By Svante E. Cornell (vol. 6, no. 22 of the Turkey Analyst) – Svante E. Cornell is Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, and Editor-in-Chief of the Turkey Analyst.
The difference between the two sides is clearer in the realm of foreign policy. In the wake of the Arab upheavals, Turkey has adopted an ideological, Sunni sectarian, foreign policy. And while Fethullah Gülen favors good relations with Israel and a strong attachment to the West, the anti-Israeli bent of the AKP is longstanding, and Erdogan explores eastern alternatives. On a recent trip to Moscow, Erdogan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to facilitate Turkey entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization so that he could “be relieved” of the pain of EU integration.
The Hizmet movement, by contrast, is strongly suspicious of Russia and of Iran (with whom the AKP government developed close relations before Turkey’s Sunni sectarian intervention in Syria put it at odds with Tehran), while its Turkish nationalism makes it interested in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The outcome of the power struggle between Erdogan and the Hizmet movement is likely to go a long way to determine Turkey’s future course, both domestically and internationally. Not least, it could help define the nature of Turkey’s future relationship with the West.