[first published on July 13, 2015]
Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Turkey.
Turkey: A non-Arab Sunni state resacralizing and reorienting towards the Islamic world
by A. Joseph Lynch
Turkey has 80 million people and is the eighth largest military in the world-the largest (rated by Global Firepower) in the Mideast. It is geostrategically situated at the crossroads of three civilizations: Orthodox Russia, the Islamic Middle East, and the atheist-superstate (and successor to the Soviet Union) that is the European Union. With one foot in Europe and another in Asia, Turkey controls the important waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Aegean. Occupying what has been called 'Asia Minor,' Turkey was once part of the ancient Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires before comprising the heartland of the Christian Byzantine Empire and thereafter the Muslim Ottoman-Turkic Empires. With its empire dissolved following World War I, the modern state of Turkey was forged by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk whose secularizing principles sought to incorporate Turkey into modern European society and away from its historically Islamic past. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952 and today has the second largest standing military in NATO after the United States (all males are required to serve and conscientious objection is not accepted). Turkey has also long sought entrance into the European Union, but despite its efforts to mimic the atheist West, Turkey is still seen as an outsider and its entry has never been approved.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkey's current President has spearheaded a movement to return to Turkey's Muslim roots and reorient itself towards the Islamic world. Here, however, Turkey is also somewhat of an outsider. Despite its Sunni Muslim faith, the vast amount of Turkey's population is ethnically Turkic rather than Arab. Turkey is thus not a member of the Arab League; nor, due to geography, the Gulf States. Egypt and Turkey are regional rivals and Turkey's Sunni faith puts it at odds with Shia Iran, Syria, and Yemen. Turkey also has centuries of bad relations and wars with Orthodox Russia to the north and its allies in the Caucasus (particularly Armenia). Turkey itself is comprised of around 20% Kurds, who have expressed a deep desire for autonomy. This has led to Turkey often turning a blind eye in regards to ISIS and even expressing worries over recent Iraqi-Kurdish gains against ISIS along Turkey's border with Syria.A key educational and cultural movement in Turkey is an Islamic global network called the Gulen. Understanding them and their relation to the present government is a key communal loyalty to decipher. The link is to their web page. There are many other perspectives on their role. Here was a good piece of reporting from 2010.