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Turkey’s policy can be described as one of ‘sentimental self-interest’ because the ‘sentimental’ identification of elements of Turkish society with the Bosnian Muslims did not contradict the ‘self-interested’ raison d’État­ calculations of the Kemalist ‘guardian state’

The post-Cold War period was a time of great political and strategic uncertainty for Turkey. Since the introduction of democratic elections in the 1940s there had been considerable ideological competion over domestic issues, primarily the role of religion in Turkish society, but in the 1980s, with the rise of a moneyed class of socially conservative Anatolian business-owners, combined with wider popular disenchantment with the corruption and statism of the Kemalist elite and secular ruling parties, the ‘Islamist’[1] movement gained the financial and electoral clout to challenge the ‘Kemalist’[2] state. (White, 2008, p369-70)

A dramatically changing strategic environment exacerbated this challenge to the Kemalist worldview. Whereas ‘during the days of Cold War friction and the perception of an imminent military threat it was possible to hold a broad consensus behind the idea of NATO membership and close military relations with the United States’, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the apparent liberation of Turkey from the straitjacket of the Cold War bipolar order meant that ‘the old consensus on foreign policy was breaking down just at a time when an ideological competition over the strategic direction of the country should take was both emerging and becoming more intense’ (Robins, 2003, p155).

This ‘ideological competition’ over whether Turkey should re-engage with hitherto neglected regions such as the Middle East and Central Asia and establish closer links with ethno-cultural and religious kin in line with the changes in Turkish society, potentially in conflict with its traditional Western orientation, has been of considerable interest to scholars and casual observers alike. This is illustrated by the titles of scholarly accounts of Turkey and its foreign policy, which frequently portray the country in terms of the competition or tension between a series of binary forces. Competition might be between civilian and military elites (Suits and Uniforms), between religious and secular identity (Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds; The Turkish Labyrinth: Ataturk and the New Islam), between activist and conservative political and strategic cultures (Daring and Caution in Turkish Foreign Policy; Turkey: Challenges of Continuity and Change), or between competing geopolitical identities (Turkey Between East and West).

In The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington uses the dramatic metaphor of Turkey as a ‘torn country’[3] (Huntington, 1996, p138), using an account of the Bosnian war to illustrate his argument that in the post-Cold War period, the sentiment of Turkey’s pious populace would dictate its future strategic orientation. Huntington portrays the Bosnian conflict as one of a series of ‘fault line wars’, namely ‘communal conflicts between states or groups from different civilizations’ (Huntington, 1996, p252). Since religion ‘is the principal defining characteristic of civilizations, fault line wars are almost always between peoples of different religions’ (Huntington, 1996, p253). When such wars erupt, each party appeals to those who share in their religious/civilizational identity for support, a process Huntington calls ‘civilizational rallying’.[4] In the case of Bosnia,

Massive civilizational rallying included: Germany, Austria, the Vatican, other European Catholic countries and groups, and, later, the United States on behalf of Croatia; Russia, Greece, and other Orthodox countries and groups behind the Serbs; and Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Libya, the Islamist international, and Islamic countries generally on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims. (Huntington, 1996, p281)

Bosnia certainly appeared to present a dilemma for Turkey’s predominantly secular, ‘Kemalist’ policy establishment, neatly captured by a report from the Assembly of the Western European Union in 1992:

With Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina being threatened, harassed, persecuted and killed for purely ethno-religious reasons, Turkey cannot afford to remain idle … [however] it does not fit the modern Turkish tradition of a secular nation state to become involved in other nations [sic] policies for reasons of religious kinship. (“Report on Turkey”, Assembly of Western European Union, Document 1341, November 6, 1992, p19, as cited in Kut, 1995, p295)

In this essay I examine Turkey’s policy towards the Bosnia conflict, and construct an account as to how Ankara reconciled this apparent tension. In doing so, I intend to demonstrate the flaws in the idea that Turkey’s Bosnia policy was dictated by its ‘religious link’ with the Bosnian Muslims (Poulton, 1997, p200). Instead, I argue that Ankara’s identification of the Bosnian Muslims as the conflict’s most vulnerable group and the party in most need of robust international support was in fact a realistic appraisal of the situation and a key step towards bringing an end to the conflict. This Turkey’s Kemalist establishment desired both for strategic and their own domestic political reasons.

Turkey’s political forces do not fit easily into cleanly delineated, discrete, binary categories. Taken together, they do appear to capture the sense of a fault-line running through Turkish society: On the one hand, a secular-, western/European-, status quo- and security-oriented ‘Kemalist’ elite dominating the state’s diplomatic and military institutions[5] and on the other, a religio-conservative-, Ottoman-Islamic, activist and identity-oriented ‘Islamist’ general population and their political representatives. However as Nicholas Danforth points out,

Observers who interpret Turkish foreign policy through the lens of an ideological debate between the country’s Eastern and Western identities have often overlooked the pragmatic motives that shaped policy decisions. (Danforth, 2008, p83)

A subtler way of understanding Turkey’s main divide is to use Reşat Kasaba’s description as ‘between state power and social forces’ (Kasaba, 2008, p2). This allows for consideration of both the ideological/ideational influences preferred by constructivist thinkers, and the material/instrumental calculations of those of a rationalist persuasion. In practice, a more fruitful approach is to assess the interaction between material and ideational factors through a via media.

After a brief outline of Turkey’s policy towards the conflict, the essay is therefore arranged in terms of the competition between two admittedly vague (but consequently liberating) concepts employed by Philip Robins in his study of Turkey’s post-Cold War foreign policy towards the newly-independent states of the Caucasus and Central Asia: ‘sentiment’ and ‘self-interest’.[6] First, the ‘sentiment’ of Turkey’s ‘social forces’, as expressed through electoral politics and public debate, and secondly the ‘self-interest’ of Turkey’s ‘state power’. I conclude by arguing that Turkey’s policy in Bosnia can be considered a case of ‘sentimental self-interest’ because both sides of Turkey’s divide wanted the same outcome – i.e. an end to the conflict – albeit for different reasons.


The Mostar Bridge in 2011, rebuilt after the Bosnian War with Turkish funding.  Mostar was shelled by Croat forces from the hill in the background.  Mostar’s Muslim residents regard the cross on the hilltop as a provocation.

Policy Chronology

As war broke out between Serbia and Croatia and both the EC and the UN engaged in frantic diplomatic activity from September 1991 to January 1992 in an effort to bring the war to an end, Turkey had taken a low profile. It ‘repeatedly expressed its concern, but did not initiate any direct act of diplomacy concerning the conflict’ (Kut, 1995, p296-7). Indeed the period of 1990 to early 1992 was one of deepening diplomatic and economic relations between Ankara and Belgrade, particularly in the transport and communications sectors, with Turkey taking delivery of a consignment of municipal buses from a Belgrade company as late as January 1992 (Robins, 2003, p355).

