaan Tharoor