GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Nesibe Hicret
Title of Paper:
A Comparative Study on Soft Power of Turkey and Iran in the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
Power in world politics is one of the oldest themes in the international relations, and it is usually defined within the scope of military and economic capabilities. Hard power instruments have been widely used to by the states to coerce others forcing them to change their positions favoring former ones. Yet, in the recent years other forms of power have been implemented and gained significant successes in the international relations. With that regard, the term “Soft Power”, introduced by Joseph Nye, has come to forefront to understand the changing nature of power. In simplest definition, soft power refers to “ getting others to want the outcomes that you want – co-ops people rather than coerce them” (Nye, 2004, p.5).
Given the increasing importance of soft power in world politics, winning hearts and minds has become one of the indispensible policy agenda of Turkey and Iran in their relations with the Middle Eastern countries. The year 1980 can be considered as a turning point in that regard as the both countries went through gigantic transformation domestically. While an Islamic Republic based on Shia doctrines has replaced Shah regime in Iran; post-coup regime in Turkey has embraced neo-liberal policies. This massive transformation in Iran and Turkey has also altered their foreign policy perspectives towards the neighboring Middle East and especially towards the Gulf. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has concentrated its efforts for winning hearts and minds of the people in the region to legitimize the new regime and to export its revolution to other countries. It is also important to note that geopolitics of soft power through different ideological and religious groups also involves in elaborating Iran’s policies towards the region. Moreover, the rise of neo-conservative powers in both countries (Islamist Justice and Development Party in Turkey and Ahmadinejad’s Presidency in Iran) and regional developments (namely so called Arab Spring) rendered Middle East an arena for their soft power competition. This competition has had its repercussions in the Gulf region as well.
This study examines a comparison of Turkey’s and Iran’s soft power policies and impacts in the six Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and military coup in Turkey through means of analytical, normative, ideological and empirical measures. The main concepts and theories of soft power have been applied and articulated to address the non-coercive policies of Turkey and Iran towards the Gulf region.
The study also studies the real reflections of soft power influence of both states in the six aforementioned countries through public opinion dimension. Due to the gap in the literature, this paper offers an analysis of the available public opinion surveys towards Iran and Turkey; and driving factors of such attitudes to draw a comprehensive and broader picture of soft power policies to two non-Arab regional states.
The initial assumption, there is a sequence in terms of soft power influence of Iran and Turkey in the Gulf: Iran’s soft power in the Gulf has increased after the Islamic revolution continuing its momentum very recently. Yet, the rise in Turkey’s soft power influence coincided with a period where Iran’s soft power was in decline in the region especially in the Arab Spring Era. Due to:
1. Iran’s soft power measures started to reaches the limited audiences in the Gulf due to increased sectarianism in the Gulf
2. Turkey has been embracing less confrontational soft power tools based on popular culture, shared religion and customs to widen its area of influence in that particular part of the world. Political leadership and economic performance of Turkey attracts people from the Gulf.
3. The geopolitics also involve in measuring Iran and Turkey’s soft power in the region, as former’s geographic and political characteristics dictate certain perceptions on Iran in the Gulf region (it has both advantages and disadvantages).