It was only in mid-to-late 1992, after the intensification of conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the commencement of the bombardment of Sarajevo and the engagement of JNA troops with Muslim-Croat forces after EC and US recognition of its independence in early April,[7] that Turkey ‘started its diplomatic initiatives at international fora’ (Kut, 1995, p299). In May 1992 it urged the United Nations and the Council of Europe to take necessary measures to uphold the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and was an active member of the “Friends of Bosnia-Herzegovina” group at the CSCE, having pushed for Bosnia’s admittance to the organisation (Kut, 1995, p299-300). It highlighted the destruction of Sarajevo’s historical and cultural environment in an application to UNESCO, and lobbied Islamic leaders to pay more attention to the Bosnian crisis, leading the formation of a contact group of Islamic countries to act as a pressure group on Bosnia’s behalf at the UN and pressuring the Islamic Development Bank to allocate humanitarian funds to the Bosnian people (Kut, 1995, p301). It also implemented a series of humanitarian measures, including the reception of hundreds of thousands of Bosnian refugees and the provision of $23million worth of aid by March 1993 (Robins, 2003, p363).

In contrast to the diplomats and statesmen of countries such as Britain who ‘dismissed talk of “aggressors” and “victims” as “simplistic”’ (Simms, 2002, p338),[8] once ‘fully engaged’, Ankara took an unequivocal public position as to where blame for the conflict should be apportioned, with Turkey’s representative in the UN Security Council pointing the finger squarely at the Serbs:

The core of the problem lies in the evil designs of the Serbian side and in the inability of the international community to deal effectively with these designs, which aim at creating a Greater Serbia by the use of force … [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is being dismembered and its people are being exterminated by the chauvinistic ambitions of a rapacious neighbour operating through its surrogates in that country (Debate, S/PV.3135, 13 Nov 1992, Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, p141).

May-June 1992 saw a series of Security Council resolutions designed to support the Bosnian cause.[9] Although Turkey supported these measures, with a Turkish Admiral at one point commanding NATO operations in the Adriatic to enforce UN sanctions, it was clear that by mid-1992 it was growing impatient with their ineffectiveness. Turkish diplomats and politicians began to ‘[make] it clear that, in their view, these efforts did not go far enough’ (Hale, 2002, p261). Turkey’s key criticism was that international action would prove ineffective without at least a credible threat of the use of military force. Foreign Minister Hikmet Çetin called an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul on in June 1992, the result of which was a communiqué urging the Security Council to ‘invoke Article 42 of Chapter VII which calls for coordinated action by air, sea or land forces to restore international peace and security when means provided in Article 41 have proved to be inadequate’.[10] At the CSCE’s Helsinki summit in July 1993, President Demirel urged President Bush to intervene in Bosnia as he had done in Kuwait, pledging Turkey’s commitment to an international force (Kut, 1995, p302; Hale, 2002, p261).

Turkey’s disillusionment with the international response encouraged it to develop a coherent plan of its own. This came in the form of an ‘Action Plan for Bosnia Herzegovina’, submitted to the Security Council on 7th August 1992 and subsequently circulated by Çetin at the London Conference on Yugoslavia later that month (Robins, 2003, p359).[11] It identified the Bosnian Serbs, with support from Belgrade, as the main aggressors and proposed a comprehensive set of multilateral diplomatic, humanitarian and if necessary, military measures. (Kut, 1995, p303; Robins, 2003, p359-60; Hale, 2002, p261). As the Cumhuriyet newspaper noted, the plan’s core argument was that the international community needed to ‘stop arguing why it cannot intervene militarily and start to discuss how it can’ (quoted in Kut, 1995, p303).

As Ankara became more frustrated with the international community’s failure to respond adequately, ‘its policy prescriptions became increasingly divorced from the sorts of measure that the major external actors would be willing to contemplate’ (Robins, 2003, p360). The London Conference had marked the EC’s shift of attention away from the Serbo-Croat conflict and towards the Bosnian crisis with the launch of the ‘Vance-Owen’[12] process in search of a comprehensive political settlement (Kut, 1995, p305). Çetin’s declaration of high principle that all territory acquired through force should be returned and all displaced people should be able to return to their homes, moving beyond Turkey’s Action Plan, was considered unrealistic by international mediators and both that declaration and the Action Plan were politely rebuffed (Robins, 2003, p360; Hale, 2002 p263).

With their ambitious plan for the collective use of force ignored, by Autumn 1992 Ankara focused instead on the more modest goal of lobbying for the Bosnian Army to be able to defend itself, through the lifting of the arms embargo over Bosnia-Herzegovina (Robins, 2003 p362). Although the arms embargo of September 1991 was meant to apply to Yugoslavia, a state that Bosnia-Herzegovina had been internationally recognised as no longer being a part of, the arms embargo still applied to all parts of the former Yugoslav state. What arms the Bosnian Army did get, came mostly through Croatia (Malcolm, 2002, p243).

In January 1993, the two mediators presented the first draft of their proposals of a Bosnian political settlement, known as the Vance-Owen peace plan, or VOPP. It envisaged the ‘cantonisation’ of Bosnia-Herzegovina into ten provinces, nine of which would be ‘predominantly’ Serb, Croat or Muslim (Simms, 2002, p142), with a central government holding only minimal powers. Turkey criticised the plan on the basis that it would reward and encourage ethnic cleansing, using their presidency of the OIC to lead collective Islamic efforts against it at the Senegal Conference in January 1993 (Robins, 2003, p361).

On 9th May 1993 ‘the Bosnian-Croat defence force, reportedly with the support of the Croatian Army, launched a major military offensive … against Mostar, Jablanica.’ (Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, xlvi). The Bosnian Muslims were now resisting ethnic cleansing on two fronts, and still laboured under the UN arms embargo. The ‘final death warrant’ (Malcolm, 2002, p250) for the Bosnian Muslims came later in the month on the 22nd, when the foreign ministers of the US, UK, France, Spain and Russia met in Washington. Ostensibly, they had ‘agreed on a strategy to contain the fighting Bosnia and to guard the safe areas’, but in practice ‘most analysts agreed, however, that the plan was a de facto recognition of the status quo in Bosnia’ (Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, xlvi).[13] All talks of air strikes, hitherto the primary threat of the use of force against the Serbs, was off. Instead, Bosnia’s Muslims would shelter in a series of ‘safe areas’, where ‘their safety would not in fact be guaranteed: they would be guarded by UN forces whose mandate entitled them to return fire not if the Muslims were shot at but only if they, the UN soldiers, came under attack’ (Malcolm, 2002, p250)

In April 1993 eighteen Turkish fighters were put on standby by NATO as part of its ‘Operation Clear Skies’ no-fly zone policy, but the planes never saw active service as part of the operation, and NATO’s decision appeared to be a matter of making Turkey feel included ‘in an important piece of public diplomacy by the core Western states’ (Robins, 2003, p368). April 1993 also marked the passing away of Turkey’s charismatic president and former premier Turgut Özal. An apparently demoralised and distracted Turkey began to disengage from international peace efforts altogether.

