- Turkey’s Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan: State Identity and Security in the Middle East and the Caucasus
In addition to surveying the characteristics of an interesting Middle Eastern — a term that currently includes the Caucasus — trilateral relationship, the purpose of this book, which evolved from a doctoral dissertation, is to develop a more suitable framework for the examination of informal alliances in the post-Cold War era and age of globalization. Alexander Murinson utilizes the “core concepts” of the Constructivist school in International Relations and the theory of Transnationalism, which hold that transnational and subnational actors play a greater role in state identities than in the past and that the formations of alignments between countries are not “driven exclusively by rational calculations of power balances” (p. 3).
After introducing theoretical arguments, Murinson analyzes the “building blocks of the relationship” between Turkey, Israel, and Azerbaijan: their shared identities as “garrison” states, which give high priority to security concerns; their “like-minded or Westernistic” [Murinson’s term] orientations (i.e., pro-Western, secular, and constitutionally nationalist characteristics); and their “loneliness” (i.e., rejection by their neighbors). Murinson focuses on events from 1992 (Azerbaijan achieved its independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991), through 2005, when the moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AKP, began to consolidate its power in Turkey, having been elected into office three years earlier. Murinson prefers the term “entente” to describe this “brief period of convergence of foreign policy interests,” which peaked in 1999, as being unlike an alliance and more like a “tenuous arrangement” with greater susceptibility “to fluctuations in domestic politics and foreign policy calculations of its members” (pp. 1–3). While Ofra Bengio1 and Efraim Inbar2 have published monographs concentrating on the Turkish-Israeli angle, Murinson includes Azerbaijan, which was a part of this post-Cold War United States-supported “informal alliance” that counterbalanced the one backed by Russia, which included Armenia and Iran.
Murinson examines the roles of the military-industrial complexes in Turkey and Israel, as well as with the security apparatus in Azerbaijan in the formation and evolution of the entente. He also examines the influence of the American Jewish lobby, think tanks (especially in the United States), and petroleum interests. In addition, he discusses the common threat perceptions of the three countries during the 1990s. According to Murinson, the increasing role of public opinion and Islamism (especially following the al-Aqsa, or Second Intifada) and the unpopularity of the 2003 Iraq War in Turkey, along with greater civilian control in Turkish politics and the AKP’s emphasis on improving relations with Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbors, contributed to what he describes as the “involution of the trilateral axis” (p. 115). It is true that both Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul have made official visits to Israel. Interestingly, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has not. Nor has Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Tel Aviv. However, Erdogan’s strong criticism of Israel’s behavior during the 2009 Gaza War and Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Armenia have had negative effects on Turkish-Israeli and Turkish-Azerbaijani relations, respectively. Unfortunately, Murinson does not mention developments beyond 2005, though he does conclude: “The strategic Turkish-Israel-Azerbaijani axis is bound to dissolve as the AKP government realigns Turkish foreign policy in the direction of greater cohesion with its Middle Eastern neighbors” (p. 151).
Murinson provides a thorough account of Turkey-Israel-Azerbaijan relations — the motivations behind their actions and the various [End Page 493] actors who have shaped or influenced these relationships. Yet, while the book is well documented and includes a fairly extensive bibliography, it fails to include two of this reviewer’s works.3 Murinson also mistakenly identifies Jacob Abadi — for whom there are three citations in the bibliography — as “Israeli” instead of “Israeli-born” or “American” (p. 5...