It is the friendship Western policymakers wish they could have prevented: Turkey- secular, Western-leaning, and a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - drawing close to a resurgent theocratic Iran whose nuclear program and geopolitical ambitions present a full-frontal challenge to the established international order.

June 22, 2010

[But] Turkish television has given the soap a fresh twist by making the connivers, kidnappers and canoodlers Muslims. And it is Arab audiences, even more than Turks, who have been swept off their feet...Through the small screen, Turkey has begun to exercise a big influence at Arab dinner tables, in boardrooms and bedrooms from Morocco to Iraq. Politics and culture go hand in hand, here as elsewhere.

With passions winding down three weeks after Israel’s bloody interception of the Mavi Marmara, officials and analysts are taking stock of the implications of Turkey’s regional resurgence.

Rising middle-level powers such as Turkey and Iran in the Middle East and Brazil in South America now are challenging the diplomatic supremacy of Washington. Earlier this month, the new contours of diplomatic power were on display in Istanbul.

Turkey has long been seen as a land bridge between East and West. For decades it has tried to impress Europe and to persuade Europe to let it join the European Union. In recent times, Turkey has been refurbishing its ties with countries that border it like Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

An old debate among scholars and opinion makers on whether Turkey is sliding away from West towards East has again picked up speed, but this time with the open involvement of politicians in the West.

Turkey's political stock has plummeted in Washington over the last few weeks. For decades Turkey was widely viewed as a reliable Nato ally, prickly at times but safely in America's corner. Now, suddenly, it is being denounced as a turncoat, a "frenemy", a defector from the coalition of the virtuous and budding convert to to the Islamist cause.

Today, a dynamic neo-Ottoman spirit animates Turkey. Once rigidly secular, it has begun to fashion a moderate Islamic democracy. Once dominated by the military, it is in the process of containing the army within the rule of law. Once intolerant of ethnic diversity, it has begun to reexamine what it means to be Turkish. Once a sleepy economy, it is becoming a nation of Islamic Calvinists. Most critically of all, it is fashioning a new foreign policy.