Turkey was coaxed out of its period of ‘disengagement’ by an approach from the Bosnian and Croatian governments in the Autumn of 1993 to act as a mediator in the re-establishment of relations, a pre-requisite for a renewed joint anti-Serb offensive. This it did in a series of meetings into the spring of 1994 (Robins, 2003, p370-1). Both Philip Robins and William Hale suggest that Turkey’s mediation role led to the ‘resulting’ official rapprochement between the two sides, sealed by the Washington Agreement of March 1994 (Robins, 2003 p371; Hale, 2002, p262).

Turkey’s diplomatic role was consolidated with the deployment of peacekeeping troops in March 1994 at the Muslim-Croat town of Zenica in Central Bosnia. This followed Turkey’s angry reaction to the deployment of Russian troops to provide cover for the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb soldiers from Sarajevo, after Turkey had been omitted from UNPROFOR because of the UN’s position that no regional states with ‘a past’ should contribute troops (Robins, 2003, p376). Turkey also developed close military relations with the Bosnian Army, which included training and, it is suggested, the supply of arms in contravention of the arms embargo (Robins, 2003, p348, Poulton, 1997, p200). This relationship, and Turkey’s presence in the country, continued after the Dayton agreement at the end of 1995 (Hale, 2002 p263).



Topkapi Palace, residence of the Ottoman Sultans

‘Sentiment’ – Turkey as Kin State

In their study entitled Ethnicity Matters, Davis and Moore examine the role played by ‘ethnic transnational alliances’ in foreign policy behaviour, suggesting that:

If an ethnic group [in this case the Bosnian Muslims] experiences persecution from state B [for example, Serbia] … and co-ethnics share power or are dominant in state A [in this case Turkey], and state B falls within the politically relevant international environment of state A, then state A will take an interest in the relations between state B and the ethnic group, and will respond to the situation by increasing its hostility toward state B (Davis and Moore, 1997, p173)

Both Huntington and Stephen Saideman take an ‘ethnic politics approach’[14] in explaining the motivations of Turkish leaders:

Sympathy for the Bosnian cause and outrage at the perceived failure of the West to protect the Bosnians were pervasive among the Turkish people, and the opposition Islamist Welfare Party exploited this issue against the government. Government officials, in turn, emphasized Turkey’s special responsibilities with respect to all Balkan Muslims, and the government regularly pushed for U.N. military intervention to safeguard the Bosnian Muslims. (Huntington, 1996, p287)

Turkey has faced the difficult problem of maintaining a secular polity in the face of increasingly popular Islamic parties. During much of the Yugoslav conflict, a coalition government, including parties representing moderate Muslims, controlled the government. Even the Social Democrats who were more concerned with secular governance realized “that a lack of concern about Bosnia would hasten their political decline” (Saideman, 2001, p138)

Saideman and Huntington were right to point out that public opinion, exploited by certain political parties, had put a certain degree of pressure on the government to play the role of ‘kin state’[15] and align itself in the conflict according to an ‘Islamist’ religio-civilizational identity.

The ‘Islamisation of Turkish society’ (Robins, 2003, p154) boosted the fortunes of Necmettin Erbakan’s Refah, or ‘Welfare’ party, which made significant electoral gains in the period between 1987 and 1995. Whereas in 1987 it had failed to acquire the 10% of the national vote required to enter parliament, in 1995 it achieved the largest share of the public vote, 21%, and 158 of parliament’s 550 seats. Refah mayors held office in six of Turkey’s largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara (White, 2008, p366-7). Refah was not just an electoral threat to Turkey’s ruling coalition, but also a vehicle for the articulation of a radically different interpretation of Turkish identity in his challenge to a whole series of Kemalist domestic and foreign policy orthodoxies:

Erbakan [spoke] out against laicism, Westernisation and Turkey’s military co-operation agreement with Israel. He pledged to withdraw Turkey from NATO and the European Union Customs Union signed in 1996, in favour of political and economic alliances with other Muslim countries. He planned to pursue a brotherhood of Muslims around the world, replacing Turkey’s with and reliance on the West (White, 2008, p366)

Turkish foreign policy could at times appear to align itself according to ethnic affiliation, even before the end of the Cold War. A good example is that of Turkey’s reaction to Todor Zhivkov’s ‘Bulgarification’ campaign in the late 1980s. Zhivkov had between 1984 and 1989 attempted to forcibly suppress the expression of Turkish identity of Bulgaria’s 800,000-strong Turkish population, constituting 10% of Bulgaria’s population, leading to the exodus of 300,000 to Turkey within weeks (Kut, 2000, p77). This provoked a furious reaction in Turkey, where ‘mass rallies were allowed for the first time since the military coup of 1980 and huge crowds filled Taksim Square in Istanbul, cheering Özal’s empty threats of marching on Sofia’ (Poulton, 1997, p208). This period was described by Şule Kut as ‘the most tense in Bulgarian-Turkish relations for decades’, repaired only by Zhivkov’s political demise and the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s denunciation of Bulgarification (Kut, 2000, p77).

The case of the Bosnian Muslims was more complex. They could not be considered, and did not identify themselves as, ‘Turks’.[16] Although there were hundreds of thousands of Turks in Bulgaria, ‘some 100,000 Turks in Macedonia and Thrace, and minorities in almost every Balkan country, including Serbia’ (Pettifer, p171), the Bosnian Muslims were not considered as part of the Balkans’ Turkish population. They were largely Slavs who had converted to Islam during Ottoman rule in the Balkans because of ‘the second-class status of non-Muslims in the Ottoman world’ (Mazower, 2001, p57).

The basis for Turkish feelings of kinship appears to be a sense of ‘responsibility for the Muslims of the Balkans’ due to the Ottoman Empire’s historic presence in the region (Öktem, 2011, p79). Huntington stresses that ‘Bosnia had been part of the Ottoman Empire until 1878 in practice and 1908 in theory, and Bosnian immigrants and refugees make up roughly 5 percent of Turkey’s population’ (Huntington, 1996, p287). Şule Kut writes that the crisis ‘touched Turkish hearts on behalf of a non-Turkish Muslim people, reminding Turks of their Balkan past and cultivating in them a deepened Balkan identity’ (Kut, 2000 p82), a phenomenon Tanil Bora explains in terms of Bosnia’s ‘historical-cultural proximity’ to Turkey (Bora, 1995, p115).

