A demonstrator waves Turkey's national flag as he sits on a monument during a protest against Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP in central Ankara, June 2, 2013.
Umit Bektas / Reuters


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When anti-government protests spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, and Syria five years ago, optimists declared that the Middle East was on the precipice of a dramatic democratic transformation. Among the most optimistic were the leaders of Turkey, who saw the upheaval as an opportunity to realize their neo-Ottoman dream of positioning Turkey, a Muslim democracy with close ties to both the West and Arab nations, as a regional leader. Five years later, Arab Spring optimism has collapsed, and with it, Turkish ambitions. Libya and Syria are caught in civil wars, Egypt grows increasingly authoritarian, and Tunisia—arguably the only success story among them—is a magnet for the Islamic State (ISIS). Turkey, meanwhile, has experienced its own rapid reversal of fortune. Rather than projecting influence, Ankara is more isolated than ever.

Years before the Arab Spring erupted, back in 2002, Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development

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