Turkey on a war path | The Levant

Turkey on a war path

Olivier Guitta
Olivier Guitta

In 2003, when he came to power, the Islamist Erdogan was viewed by many seasoned Turkey experts as “business as usual”. Some of us read this election as most concerning and expected Erdogan to overturn most of Ataturk’s achievements. Sadly, years of this regime have proven us right: both domestically and internationally Erdogan has followed the path dictated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey is now undoubtedly on a war footing and will have to be stopped. Turkey 

Just a few days ago, in an extremely aggressive and violent speech that was not reported in the media, Erdogan made clear there is an opportunity for Turkey to rise after the Covid-19 pandemic that will cause massive changes in the global political and economic system. Erdogan spells out arguments for war, sounding very much like Hitler in 1938. For proof, he said:

We already know the goals of the countries that have made a lot of noise in recent days are not aimed at the Hagia Sophia or the Eastern Mediterranean, but rather the presence of the Turkish nations and Muslims in this geography. Our vision of a big powerful Turkey has slowly started to flesh out, yielding concrete results. There is no power that can stand in the way of a nation that marches into battle with a mindset of “If we die, we become martyrs; if we live, we become veterans”.We warn you if you are willing to pay the same prize we have paid, we dare you to come forward to the field for a battle. We will continue the battle until our last breath.

How did we get this point? Erdogan has been emboldened in the past year by the West allowing him a free pass while Turkey intervened illegally in four countries: Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.Additionally, Turkey has threatened intervening military in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict.

Erdogan has made Syria one of its domestic and foreign policy priorities, mostly because of the large presence of Kurds. As the Ottoman empire controlled the region for 401 years, the Turkish public does not see Turkey as an outsider in Syria.After multiple illegal military interventions in Syria over the past four years to go after the Kurds, today Turkey controls a string of areas along its southern border representing roughly 5% of Syria. There are an estimated four million Syrians in the territory under Turkey’s control. Turkey is also using its currency to tighten its grip on northern Syria, especially in Afrin and Idlib. Ankara is expanding the use of Turkish lira in parts of Syria it controls, heralding a possible long-term presence. In early July, Turkey reduced the flow of water from the Euphrates River into NE Syria’s dam,depriving hundreds of civilians access to water that is used to generate electricity and irrigate crops. Nobody voiced any outrage.

Since the beginning of the year, the big intervention is taking place in Libya, a huge strategic target for Ankara. Controlling Libya will allow Erdogan to link up with the Muslim Brotherhood-linked GNA; have access to the largest oil producer in Africa; to make its TurkStream pipeline stronger against the competing EastMed; recoup some of its $30B investment under Gaddafi and add another piece to his dreamed Caliphate.After the military bases and the oil, Turkey is already planning to totally control Libya’s economy. Turkish state lenders will help set up Libya’s banking system and regulator. Work is already being done to funnel payments through Turkey for key Libyan imports.Turkish forces have been provided immunity against any prosecution.According to the U.S. Pentagon, in the first quarter,Turkey has sent to Libya between 3,500 and 3,800 paid Syrian fighters.

The current estimate of Syrian mostly jihadists fighting for the GNA stands between 9,000 and 11,000.Erdogan is not shy about flexing his muscles; his spokesman warned rival Egypt against any deployment of forces in Libya:“It will be a dangerous military adventure for Egypt.” In most interventions but especially in Libya, Erdogan is bankrolled by the other main supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, the tiny rich emirate of Qatar.

If the foreign interventions were not enough to worry the international community, there are also more signals thatErdogan is pursuing his quest for nuclear weapons. Along Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline, the Russians are building four large civilian nuclear power reactors and Ankara could also use the close link to Pakistan to get nuclear technology.

On the domestic level, Erdogan has destroyed the secularity characteristic so dear to Ataturk. Last proof of this is theconversion to a mosque of the iconic Hagia Sophia. Just after this took place, a Turkish magazine close to Erdogan called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate; the cover reads “Now Hagia Sophia and Turkey are independent. Get together for Caliphate.”

Erdogan’s master plan of expanding Turkey’s zone of influence could well work because he has successfully tamed down the three nations that can stand in his way: U.S., Russia and China. With the U.S., he has been able to manipulate President Trump, being from far the world leader that spoke the most to Trump, sometimes phoning at least twice a week. Trump’s standing orders were to put through Erdogan directly.For Russia, Erdogan has found a Modus Vivendi in both Syria and Libya to avoid direct conflict plus the immense financial potential of TurkStream will profit both nations.

For China, it is more delicate indeed because Erdogan has been vocal about going after China for its treatment of the Turkic Uighur Muslims but it was just revealed that Turkey is actually sending the Uighur refugees back to China, where they face imprisonment and persecution.

Turkey under Erdogan has become a leading enemy of the west while so many NATO nations are oblivious to this fact. History has sadly shown that if no one stands up to a bully, the price to pay is very high. Interestingly while U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden is perceived as being weak on Russia and China, he has called Erdogan “an autocrat” and supports Turkish opposition parties to come to power.

By: Olivier Guitta

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