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Weekly Standard Prescience Alert

From the archives.

11:00 AM, Jun 8, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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We were flipping through back issues of the magazine when we were reminded that Hillel Fradkin and I. Lewis Libby anticipated Turkey's Islamist turn in the February  22, 2010, issue. The piece was headlined "Twilight of the Arabs." Here's a choice cut:

Today, the Muslim world feels the growing reach of Iran and Turkey. These two—and even perhaps Pakistan, another non-Arab state—will mark the greater Muslim world in days to come. The region is returning to older patterns, driven by the states that run from the Bosphorus to the Straits of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea. Along this line lie critical chokepoints and rich concentrations of resources in the fields of western Anatolia, the waters of Mesopotamia, and the accessible oil and gas deposits of the greater Persian Gulf. For a thousand years, non-Arab states along this line dominated the Middle East. Their heirs today hold weaker hands, but their ancient hegemony furthers their belief that they are the natural leaders of the Muslim world. The dynamics of the key states along this line—including the future interactions of Turkey, Iran, and a representative Iraq—will set the course of leadership in the Islamic world.

Only a few years ago, some in the West hoped that elections in Iran would mellow the country’s leadership and that reforms would follow. But the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard have turned to their most radical supporters to violently suppress dissent at home. In time, the regime may be toppled, but it won’t be readily turned. Iran’s nuclear weapons program has raced from rumor to credible reality, and it nourishes the mullahs’ dreams of regional dominance. Iran’s terrorist proxies prosper—Hezbollah secure in Lebanon, Hamas ruling Gaza. And Iran’s open defiance of the West has only buoyed her in the keen eyes of the Muslim world. Iran can today claim preeminence. Her influence moves where once the Arabs readily held sway—Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine—and threatens Arab interests in the smaller Gulf states. Even Egypt, the largest Arab state, has lately complained of Iranian interference in its affairs. 

Turkey, too, seeks a greater role in the wider Muslim world. Atatürk propelled the country to be modern and to look toward Europe for its future. The Turks shunned the fez and the headscarf, and they built a modern economy and one of the largest armies in NATO. But under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development party, Turkey increasingly looks away from Europe—which has constantly rejected the Turks’ desire for a path to EU membership—and back towards the Muslim world from which it arose. The age of terror has only reinforced Europeans’ unease in embracing the Turks, and in the arched halls of Istanbul, nostalgia is rising for the Ottoman era. Turkey has reached out to Iran and to radical forces such as Hamas. Such acts are an expression of its new orientation and ambitions.

In the days since the flotilla incident, the left keeps reminding us that Turkey is a member of NATO. True--but for how long?

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