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Turkey is paying the price for Erdogan’s heedless misadventures

Farouq Yousuf

Published: Updated:

Turkey’s current interventionist approach is that of a malevolent state. It is waging unnecessary battles without needing to, making it susceptible to sanctions that could bring down its already vulnerable economy without having the ability to respond to those sanctions in kind.

Read more: The Erdogan-Macron tussle

Turkey’s approach was different back when other powers were still standing in the region. The political unrest and collapse in many of the region’s countries have played a role in revealing its misguided sense of superiority.

Over the past few years, Turkey has taken many ill-advised actions that reflect the absence of political awareness.

If we attribute Iran’s expansionist agenda to its aspirations to export the revolution, then how can we explain Turkey’s meddling in neighboring wars? If we look back to the time that preceded all of Erdogan’s latest misadventures, we can see that the Turkish private sector managed to achieve a remarkable economic boom, especially at the level of food industries.

People wearing masks for protection against the spread of coronavirus, walk over Eminonu bridge in Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (AP)
People wearing masks for protection against the spread of coronavirus, walk over Eminonu bridge in Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (AP)

The question here, why is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking on the role of the hero in all these conflicts?

Why wasn’t this economic and touristic success enough of a reason to dismiss his misguided military aspirations, especially since Turkey has had a long history of military coups against civilian life?

Erdogan could have focused his energy on this success, which is the result of the efforts made by the governments that preceded him and he merely reaped the fruits of their labor during his reign. He could have focused on presenting Turkey as a successful country that deserves recognition from the European Union, so that it may reconsider Turkey’s request for joining it.

However, on a personal level, Erdogan was not really in favor of Turkey joining the European Union, because he does not wish to abide by the European human rights conditions including severing all ties with terrorist groups.
Turkey commenced its intervention in regional wars in northern Iraq immediately after its occupation in 2003.

At the time, it was argued that Turkey needed to hunt down the militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish opposition party whose Kurdish members have used areas ruled by Iraqi Kurds as bases to attack Turkish territories.

Back then Iraq was in disarray and the argument was believable.

In 2011, the same interventionist approach was repeated in Syria. The Syrian regime was weakened, and Turkey managed to clear a passage for all factions and terrorist organizations. It did not stop there; Turkish troops entered Syria and joined the fight in order to impose a safe zone within Syrian territories.

A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter rides on a motorbike near burning tires during a protest against the agreement on joint Russian and Turkish patrols, at M4 highway in Idlib province, Syria, March 15, 2020. (Reuters)
A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter rides on a motorbike near burning tires during a protest against the agreement on joint Russian and Turkish patrols, at M4 highway in Idlib province, Syria, March 15, 2020. (Reuters)

One could say that the Syrian crisis presented a whole new uncharted reality. Turkey clashed with Russia on Syrian soil, and even though this clash was settled, Turkey was never held accountable for its military presence on Syrian soil. Turkey could justify its presence in Syria in the same way it did in Iraq.

However, its intervention in the Libyan crisis can never be justified as self-preservation.

Before attempting to understand Turkey’s intentions in Libya, let’s note how the Turkish lira was impacted in light of the endless misadventures undertaken by Turkey as it continues to challenge major countries. The Turkish lira has collapsed, and the Turkish economy has been reeling. Moreover, many private sector companies went bankrupt when Turkish goods were boycotted in a number of Arab countries.

At this point, there is no doubt that Turkey no longer respects international law. Sending Syrian mercenaries to participate in the war in Libya only serves Erdogan’s agenda and not Turkey’s interests.

Turkish armed forces train Libyan fighters. (Turkish Ministry of National Defense)
Turkish armed forces train Libyan fighters. (Turkish Ministry of National Defense)

We must start making this distinction between Erdogan with his delusions of grandeur and Turkey.

Erdogan’s mindset is the byproduct of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, and his actions seem to serve the objectives of this global religiopolitical organization. There is no denying that Erdogan is abusing his power as president which makes the Turkish people more susceptible to the Brotherhood’s nefarious schemes.

Erdogan will only relinquish power to a Muslim Brotherhood successor, who has not yet been chosen. Therefore, in the meantime, he will do everything in his power to resist and challenge the sanctions he awaits from the United States and the European Union.

It is unlikely that he will repeat the same shortsighted actions that the Iranians have made.

This time, I suspect that he will be compliant. From now on, his actions will not be taken lightly, not only because the region is currently facing its most dire challenges, but also because Europe and the United States are undergoing a transitional period that does not allow for much leniency.

If Erdogan fails to understand these transitions, the consequences could be disastrous for Turkey. Turkey will unjustly pay the steep price of Erdogan’s heedless misadventures. In my opinion, this scenario is very likely to happen if the Turkish army remains neutral.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Al-Arab Newspaper.

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