28 Ahmet Davutoglu, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: For Leading from the Front

Article excerpt

Foreign minister, prime minister | Turkey

It wasn't a reference you'll ever hear in Washington's corridors of power: "I say it very clearly: What is happening in Syria right now is exactly the same thing as what happened in Karbala 1,332 years ago," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this fall, referring to one of the foundational battles of Islam, which cemented the divide between Sunni and Shiite. The allusion to sectarian bloodshed may have made some Western leaders cringe, but it also showed why Turkey under Erdogan's leadership has emerged as the Middle East's indispensable power, grappling with the region's struggles over identity and religion in a way no American politician ever could. With the Arab world in disarray and the United States criticized for "leading from behind," Turkey has taken on an increasingly prominent international role, fueled by a belief that its unique culture and history make it an ideal bridge between East and West.

But as Erdogan and his cerebral academic turned foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, are discovering, that new leadership comes at a price. …

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