Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East

August 2019 No Comments

“Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East”

Speaker: Cagaptay, S. (The Washington Institute)

Date: 2 August 2019

Speaker Session Preview

SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Soner Cagaptay (The Washington Institute) as a part of its SMA CENTCOM Speaker Series. Dr. Cagaptay first explained that this is an important time when it comes to Turkey’s international relations. Several questions remain to be answered regarding a potential safe zone in northeast Syria; Turkey’s refugee policy, particularly with respect to the Syrian refugee crisis; and the ad hoc deals being made between Russia and Turkey. In his third book (forthcoming), entitled Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East, Dr. Cagaptay examines the legacy that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has left on Turkish foreign policy. He stated that nations that were once great empires often have an inflated sense of their heyday, which leads to both readiness to be inspired and vulnerability to be manipulated by external actors. The Ottoman Empire has left a lasting impact on Turkey, especially since the collapse occurred fairly recently (fewer than 100 years ago). Dr. Cagaptay explained that Erdogan is no different from previous Turkish leaders in that he has tried to restore Turkey’s greatness. Where he differs, however, is in his decision to abandon traditional alliances with Western nations, which has not worked out in Erdogan’s favor, Dr. Cagaptay argues. He then focused on Erdogan’s presidential ceremony. During this ceremony, not a single EU or Western country’s head of state wasin attendance, nor was Russia’s, China’s, or Iran’s head of state. These absences indicate that these countries do not have as favorable perception of Erdogan as he would have hoped for and that Turkey has isolated itself under Erdogan’s leadership. Turkey’s inability to rely on its traditional allies in the West, as well as its exposure to two of its adversaries in its neighborhood (Iran and Russia), poses potential problems for Erdogan. Dr. Cagaptay then spoke about Turkey’s turbulent relationships with Russia and Iran, highlighting Russia’s ad hoc S400 missile deals with Turkey and how Turkey’s Syria policy has disrupted Turkey’s relationship with Iran. To conclude, Dr. Cagaptay stated that Turkey’s biggest issue is its lack of a reliable force to protect itself against a potential Russian threat.

This speaker session was not recorded, as per the speaker’s request.

Download Dr. Cagaptay’s Biography

Additional information regarding Dr. Captay’s forthcoming book can be found at

Dr. Cagaptay’s Websites



Erdogan’s Empire

The New Sultan

Amazon Author’s Page

Dr. Cagaptay’s Social Media

Twitter –  @SonerCagaptay

Facebook – Soner Cagaptay

LinkedIn – Soner Cagaptay


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