Geopolitical Diary – FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013 – Roughly two years ago, the region and wider international community welcomed Turkey’s geopolitical resurgence — guided by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP — as a check on Iranian influence. Then the Arab spring came, bringing with it a major opportunity for Ankara to expand its geopolitical footprint in the Middle East, a key Turkish objective that had been blocked by Iranian influence. Now, however, it appears that Ankara has lost more than it sought to gain, in areas stretching from the Levant to the Persian Gulf region to North Africa.

Saleh Muslim, the leader of the main Syrian Kurdish separatist movement Democratic Union Party, or PYD, arrived in Istanbul on Thursday for what is being described by the Turkish press as “unexpected” talks with Turkey’s national security leadership. The visit comes a day after Erdogan held an emergency meeting with his top associates to discuss developments in northern Syria. Recently the PYD announced it sought to establish an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region; earlier in the week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters this was unacceptable. The PYD’s announcement comes at a bad time for Turkey’s regional Kurdish strategy. Ankara’s efforts to use its recently developed ties with Iraqi Kurds as leverage in trying to end the Kurdish separatist insurgency within its borders are not making much headway. Further, it is now faced with the prospect of not one but two autonomous Kurdish enclaves on its southeastern borders.

Making matters worse, the PYD has gained international credibility in recent weeks after its armed wing, the People’s Defense Units, fought against the al Qaeda-linked Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra. In other words, Turkey is caught between jihadism and Kurdish separatism. Certainly it cannot do business with the jihadists, but Ankara can at least try to negotiate with the Syrian Kurds — this informed Thursday’s visit.

The Turks appear less than confident that their diplomatic efforts will succeed. An article published Wednesday in the pro-AKP daily Sabah warned that the peace process will not have the desired outcome and argued that the Kurds are ultimately working to forge a regional Kurdistan state made up of Iraqi, Turkish, Syrian and Iranian lands. The Turks have long known that the civil war in Syria would eventually empower the Kurds, but the hope was that a pro-Ankara Sunni-dominated regime would help contain the Syrian Kurds.

With the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad on the upswing, that outcome no longer appears realistic. The regime is still unable to project power to areas in the north and the east, which has allowed the Syrian Kurds and the jihadists ample room to operate. At the same time though, the Syrian regime — and with it Iranian influence — remains.Syria is not the only place where the Turks are in trouble. The fall of the Mohammed Morsi’s government in Egypt is another setback for Ankara. The Erdogan government has since taken a strong stance against the Egyptian military for mounting the coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power, leading to a decline in Ankara-Cairo relations.

What’s more, Turkey’s support of the Brotherhood has earned it the ire of Saudi Arabia. In an op-ed Thursday in the major Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, a prominent Saudi columnist bitterly criticized Turkish policy toward Egypt. Abdullah al-Otaibi accused the Erdogan administration of trying to pursue “neo-Ottoman” ambitions that threaten Saudi interests and those of its Gulf Cooperation Council allies. The toppling of the Brotherhood government has created problems for Turkish policy in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. For several years, Turkey’s relations with Israel have been sour, particularly after the 2010 flotilla incident. Turkey had hoped that a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo would allow Ankara to enhance its influence in the Gaza Strip, which is now unlikely, given that not only is Morsi no longer in power, but Egypt’s military rulers have assumed a hostile posture toward Hamas. In short, far from expanding its geopolitical influence, Turkey has failed to counter Iran; it faces a far bigger Kurdish threat alongside a a jihadist one on it southern flank; it has soured relations with the two major regional Arab states; and it has lost leverage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.