An important dimension of Turkey’s association with the Balkans is the Ottoman Empire’s slow and painful humiliation as the Great Powers eased the ‘sick man of Europe’ out of the region. James Pettifer reminds the reader that

The popular memory of Turkish activity in the Balkans is not of wealth, opportunity or political influence, but of military defeat and suffering, when unarmed and surrendered soldiers, poverty-stricken and despised civilians were massacred and helpless women and children were incinerated in their homes. (Pettifer, 1998, p174)

The Bosnian conflict, and Western powers’ failure to adequately respond to the crisis, therefore tapped into an anti-Western strand of Turkey’s collective sentiment. William Hale notes a banner at a protest in February 1993 against the West’s Bosnian policy declaring ‘’Bosnia will not become another Andalusia’ – a reference to the massacres and expulsion of the Muslim and Jewish communities of Spain in the fifteenth century.’ (Hale, 2002, p261) At their most extreme, these feelings manifested themselves as laughable conspiracy theories,[17] but it undoubtedly gave ammunition to those such as Erbakan who was able to ‘stigmatize Europe as a conservative, almost imperialist force’ (Pettifer, 1998, p175).

However in this instance, the ‘ethnic politics approach’ has three key flaws. Firstly, it does not explain Turkey’s disengagement from diplomatic efforts over Bosnia in 1993, just as the Bosnian Muslims’ predicament was at its worst. Secondly, it overestimates the strength of public feeling in Turkish society about the Bosnian Muslims’ plight. Thirdly, it depends on a flawed understanding of the balance of power between Turkey’s weak coalition governments and its ‘deep’ or ‘guardian’ state in the 1990s, illustrated by Erbakan’s experience as Prime Minister between 1996 and 1997.

It was precisely when conditions deteriorated for the Bosnian Muslims that an apparently demoralised Turkey was beginning to ‘disengage’ from international peace efforts altogether, a period which Robins describes as Turkey’s phase as ‘passive bystander’ (Robins, 2003, p366). There are a number of mitigating factors why this might be the case. Not only had Ankara’s diplomatic pressure made little headway, its hopes for an assertive Clinton administration had proved unfounded, as ‘the impulse of moral indignation to act’ shown by Bill the campaigner was replaced by the ‘overriding desire to protect an all-important domestic agenda from the damaging intrusion of foreign policy entanglements’ of Clinton the President (Gow, 1997, p213).

More importantly, Özal’s death was ‘clearly a major factor in distracting senior figures from the Bosnian question’, as Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel became head of state and the True Path Party decided upon his successor. Though no longer the main driver of Turkey’s foreign policy, Özal had been an ebullient supporter of Turkish engagement in the Balkans and a key ally of President Izetbegovic. Nevertheless, Philip Robins is keen to stress that this should not ‘obscure the fact that Turkey by April 1993 had already become a bystander as far as the Bosnian issue was concerned’ (Robins, 2003, p366). By August, a Turkish columnist was observing that ‘Bosnia has simply disappeared from the minds of the people ruling Turkey. Public opinion has forgotten the issue – or has been made to forget’ (quoted in Robins, 2003, p369). In February 1993, shortly before his death, Özal had addressed a demonstration in Taksim Square in Istanbul organised with the ambiguous rallying cry of ‘Turks to Bosnia’. Not only was there a disappointing turnout of 20,000,[18] Turkey’s mainstream parties boycotted the rally, accusing Özal of exploiting the issue for electoral gain. Robins notes that they felt able to do so without eliciting a popular backlash because a population well-aware of the situation in Bosnia ‘had chosen domestic party politics in preference to the Bosnian issue as the critical determinant of whether they would participate’ (Robins, 2003, p368)

Even if the Turkish electorate had given the Bosnian issue a higher priority, it is unlikely that this would have dictated a profound reorientation in Turkey’s foreign policy outlook. As Kerem Öktem explains, although the Turkish one-party state was partially dismantled with the introduction of democratic elections in the 1940s, Turkey continued to be governed by a ‘dual structure’, ‘with a ‘guardian state’ of an all-powerful coalition of the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the military on one side, and elected, yet often insecure, governments on the other’ (Öktem, 2011, p7). Elected governments were not always subservient to the guardian state – ‘At their best, these governments are powerful enough to challenge the guardians and to keep the military, the judiciary and the bureaucracy at bay. Sometimes, they also succeed in manning state institutions with their own cadres’ (Öktem, 2011, p9) – but it took a government with a strong electoral mandate and a leader with considerable popular appeal to do so.

As Prime Minister between 1983 and 1989, and president between 1989 and 1993, Turgut Özal had been one such leader. Having served as Prime Minister under 1980 coup-leader General Evren for six years, by Evren’s departure in 1989 Özal had established enough personal authority to face down opposition both from the public and Turkey’s military to pursue a policy of unambiguous support for the United States’ Gulf policy. When Turkey’s chief of the armed forces, Necip Torumtay, resigned in protest, ‘Özal promptly appointed a new military chief; he brushed aside his critics at home, and stayed the course’ (Bahcheli, 1994, p437). However although he remained as president until his death in April 1993, the replacement of first his pliant ally Yıldırım Akbulut by party rival Mesut Yılmaz as Prime Minister in June 1991, and then the defeat of Özal’s Motherland Party in the election of October 1991, replaced by a coalition between the conservative True Path Party (DYP) led by new Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel and the leftist Social Democrat Popular Party (SHP), had led to Özal’s rapid political marginalisation (Robins, 2003, p61), ushering in a decade of weak coalition government and guardian state supremacy.

The strength of the guardian state during this period is illustrated by Erbakan’s premiership. In June 1996, he became Prime Minister as Refah formed a coalition with Tansu Çiller’s TPP after an unedifying political catfight was resolved with Erbakan agreeing to drop his threat to launch a parliamentary investigation against Çiller’s alleged corruption (Ahmad, 2008, p258). Though hamstrung by his dependence on the parliamentary support of Çiller, who became his foreign minister, Erbakan’s brief experience as Prime Minister illustrated just how little influence an Islamist politician with a weak mandate could really wield in the teeth of deep state opposition. He had bitterly opposed Turkey’s role in ‘Operation Provide Comfort’, the creation of a Kurdish autonomous safe haven in Northern Iraq, describing it as a ‘Second Sèvres’ and a Western plot to divide Islamic countries, but when it came to the renewal of Turkey’s consent in parliament, all he could deliver was a name-change, to ‘Northern Watch’ (Hale, 2002, p226). Another central plank of his foreign policy outlook was opposition to Turkey’s close co-operation with Israel, but the military-dominated National Security Council ‘humiliated’ him by expanding Turkish-Israeli military co-operation during his premiership (Ahmad, 2008, p258), a move that he did not comment upon, despite being ‘resolutely against’ such a move ‘immediately prior to forming an administration’ (Robins, 1997, p84)

Erbakan was not completely prohibited from pursuing Islamic-oriented initiatives, however they were largely of a cosmetic nature. He developed closer bilateral ties with a series of Islamic countries, and led a new Islamic multilateral initiative, the D8. Some of Turkey’s improved bilateral ties at this time might be interpreted as highly symbolic, for example the improvement of relations with Iran, but the two countries signing a $23 billion energy deal also ‘reflected Turkey’s increasingly desperate need to secure new sources of energy imports in the face of a steep and prolonged rise in projected energy demand over the next two decades’ (Robins, 1997, p91). Most importantly, such initiatives were

Not undertaken as part of a broader aim to undermine Turkey’s relations with its traditional friends. Rather, it has been pursued as a goal complementary to the existing orientation of Turkish foreign policy … Once the foreign ministry had been reassured that Erbakan’s Islamic initiative would be complementary rather than competitive with Turkey’s Western relations, attitudes seem to have relaxed. (Robins, 1997, p90)

In short, Refah depended on the deep state’s consent if it wanted to act. In practice, this meant being ‘cooperative on issues contrary to their basic orientation, even in areas where the atmosphere inside the country might have been conducive to change’ (Robins, 1997, p83). That consent was finally withdrawn in February 1997, when a Refah mayor organised a ‘Jerusalem Day’ in the Ankara district of Sincan, and the army responded by rolling a column of tanks through the township and launching an investigation against the party, followed soon after by a judicial investigation (Ahmad, 2008, p258-9). Erbakan’s position was untenable, and he resigned in June 1997, eased out of power by Turkey’s first ‘postmodern coup’.

