Miscalculations are a pattern with Erdogan

The Turkish leader was foolish enough to try to have his cake and eat it too by combining the F-35 project with the S-400 missile one.
Saturday 27/07/2019
US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last June. (AFP)
Lost in the fray. US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last June. (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s biggest problem is his refusal to learn from his mistakes. From this point of view, it seems normal that Turkey would pull out of the group of contributors developing the F-35 joint strike fighter, the fighter jet of the future. Erdogan did it to obtain a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile network.

One wonders what would be more important for a country such as Turkey: to remain on good terms with the United States and a basic player within the framework of NATO or to fall into the Russian trap and have the Russian missiles kill Turkey’s F-35 fighter project?

Erdogan should have thought twice before concluding the S-400 deal with Russia. Was Turkey’s participation in the F-35 project just a run-of-the-mill event? Quite obviously, it shouldn’t have been an ordinary event for a country such as Turkey, especially for its military industry that was to become a partner in the production of the aircraft. There were Turkish pilots in the United States training on F-35s.

In June, the Trump administration decided to repatriate Turkish pilots involved in the F-35 project. Turkey has preferred to distance itself from the United States and deemed its membership in NATO dispensable. Will Turkey be able to play the new role that Erdogan wants for it and assume the consequences?

Again, the calculations of the Turkish president seem wrong. He should have learnt from the lesson of nine years ago when he wanted to turn himself into a fierce defender of the Palestinian cause by trying to outdo the Palestinians themselves in particular and the Arabs in general.

Erdogan’s Palestinian adventure ended dismally when the Israeli Navy forced the flotilla of ships he sent loaded with foodstuff to Gaza to turn back. Despite that experience, Erdogan does not seem to have learnt to stop improvising in politics.

The result of the Gaza adventure, which was improvised and tantamount to selling illusions to the Palestinians, was that relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated dismally. Turkey had lost leverage it could have exerted on the government of Binyamin Netanyahu to alleviate the blockade of Gaza which was a kind of mutual interest between Hamas and the Israeli right-wing government.

Erdogan, a believer in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, did not understand that Hamas, which he supported, was benefiting from the Israeli blockade to control Gaza and its people while Israel was trying to market the image of the Hamas-affiliated masked rebel as the only representation of the Palestinians that Israel wanted the world to see.

In the end, Erdogan was deemed a threat to the Palestinians and a mere bidder in the international market for their just cause.

This also applies to a large extent to Erdogan and the Syrians. It is true that Turkey provided sanctuary and facilities for millions of Syrians who fled to it from 2011 onward but it is also true that the Turkish promises to the Syrians to free them from the dictatorship of the minority regime in Syria have remained just that, promises.

What Erdogan ended up doing in Syria was allying himself with the Russians at some point and with the Iranians at another. There was no clearly defined Turkish policy in Syria besides the desire of joining the Russians and the Iranians in the war against the Syrian people.

The Turkish president missed every opportunity that would have allowed his country to be a true regional player. He wasted them with his unholy pact with Iran and by seeking to please Russia. Such a lame policy points to one thing only: being totally lost.

Erdogan was foolish enough to try to have his cake and eat it too by combining the F-35 project with the S-400 missiles one. That bad move resulted in a further loss for Turkey on the regional and international levels.

How can all the mistakes that the man has become an expert at since he became head of the government be explained while he refused to have any partner in power? The only explanation is that Erdogan refuses to admit that he can make mistakes. The most important thing a politician can do is learn from his mistakes.

Erdogan placed Turkey in an unenviable situation. The man is very stubborn and he is adamant on not sharing power given his popularity in the Turkish countryside.

Most of all, Erdogan does not know much about what is happening in the region or the world. He remains a prisoner of the Muslim Brotherhood’s uncreative and inflexible ideology. The only difference between him and Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere is that he happens to be an ideologue who believes that Hassan al-Banna’s ideology has a future while, in reality, it is the gate to backwardness.

Anyone who ponders how Turkey and its pilots were dropped from the F-35 programme will ask a simple question: Turkey, where to?

The answer is simply that its internal situation will deteriorate as long as Erdogan cannot admit that he is fallible and that he has erred many times. He must prove that he is more than just a mere member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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