Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Turkey"

Guest Post: Arab Transitions, Turkish Ambitions

by Ed Husain

A view of Istanbul's financial district from the city's Asian side (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is written by my colleague, Charles Landow, associate director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Whether for its economic dynamism or its increasingly visible role in the Middle East, Turkey today is much in the news. I recently visited the country and found good reasons for the attention. The purpose of the trip was to attend a conference on “The Economies of the Arab Spring” organized by the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, a small but energetic think tank that fosters policy conversations and connections between the United States and the Muslim world.

What I saw made clear that Istanbul is the hub of a booming economy with growing ambitions. The IMF projects that Turkey’s GDP, less than $200 billion as recently as 2001, will exceed $1 trillion by 2015. Per capita GDP has reached $10,000, on its way to nearly $15,000 in the next five years. This growth has many Turks thinking big. For example, the massive Marmaray Tunnel, which will traverse the Bosphorus to connect Istanbul’s European and Asian sides by rail, is under construction to address the city’s transport woes. Even the U.S. transportation secretary has praised its engineering prowess. And in April Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans for a colossal new canal that would keep freighters and their often hazardous cargo out of the jammed Bosphorus. Read more »

Turkish Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy

by Ed Husain

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan arrives to address the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers' meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on September 13, 2011 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

When I visit Arab countries, I often hear the United States accused of being an ‘‘imperial power.’’ It is also viewed as being too close to Israel, and religious extremists of the al-Qaeda trend invariably refer to the United States as “crusaders.” Consequently, important U.S. political messages on the need for democracy, the importance of freedom, and the advantages of building secular polities are ignored or ridiculed as “neoconservatism”—a discrediting label associated closely with the Iraq war in most Arab minds.

Whatever the United States’ intentions and failures in Iraq, it did not seek to colonize Iraq, or any other Arab nation for that matter. In contrast, Turkey was a major imperial power for several centuries across the Middle East. Until very recently, Turkey was not only detested by Kurds and Lebanese Armenians for the atrocities that Turkey committed against these people, but most Egyptians and Syrians were taught in their schools that Turkey’s four-hundred-year-old occupation of Arab countries was responsible for Arab economic and political decline.
Read more »