As Turkey’s reaction to ‘Bulgarification’ and Erbakan’s experience demonstrated, the guardian state did not obstruct all initiatives based on the concept of kinship. However it did provide a rigid ideological framework within which weakened politicians were required to operate. The paucity of the ‘ethnic politics approach’ to Turkey’s Bosnia policy is that it focuses on the wrong part of Turkey’s dual structure of governance, namely its weak governments, not its strong state. As I shall argue in due course, the public reaction to the Bosnian conflict was not irrelevant. But Turkey’s rich tradition of rambunctious political rhetoric can distract one from those who were really in charge. Having failed to change Turkish foreign policy’s ideological underpinnings whilst in office, it is unreasonable to suggest that Erbakan succeeded to do so in opposition. For a more comprehensive picture, one must assess the guardian state’s motivations for supporting an activist Bosnia policy.


The Monument of the Republic, Taksim Square

‘Self-Interest’ – Turkey’s Guardian State

In assessing the motivations of Turkey’s guardian state, it is difficult to disentwine the different strands and interpretations of the Kemalist worldview.

The basic Kemalist ideological framework was informed by a mutually constitutive relationship between the explicitly articulated principles of the republic’s founding fathers, particularly Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the effect of specific historical conditions on the formation of that ideology and their effect on how the guardian state behaves. The ideology has been perpetuated by the institutional memory of the state institutions that constitute the Kemalist establishment – particularly, for the purposes of this exercise, the Turkish military and foreign ministry.

Although Atatürk did not attempt to articulate a cogent ideology as such, he was ‘Moses-like when it came to the adoption of central commandments’:

Turkey was to be a European nation-state. The state was only to span the space enshrined in the National Pact of January 1920, with the residual territories of empire and finally and irreversibly disavowed. The nation was to be built upon an imagined and homogenised Turkish identity … the prevailing philosophy of Turkey was to be ‘modern’. (Robins, 2003, p136-7)

The core conception of Turkey as a European nation-state was based on Atatürk’s belief in the ‘idea of a single unifying human civilisation, the fruit of the progress of mankind’ (Mango, 2008, p163). The disavowal of the ‘residual territories of empire’ was a prerequisite both for internal modernisation and the development of a homogenous national culture. Atatürk ‘saw that modernisation implied Westernisation, and that it would therefore progress more smoothly in cooperation with the West’ (Mango, 2008, p162). This informed an ideological predisposition for Turkey’s Western orientation, partly but not wholly based upon the material advantages that such an orientation would bring. In practice, this meant ‘an umbilical link between the Western value system of the Kemalist elite and the external orientation of the state’ (Robins, 2003, p138), reinforced during the Cold War by the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union.

The most important historical influence on the development of the Kemalist worldview was the nature of the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the war for Turkey’s independence. Although in large part an endogenous process, Ottoman collapse had been hastened by the manipulation of internal minorities by external powers: Maronite Christians by the French, Orthodox Christians by the Russians, Arabs in the Hijaz by the British. The Great Powers’ vision for the future of ‘Turkey’ was outlined in the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, which would have left it as a rump state in Northern Anatolia, with Constantinople designated as an international protectorate. It was only Atatürk’s army driving out foreign occupiers from the North, West and South that allowed Turkey to avoid this fate (Stone, 2010, p150-1). Turkey’s near miss has led to what some scholars identify as a Sèvres ‘complex’ or ‘syndrome’ in the mentality of Turkish elites, which combined with external threats from the Soviet Union, the irredentism of various neighbours throughout its history, and the unresolved Kurdish question, has led to paranoia and mistrust concerning foreign intentions, and a subsequent excessively ‘strategic culture’ and heightened threat perception embedded deep in Turkey’s institutional and collective memory (Robins, 2003, p102-5).

The three aspects of Kemalist/guardian state thinking most relevant to Turkey’s response to the Bosnian conflict are a) an excessive threat perception in relation to Turkey’s internal vulnerability from the spread of ethnic conflict; b) an inherent conservatism and devotion to the status quo and international norms of state sovereignty; c) a commitment to Turkey’s Western orientation and the desire to demonstrate Turkey’s strategic utility to the United States and NATO in particular.

The founders of the Turkish Republic eschewed the Ottoman conception of citizenship in favour of a modern, ‘civic definition of citizenship and national identity’ (Kirişci, 2008, p179). The founders of the Turkish Republic embarked on a project of mass forgetting, cutting the ties that the population had with their Ottoman past, and replacing the myriad of ethno-linguistic identities with a single definition in the new constitution: “Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk” (quoted in Poulton, 1997, p196). However as Kemal Kirişci argues,

State practice deviated considerably from this definition, especially from the late 1920s onwards. Concerns about the territorial political unity of the country in the face of Kurdish rebellion and an Islamic uprising against secularism led the state to downplay this civic understanding of national identity and instead to emphasise homogeneity and ‘Turkishness’ (Kirişci, 2008, p179)

This led to a situation where although by law everyone in Turkey was an equal citizen, ‘the only ethno-national identity that was accepted in public was Turkishness (Sunni-secular Muslim)’ (Öktem, 2011, p34). Kerem Öktem and James Pettifer both highlight the difference between public discourse and private reality:

For three decades, state discourse was infused with notions of secularism, republicanism and industrial development, while in reality state action was directed at keeping a still diverse society on a tight leash (Öktem, 2011, p38)

As in so much of Turkish modern life, the Ottoman heritage is present below the surface, powerful and difficult for the forces of modernity to overcome; what are on the surface national simplicities conceal complex patterns of difference and multiple identity (Pettifer, 1998, xxx)

The Bosnian crisis played into a mainstream ‘sentiment’, that of the links to its Ottoman past – something that the Kemalist project of mass forgetting and the suppression of expressions of difference, protected by the ‘guardian state’, could never hope to eradicate. This was exacerbated by the fear that the ethnic politics of the Yugoslav wars could spread to Turkey. Along with the rise in popular anti-Westernism as outlined in the previous chapter, this posed a threat to Kemalist orthodoxies, both in terms of domestic politics and foreign policy orientation, which had in recent years developed a symbiotic relationship. The perception of this threat would have been exacerbated by the state’s concurrent military campaign against an internal Kurdish insurgency. The guardian state’s fears about its internal minorities were manifested, as it had for decades, in a cautious, status quo approach to recognition.

