Turkey has finally shrugged off the straightjacket of a tight U.S.
alliance, grown virtually indifferent to E.U. membership and turned
its focus toward its former Ottoman neighbors in Asia and the Middle
East, writes Alastair Crooke in the New York Times.

Though not primarily meant as a snub to the West, this shift does
nonetheless reflect growing discomfort and frustration with U.S. and
E.U. policy, from the support of Israel's action in Gaza to Iran to
the frustrated impasse of the European accession process. It also
resonates more closely with the Islamic renaissance that has been
taking place within Turkey.

If Turkey continues successfully down this path, it will be as
strategically significant for the balance of power in the region as
the emergence of Iran as a pre-eminent power thanks to the collapse
of the Soviet Union and the later destruction of Sunni dominance in
Iraq by the U.S. invasion.

In recent months, a spate of new agreements have been signed by
Turkey with Iraq, Iran and Syria that suggest a nascent commonality
of political vision. A new treaty with Armenia further signals how
seriously Ankara means its "zero problem" good neighbour policy.

More importantly, however, the agreements with Iraq, Iran and Syria
reflect a joint economic interest. The "northern tier" of Middle
Eastern states are poised to become the principal supplier of natural
gas to central Europe once the Nabucco pipeline is completed - thus not
only displacing Russia in that role but gradually eclipsing the primacy
of Saudi Arabia as a geostrategic kingpin due to its oil reserves.

Taken together with the economic stagnation and succession crisis
that has incapacitated Egypt, it is clear, according to Crooke,
that the so-called moderate "southern tier" Middle Eastern states
that have been so central to American policies are becoming a weak
and unreliable link indeed.

Political players in the region can't but notice the drift of power
from erstwhile U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia toward the northern
tier states, and are starting to readjust to the new power reality.

This can most clearly be seen in Lebanon, where a growing procession
of former U.S. allies and critics of the Syrian government, including
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat and, reportedly, some of
the March 14 movement's Christian leaders, are making their pilgrimage
to Damascus. That message is not lost on others in the region.

If the Obama administration is not fully cognizant of these
developments, its awareness will surely be raised as it attempts to
mobilize the world for a new round of punitive sanctions against Iran.

These sanctions are likely to fail not only because Russia and China
won't go along in any serious way, but precisely because the much
touted "alliance of moderate pro-Western Arab states" is turning out
to be a paper tiger.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not only embraced
the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election, but has insisted
as well on the right of Iran as a sovereign nation to enrich uranium.

Unlike Western leaders, he doesn't at all seem inordinately worried
about Iran's course.

The U.S. and Europe are going to have to grapple with the pending
replacement of its "southern tier" allies in the Middle East by the
rising clout of the "northern tier" states. It would be best to make
this adjustment sooner rather than later. None of the issues that
matter to the West - the nuclearization of Iran, Israel's security,
the future of energy supplies - can be solved by ignoring the emergent
reality of a new Middle East.