Observers of modern Turkey have long been fascinated by the rise of political Islam and uneasy about its ultimate trajectory under the leadership of Turkish prime minster, Tayyip Erdogan. While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been instrumental in democratizing the country and ushering in key market reforms, success has bred contempt for the opposition and delusions of grandeur, which has a distinct pedigree in Turkish history. The ghosts of Turkey’s Ottoman past are haunting the streets of Istanbul, as the ongoing protests demonstrate that Erdogan might finally be losing his grip on power.
When global leaders met in Davos, Switzerland this past January for the annual World Economic Forum, it was not just an opportunity to chatter about the state of the global economy, but also a moment for a collective sigh of relief. The fiscal cliff in the United States had just been avoided, Barack Obama was even able to raise some revenue by letting some of the Bush-era tax rates expire, and the currency crisis in Europe appeared to be on the mend. What a difference a month makes. As another battle over deficits and spending looms in Washington and threatens to pull the U.S. economy back into recession, a far greater worry is the ever-present crack-up of the euro, which would be an economic tsunami to the spring shower of sequestration.
While foreign policy was once thought to have taken a backseat in this election cycle, the reactions in the Muslim world to an incendiary film about the Prophet Mohammed have refocused attention on the nettlesome politics of the Middle East. Whoever occupies the White House come January will be faced with an altogether new dynamic—and not just in the obvious cases of a bloody Syrian civil war and a tottering post-Mubarak Egypt, but also with the political awakening of Muslims around the globe. Turkey, with its dual European and Asian heritage, is emerging as a key pivot in the region between the long-dominant influences of the West and an increasingly self-actualized East--just this week, it played host to negotiations hoping to slow Iran's uranium enrichment projects.