Turkey’s recognition policy as Yugoslavia fell apart was throughout the conflict consistent with its reputation as a country whose foreign policy is frequently characterised in terms of its ‘fear of change and a strong desire to protect the status quo’ (Altunışık and Tür, 2005, p133). This reflected the fear that the wrong precedent might also have negative consequences in a series of conflicts or areas of tension in which Turkey had a stake: whether Macedonia, Cyprus, Nagorno-Karakbakh or most pertinently, in Turkey itself, where the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) had been conducting guerrilla warfare operations since 1984 (Bozarslan, 2008, p333).

Lawrence Freedman writes of the international community’s[19] ‘realpolitik fear that the disintegration of Yugoslavia might set a precedent for the Soviet Union’ (Freedman, 1995, p57-8), which sat creaking and groaning on Turkey’s Eastern flank until its collapse in December 1991. As the war in Croatia escalated through 1991 after Croatia and Slovenia had seceded from Yugoslavia in June of that year, Turkey ‘clung on to the status quo of a unitary Yugoslav state, well after it was any longer tenable’ (Robins 2003, p350), a position shared by Turkey’s NATO allies and the EC.

With the Soviet Union having collapsed in December 1991, the European Community and the United States recognised Croatian and Slovenian independence in January 1992, and Bosnian independence in April 1992. In the eyes of international law, this turned the conflict from an internal Yugoslav matter into a conflict involving four sovereign states, with internal boundaries transformed into international borders of concern to the international community as a whole (Gow, 1997, p36). Turkey recognised all four seceding republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia) at once on 6th February 1992, emphasising that they did so “indiscriminately” (Kut, 1995, p297). This allowed them to acknowledge realities whilst remaining as cautious as possible.

Turkey’s only major break from the prevailing recognition strategy of the international community[20] concerned their recognition of Macedonia, which was held up for another year due to Greek opposition to the name of the new state.[21] Maintaining the unity of Macedonia was a direct security concern for the Turkish state. The ‘Macedonian Question’ had, according to AJP Taylor ‘haunted European diplomacy for a generation and then caused the Balkan war of 1912’ (quoted in Glenny, Balkan Vortex, 2002, p636). Writing in 1992, James Pettifer outlines the basic problem:

A predominantly urban political elite of Macedonians is ruling over a country where they have almost no presence at all in very large rural areas (for example, the Albanian regions of western Macedonia), and that in nearly all cases … the non-Macedonian minority is, or has been, wooed by the neighbouring nation-state. This is the origin of the famous Macedonian fear of the ‘Four Wolves’ which surround the country: Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia (Pettifer, 1999, p17)

Ominously, Pettifer warned that ‘there is every indication that the process of remaking the Balkans is spreading southwards; and the spread of gravity of events may soon focus on Macedonia, as it has done in the past’ (Pettifer, 1999, p15). Misha Glenny was also keen to draw parallels between Bosnia and Macedonia, emphasising their dependence on outside powers, whether the Habsburg or Ottoman Empires or federal Yugoslavia, in acting as guarantors of their integrity. Without that guarantee, they were at the mercy of the goodwill of their neighbours:

If that goodwill is withdrawn unconditionally (as happened in Bosnia in 1992), the republic is finished. FYROM is now heading down the same path … Should the delicate consensus between Albanians and Macedonians break down, then the Serbian, Albanian and Bulgarian states will consider how best to fill the resultant power vacuum in this strategic corridor. That may then properly be called the Third Balkan War – the continuation of the dreadful struggles of 1912 and 1913 (Glenny, 1996, p250)

Such a scenario would be catastrophic for Turkey. Not only could it have a fully-fledged regional war right on its borders, but as James Gow points out, there were real fears that ‘war in the southern Balkans could easily result in Greece and Turkey engaging on different sides’ (Gow, 1997, p119), since Albania and Macedonia were Turkey’s two closest allies in the region. Çetin himself said that the spread of violence would ‘make it impossible for Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey just to sit and watch’ (Athanassopoulou, 1994, p60).

The slight alleviation of the threat posed by Macedonia’s fragility might also help to provide a more comprehensive explanation as to why Turkish efforts appeared to tail off in 1993 just as the Bosnian Muslims’ predicament was at its worst. In December 1992, UN Security Council Resolution 795, ‘concerned about possible developments which could undermine confidence and stability in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or threaten its territory’, announced the pre-emptive deployment of a UN Protection Force in country (S/RES/795, 11 Dec 1992, Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, p25-6). This was a seminal moment in UN peacekeeping, not just because ‘until that point, UN deployments had always followed the outbreak of conflict’ (Gow, 1997, p119), but ‘also because it was the first UN armed peacekeeping mission with American troops’. It is conceivable that this served to allay Turkish fears of the spread of conflict southwards, thereby reducing its direct concern with the conflict.

Bosnia’s territorial integrity was obviously a central Turkish concern. Huntington focuses on the ties of kinship between Turkey and the Bosnian Muslims at the expense of the interpretation that Turkish support for this relationship was also a robust defence of the status quo. Huntington describes Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović as the leader of an ‘extreme nationalist faction’ in the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (Huntington, 1996, p267), highlighting the 1990 split between Izetbegović and the explicitly non-religious, non-sectional faction led by Adil Zulfikarpašić in support of his claim that ‘the preferences of its leaders, and the support and pressure from other Muslim states were slowly but clearly transforming Bosnia from the Switzerland of the Balkans into the Iran of the Balkans’ (Huntington, 1996, p269-70).[22]

However there are good reasons to believe that Turkey’s relationship with Bosnia reflected as much a non-sectional, conservative approach as religio-civilizational ties. In his history of Bosnia, Noel Malcolm argues that however admirable, Zulfikarpašić’s hope that people would not vote in the first post-communist elections in order to assert national identity, was ‘an unrealistic ambition at the time’, quoting Izetbegović’s argument that

By their oppression the Communists created this longing among people to express their religious or national identity. Perhaps in four or five years we shall have passed through the minefield to the horizon of civil society. For now, unfortunately, our party must be sectional. The parties that try to represent everyone are small and weak. There is a real risk of civil war here; our main aim as a party is to keep Bosnia-Hercegovina together. (Malcolm, 2002, p219)

As James Gow points out, ‘the Bosnian Government … was interested at the beginning of the war in Bosnian state integrity; in promoting a multicultural society; in protecting the position of the Muslims in the country; and in gaining international support’ (Gow, 1997, p308). Glenny concurs that Izetbegović’s war aim ‘was the restoration of a unitary state with a relatively centralised government in Sarajevo’ (Glenny, 1996, p193). However as the war went on, ‘although the overall aim continued to be the maintenance of Bosnia as a state, as far as a divided leadership had a core aim, it was to maximise the weak position of the Muslims, in terms of territory, political influence and military capability.’

