The row is symptomatic of Turkish anxiety that the country's rising "soft power", based on a booming economy and relative democratic stability ushered in by Erdogan after a long era of military coups, could be threatened by a nascent "Shi'ite axis" embodied by Iran and Maliki's Tehran-backed Baghdad government.

The Islamic Republic of Iran never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity," says Afshin Molavi... "Their handling of their 'soft power' in Iraq is a case in point. Their poll numbers are dwindling, and not only among Sunnis, but also among Shia. They are increasingly seen as heavy-handed and interfering.

An Iraqi adaption of Shakespeare's famous love story opens at the playwright's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon tonight, marking the European premiere of "Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad," according to the World Shakespeare Festival.

Middle East and Asia are usually dominated by stories of war and political confrontations. But in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Gaza and Malaysia, music, art and dance are helping to bring people together. "It's cultural diplomacy, cultural engagement,"...

March 21, 2012

Although the cadre at the top of the party is generally pious, it has not imposed sharia rule in Turkey, as some secularist Turks have feared, and has not geared its foreign policy toward spreading Islamism. Instead, it has focused on soft power and economic interests.

A vestige of the “anti-public diplomacy” of the previous decade is likely to get trimmed. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a giant of a compound that dwarfs in physical size and the number of people of any other diplomatic post, U.S. or otherwise, is likely to shrink. According to The New York Times, the compound costs $6 billion annually. (Seriously?)

What this brief overview argues is that Turkey has consistently tried to avert recourse to intervention and war in the Middle East and to promote diplomatic approaches that rely exclusively on soft power.

Consequently, the government must be wary of the erosion of public diplomacy gains if Kenyan soldiers are perceived negatively. There should be a recognition that any negative profiling of Somalis will undermine the success of the incursion. Kenya should support Somalia without compromising its long-term relations with the country.