Erdogan’s decisions are widening his circle of enemies

Erdogan is reaching for another supposedly easy “victory,” this time in Tripolitania. He is instead engaged in a dangerous enterprise that could quickly spin out of control.
Sunday 09/02/2020
President of Turkey and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the party's group meeting at Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on February 5, 2020. (AFP)
President of Turkey and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the party's group meeting at Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on February 5, 2020. (AFP)

If Turkey’s policy of “zero problems with neighbours,” advocated in 2001 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s former mentor, Ahmet Davutoglu, had in the first few years of the reign of the Justice and Development Party appealed to some, today it is a source of derision.

The policy was meant to enable Turkey to become an international power by consolidating its role as a regional pole and, in particular, by establishing close relations with the Arab countries surrounding it. Almost two decades later, the results are disastrous.

Not only does Erdogan find himself in a barely hidden conflict with Davutoglu but he is also confronted by conflicts and wars with all of Turkey’s near and far neighbours.

The “zero problems” approach turned into “a thousand and one problems” approach involving everyone in the vicinity. The French newspaper L’Express ironised that Turkey’s doctrine of “zero problems with neighbours” has turned into “zero neighbours without problems.”

Jean-Baptiste Le Moulec, a specialist of Turkish affairs at the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence, said Davutoglu, who at one time was the heir-designate of Erdogan, shared Erdogan’s “simplistic and binary vision of the world, a world divided between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

No need to include the long and incongruous list of all those who have fallen into the trap of the geopolitical scam promoted by Erdogan.

Syria, which, in its concern to balance its alliance with Shia Iran, had the misfortune of resorting to a partnership with “Sunni” Turkey, discovered that behind the Turkish regime’s promoted image of a moderate state advocating an Islam reconciled with modernity, hid the strategy of reconquering the Arab world using the Muslim Brotherhood and its derivative militant and terrorist groups.

Turkey plunged into a merciless war in Syria by recruiting, equipping and financing militant groups and Islamist formations.

Today, the Syrian Army is only a few kilometres from the capital of Idlib province. To defuse the flood of criticism of his double game and his alleged abandonment of the Islamist rebels, Erdogan pretends to fly to their rescue and sends his occupation army to block the Syrian Army and its allies towards Saraqib. The ensuing clash, resulting in the death of Turkish soldiers, allows for a new redistribution of cards, even a direct conflict with Russia.

Impulsive as he may be, could Erdogan have the temerity to take this step, even though Ankara’s interests are mutually intertwined with those of Moscow?

The only thing left for Erdogan to do is posturing and blustering to calm the anger of his terrorist proteges in Idlib but, rather than implement the commitments he made in Astana and Sochi more than three years ago, Erdogan has the boldness to invoke the right of pursuit provided for by the 1998 Adana Agreement between the two countries.

But the Syrian official press agency SANA reminded Erdogan that the Adana agreement “was aimed at fighting terrorism” and called for securing the borders between the two countries.

Erdogan and the “Syrianisation” of Libya

Erdogan is reaching for another supposedly easy “victory,” this time in Tripolitania. He is engaged in a dangerous enterprise that could quickly spin out of control.

More than 2,500 pro-Turkish mercenaries seem to have been dispatched by Erdogan from Syria to Libya, with the ultimate target of bringing their number to 6,000.

Some of the population in northern Syria accuse Erdogan of double treason: first by letting them down in Idlib and then by transforming them into cannon fodder in Libya in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Isolated from the Arab world and counting only on the Muslim Brotherhood and its Qatari benefactor, Islamist Turkey is falling back on the Libyan front to exert influence in the region. At the opposite, it is the axis of his enemies that is widening by the day. The latest country to alienate was Algeria.

Unrepentant

During his meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Erdogan, pretending to ignore the sensitivity of the painful history between Algeria and France, sought to instrumentalise it by adding oil to the fire.

Erdogan said he had discussed with Tebboune France’s colonial and genocidal past in Algeria, going so far as to advance the imaginary figure of 5 million Algerians killed by France during 132 years of colonisation. He conveniently forgot the various atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire and later by the Young Turks against the Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Arabs and Greeks.

His strategy backfired. He was curtly called to order by the Algerian Foreign Ministry, which immediately issued a statement reframing the declarations of the Turkish repeat offender.

The statement expressed Algeria’s surprise at a statement by Erdogan “and attributed to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.” “Erdogan’s statements do not contribute to Algeria’s and France’s efforts to resolve the issues pertaining to the legacy of the history between both countries,” said the statement. In other words, stay out of our business.

This is not the first time Algerian authorities called Erdogan to order. In January 2012, former Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia made acerbic comments about Erdogan on the same subject when the Turkish president visited Algiers.

Wanting to respond to the adoption, in 2011, by the French parliament of a law recognising the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, Erdogan accused France of having committed a genocide in Algeria.

French President Emmanuel Macron recognised, during his presidential campaign in 2017, that “colonisation is part of French history and it is a crime against humanity.” Erdogan, however, and all his predecessors categorically refused to recognise the massacres Turkey committed against minorities.

Ouyahia said at the time that “no one has the right to use the blood of Algerians as their stock-in-trade.” He reminded Erdogan that Turkey “had voted at the United Nations against the Algerian question from 1954 to 1962” during the war of independence against France.

“Turkey, which was a member of NATO during the Algerian war and which still is, had participated as a member of this alliance in providing military means to France in its war in Algeria.”

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