In the early 2000's, Assad was opening Syria up to limited reforms leading to a small-scale rapprochement with the West. Today, many US politicians are castigated for having met with Assad and yet from their standpoint to ignore the possibility of wooing away an Iranian and Russian ally would have been foolish. This sunshine period would end when Assad sought to tamper down growing instability. Later everything would blow up and yet there are reasons to suggest foreign influence either initiated the 2011 uprisings or at the very least sought to capitalize on them by stoking the flames.
Erdogan who took office in 2003, tried to restructure Turkey on an Islamic rather than Kemalist basis. This is not to say he was an 'Islamist' or a promoter of either jihad or Sharia. Islam rather than Secular Nationalism allowed for a rapprochement with the Kurds. Turkey had been treated very shabbily by the EU and Erdogan wanted Turkey to embrace Neo-Ottomanism and revert to its historical role as a bridge between Europe and the Near East.
This was not the course US-NATO planners wanted and they began to subvert him. The Iraq War and Palestinian Intifada made things worse. Turkey's relationship with Israel broke down and the US became less than friendly. Russian tensions with the US and Europe created a situation that allowed Turkey to establish ties with Putin. Turkey was off the reservation and NATO was put into a difficult situation. The thought of Turkey breaking with Europe and NATO was unthinkable. Erdogan has known since the beginning that there are plots and schemes against him.
The US has long utilized both Turkey and the Saudis to counter Iran. Iran naturally is driven toward Russia. Their regional and strategic interests overlap. Though the United States has pretended to be an ally to Pakistan, the Americans really need and want India far more. Pakistan was useful during the 1980's and as a counterweight during the days of Indira Gandhi. Today, the US wants India to counter China and it desperately wanted a puppet state in Afghanistan to extend its influence into Central Asia. Pakistan was in the way. Because it possesses nuclear weapons the US wants to maintain a degree of control but the Pakistanis know the United States is not a true ally. In our media Pakistan is portrayed as treacherous. They are less than full allies to be sure and yet the relationship with the US has been something of a devil's bargain at gunpoint for them.
The war in Syria, Russian tensions with NATO, the rise of ISIS, American treachery and other factors have driven Turkey back into its Cold War and 1990's role. Though all seems doom and gloom on the news, the United States has been scoring some significant victories as of late. This is nothing to celebrate. I'm merely making a point.
These 'successes' are not the kind that are easily understood or explained. I am becoming more convinced the Syrian War and the new phase underway in Iraq are also serving a larger purpose in transforming both geopolitics and Western domestic policy into a new era.
And though it would seem things are being 'patched up' with Erdogan, the schemes continue and his situation is still precarious. He's outwardly giving in to American desires, but he's also trying to chart his own path. He might as well because if he's idle, then he knows his days are numbered.