The danger that the Bosnian government might renounce its dedication to a multiethnic unitary state was as much because of the ambiguous intentions of the Croatian side as the naked ambitions of the Serb side. Although ‘like the Bosnian Government, their aim was to preserve the territorial integrity of Croatia … in similar vein to the Serbs, there was also an inclination to seek new borders by seizing parts of Bosnia’ (Gow, 1997, p308). In March 1991, Milošević and Croatian President Franjo Tuđman had met in Karađorđevo to discuss the partition of Bosnia, where ‘they agreed in principle but failed to reach any firm decisions’ (Judah, 2009, p174). In May 1992, the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats, Radovan Karadžić and Mate Boban, met in Graz in a reprise of Karađorđevo to agree in principle a division of Bosnia awarding ‘the Croats 20%, the Serbs 65% and the Muslims 15% of the territory’[23] (Glenny, 1996, p193). The Graz agreement was common knowledge, with its details published in the Bosnian and Western media.[24] Although the plan itself failed because of failure to agree over the final status of Mostar, the first instances of conflict between Bosnian government forces and the HVO were recorded shortly after its agreement (Glenny, 1996, p194), Croat intentions were made clear with its major offensive launched twelve months later.

Muslim-Croat reconciliation was therefore crucial not only for the protection of the Bosnian Muslims but also the protection of the survival of Bosnia-Herzegovina by preventing the Serbo-Croat division of the country, leaving the remnants of Bosnia’s ethnically cleansed Muslims in a tiny rump state between its two revisionist neighbours. This is a clear example of how humanitarian, kin-state, and status quo concerns all aligned in favour of a policy of supporting Izetbegović, who was both leader of Bosnia’s beleaguered Muslim population, and the leader of a sovereign state whose existence was threatened by two violent secessionist movements.

Turkey’s role in that reconciliation also allowed it to demonstrate its worth to its Western allies, which was acknowledged by Çetin’s invitation to the White House to witness the March 1994 Washington Agreement (Robins, 2003, p372). Turkey faced an uncertain future after the events of 1989, with Turkish policymakers ‘lamenting the diminution of the strategic utility of their country to the Western alliance because the confrontation between the superpowers was substantially diminishing’ (Bahcheli, 1994, p437). The imperative of demonstrating Turkey’s utility to the United States was a key justification of Özal’s policy of unequivocal support of the US-led coalition’s military action against Iraq. Although his foreign policy-activism contrasted with the inherent cautiousness of the Kemalist state, Özal’s engagement in a region normally eschewed by the Turkish establishment allowed Turkey to demonstrate its utility to NATO ‘at a time when the future of the organisation and indeed of US commitment to European security were far from assured’ (Robins, 2003, p314).

Turkey’s diplomatic initiatives within the OIC, as well as a means to encourage a more active international response, also played a part in this process. Although it had led fierce Islamic criticism of Western failures, Turkey also ensured that Islamic efforts were channelled through international fora and remained dedicated to finding multilateral solutions. Turkey was resisting rather than pursuing the international community’s division along confessional lines, as this was a domestic as well as a foreign policy imperative. Turkey’s importance in this regard was acknowledged even by those Western statesmen whose initiatives it bitterly opposed, with Lord Owen admitting that Turkey was ‘important for our credibility with the Islamic nations’ (quoted in Robins, 2003, p362). Contrary to claims that Turkey was breaking away from its Western orientation in favour of an Islamic axis, James Pettifer argues that Turkey’s desire for good relations with the United States, combined with America’s need for a credible Muslim ally in the Balkans and the Middle East had led to a situation where ‘Washington [my italics] has Islamized Turkish Balkan policy’ (Pettifer, 1998, p175).

Sentimental Self-Interest

Turkey’s policy towards the Bosnian conflict reflected its need to balance a series of competing considerations: its instinctive reticence and foreign policy conservatism vied with its fear of the spread of conflict to its borders and internal consequences of the precedents that might be set if the international community allowed Bosnia’s neighbours redraw its borders along ethnic lines. It settled upon a policy of active diplomacy, declaring its willingness to contribute to multilateral initiatives but ruling out a unilateral engagement.

Suggestions that Turkey supported the Bosnian Muslims solely because of its religious or historical identity miss the point that Turkey’s analysis of the situation in Bosnia and the means needed to bring the conflict to an end – the identification of the Serbs as the main perpetrators, criticism of the UN arms embargo and the Vance-Owen plan, and an insistence on the need for the use of force – was essentially correct. As Kut notes, though Turkish actions did not end the war, ‘the fighting ended only when measures proposed much earlier by Turkey were actually taken up by the international community and in particular, by NATO under US leadership.’ (quoted in Robins, 2003, p376)

It was clear from the actions of the Bosnian Serbs that a unified political and military strategy co-ordinated between Belgrade and Serbs in both Croatia and Bosnia, ‘inconsistent with the spontaneous contingencies of war’ (Gow, 1997, p42), was in operation (Malcolm, 2002, p227-8). As early as October 1991 the leadership of Milosevic’s Serbian Socialist Party had openly declared that if the Bosnian Muslims tried to secede from the ‘new Yugoslav state’ they were constructing, ‘they must know that … [their] state will be encircled by Serbian territory’.[25] (Judah, 2009)

The UN arms embargo of September 1991 consolidated an acute imbalance of materiel between Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian and Macedonian defence forces who had been stripped of their equipment on the one hand, and Serb forces who had inherited the inventory of the Yugoslav National Army and ‘were attempting to create the borders of a new state and genocide’, on the other (Gow, 1997, p37). The embargo remained in place even after Bosnia-Herzegovina’s independence had been recognised by the international community, denying government forces the ability and the right to defend its territory, and making it dependent on Croatian goodwill for arms supplies.

Turkey’s rejection of the Vance-Owen plan on the basis that its envisioned ‘cantonisation’ of Bosnia would reward and encourage ethnic cleansing was also borne out by events:

The cantons were given “ethnic” labels on the map, and at the same time the impression was given that the precise boundaries on the map were not yet final. This had the entirely predictable effect of inciting renewed competition for territory. And, worst of all, it incited competition between Croat and Muslim forces for parts of Central Bosnia where there had been a mixed Muslim-Croat population … and in so doing it broke down the only effective barrier to the Serbs. (Malcolm, 2002, p248)

Finally, Turkey’s advocacy of the use of force to restore order in the region was also justified. As James Gow argues in the conclusion of his book on the failure of international diplomacy during the conflict:

Ultimately, it was a lack of will to back initiatives with the possible use of force which allowed the Serbian leadership, even if its new borders project were denied, effectively to destroy Bosnia and to cripple Croatia, before abandoning the Croatian Serbs to ethnic displacement, and to survive. (Gow, 1997, p323)

The conflict was eventually was brought to an end in 1995 by the Dayton Accords, after the Bosnian Serbs had offered scant resistance to a renewed, united Muslim-Croat offensive and targeted NATO air-strikes, and agreed to negotiate – in other words, through the implementation of the kinds of measures Turkey had been advocating in its Action Plan of August 1993. In the meantime, the international community had continued to fail to protect Bosnian Muslims from appalling atrocities, symbolised by the mass murders in the UN ‘safe areas’ of Žepa and Srebrenica. Furthermore, it had failed to fulfil the objective, coveted by Turkey, of not rewarding the seizure of territory by force and ethnic cleansing. The cost of the de jure maintenance of the Bosnian state was its de facto partition into separate entities.

Turkey’s policy in the Bosnian conflict can be described as one of ‘sentimental self-interest’ because the ‘sentimental’ historical-cultural/religio-civilisational identification of elements of Turkish society with the Bosnian Muslims, as well as humanitarian concern for the fate of innocent victims of horrific crimes, did not contradict the ‘self-interested’ raison d’État­ and/or regime interest calculations of the Kemalist ‘guardian state’.

However one should not make the mistake of according ‘sentiment’ and ‘self-interest’ with equivalent importance. Even if religious affinities in Turkey put pressure on its weak political leaders, the strong state was in charge. In an uncertain post-Cold War material and ideational climate, the strong state clung to the security of the principle of pluralism and its relationship with the United States. In so doing, Turkey was demonstrating its commitment to the philosophy of George Bush’s ‘New World Order’, namely that of collective security in defence of territorial integrity.

As demonstrated in the chapter on ‘Sentiment’, the deep state did not prohibit the expression of Ottoman-Islamic identity in Turkish foreign policy altogether, so long as it did not threaten its core orthodoxies. In fact, because of these complementary objectives Turkey’s ‘dual structure’ of governance led to a relatively harmonious ‘dual structure’ policy. Turkey’s political leaders insisted that their Bosnian policy was motivated by humanitarian concerns, but in practice Turkey’s policy decisions should be understood as a defence of the rights of the state rather than those of the individual.


‘Islamists are Muslims who, rather than accept an inherited Muslim tradition, have developed their own self-conscious vision of Islam, which is then brought to bear on social and political events. This vision can involve the liberal, modernist interpretations of the Qur’an or more restrictive positions on the characteristics of a proper Muslim life’ (White, 2008, p358)
[2] ‘Generally speaking, the Kemalist position combines a kind of authoritarian democracy with a westernised secular lifestyle. Kemalists are concerned about safeguarding laicism and its guarantee of free choice of lifestyle, particularly for women, but to do so are willing to limit choice in the realm of religious expression’ (White, 2008, p357-8)
[3] ‘A torn country … has a single predominant culture which places it in one civilization but its leaders want to shift it to another civilization’ (Huntington, 1996, p138)
[4] Defined as ‘Support in one form or another, official or unofficial, overt or covert, material, human, diplomatic, financial, symbolic, or military … from one or more kin countries or groups’ (Huntington, 1996, p272).
[5] Sometimes described as Turkey’s ‘deep’, ‘praetorian’, or ‘guardian’ state (Öktem, 2011, p8)
[6] ‘Between Sentiment and Self-Interest: Turkey’s Policy toward Azerbaijan and the Central Asian States’ (Robins, 1993a)
[7] Caplan, Judah, and Gow all argue that EC and US recognition of Bosnia was not a cause but a pretext for the Bosnian Serbs to implement a prepared strategy, as Belgrade and the Bosnian Serbs had already started developing their strategy as early as 1990 and initiated sporadic violence long before April 1992 (Caplan 1998, p37; Judah, 2009, p203, Gow, 1997 p34)
[8] Britain’s Prime Minister, John Major, attributed the Bosnian conflict to ‘impersonal and inevitable forces beyond anyone’s control’. (Mazower, 2001, p143)
[9] Resolution 752 demanded the withdrawal and disbanding of ‘all forms of interference from outside Bosnia and Herzegovina’ (S/RES/752, 15 May 1992, Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, p7). Resolution 757 condemned Serbia and Montenegro for their ‘failure … to take effective measures to fulfil the requirements of resolution 752’ and imposed a series of punitive sanctions on the two countries (S/RES/757, 20 May 1992, ibid.). Resolution 758 enlarged the ‘mandate and strength’ of the UN Protection Force in Sarajevo (S/RES/758, 8 June 1992, ibid, p12)
[10] Final Communiqué of the Fifth Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, Istanbul, 18th June 1992 (OIC website)
[11] Şule Kut notes that ‘details about its substance are based on information form private interviews with Turkish officials and foreign diplomats in Ankara in February and March 1993 and on a speech by Foreign Minister Hikmet Çetin on November 13, 1992’ (Kut, 1995, p303)
[12] A UN-EC joint initiative, with Cyril Vance representing the UN and Lord David Owen the EC
[13] Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadžić described the plan as a “more realistic approach from the West” (Bethlehem and Weller (eds.), 1997, xlvi)
[14] According to Saideman, this makes the assumption that politicians, motivated by ‘the desire to gain and maintain political office’, respond in a rational manner to the desires of their constituents. Because those constituents ‘are most likely to care about the plight of those with whom they shared ethnic ties’, ‘decisionmakers will support the combatants in ethnic conflicts elsewhere that share some sort of ethnic bond with their constituents’ (Saideman, p8)
[15] ‘A state which has perceived ‘kin’ – however defined – outside its borders’ (Poulton, p194)
[16] Although they were described as such by Serb propaganda
[17] “Slobodan Milosevic is a member of the Scottish Mason Lodge and therefore supported by his Masonic Brothers” (Zaman, Sep 1, 1992, quoted in Bora, 1995, p117)
[18] Gangloff points out that ‘At the same time, Greece gathered one million people in Athens in demonstrations on the Macedonian question.’ (Gangloff, 2000/2001 p2)
[19] As James Gow admits, the term ‘international community’ is ‘somewhat nebulous’ (Gow, 1997, p3) Glenny describes the term as a ‘bland new title’ the ‘great powers’ that had been attempting to solve the ‘Great Eastern Question’ since the 19th century (Glenny 2000, p635-6)
[20] As symbolised by the granting of membership to the UN
[21] For Greece’s official position on the Macedonian naming dispute, see The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia name issue on the website of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs
[22] In his history of Bosnia, Noel Malcolm cites a sentence in the Islamic Declaration, a tract written by Izetbegović in the 1960s, ‘frequently quoted in isolation by Serbian propagandists’, that ‘there is no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions’ (quoted in Malcolm, 2002, p220). This is precisely the sentence quoted in isolation by Huntington in support of his argument (see Huntington, 1996, p269).
[23] Muslims constituted 44% of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s population
[24] See ‘Warring Factions Agree on Plan to Divide up Former Yugoslavia’, The Washington Post, 8th May 1992
[25] Speech by Mihailo Marković, SSP Vice-President, 9th October 1991



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