(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/06/erdo.jpg)On his visit to Turkey in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed that Turkey and the U.S. can build “a model partnership” and in an interview with Time in January 2012, he spoke of “the bonds of trust” he had forged with certain leaders, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Traditional Turkish foreign policy, based on Atatürk’s dictum “peace at home and peace abroad,” has been replaced by a delusion, created by former foreign and now prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, that Turkey can restore its former Ottoman magnificence. As Davutoglu proclaimed in Sarajevo in 2009, “Like in the 16th century, when the Ottoman Balkans were rising, we will once again make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey, the center of world politics.”
The main thrust of this new policy has been to create a Muslim Brotherhood crescent running from Egypt through Turkey to Syria to rival Iran’s Shia crescent, but this policy has been a dismal failure. Turkish ambassadors have been withdrawn from Syria, Egypt, Israel, Libya and Yemen, and recently from Austria and the Vatican, after their acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide, resulting in what Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s chief adviser, in a tweet two years ago, called “precious loneliness.”
It was the same Kalin who, in a keynote speech at the Istanbul Forum in 2012, rejected the European model of secular politics, democracy and pluralism in favor of what he termed a “value-based” (read: Islamist) foreign policy. However, the AKP government’s attempt to overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has seriously backfired, but they have still not given up trying to drag the U.S. into the quagmire. Turkey’s proposal for the creation of a safe zone and no-fly zone in Syria has been met with no response, and in return Turkey has denied its NATO ally the use of Incirlik airbase for sorties against Islamic State (ISIL).
Consequently, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington has in its April report concluded that Turkey is an increasingly undependable ally, and that because of the fundamental strategic disparities between Ankara and Washington, the U.S. should look to other regional players, for example, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government), for support.
An overriding factor in the BPC’s conclusions has been the Turkish government’s ideologically driven backing for extremist Sunni groups in Syria, where it has acted as a highway for would-be jihadists, who have been given free rein to travel through, recruit from, equip, operate and recuperate in Turkey.
Furthermore, a report from the U.N.’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concludes that Turkey has also provided the primary routes for arms smuggled to ISIL and the Al-Nusrah Front, an Al-Qaida affiliate.
In the run-up to the Turkish elections on Sunday, there is a furor about video footage published last Friday by secular daily Cumhuriyet, which shows a shipment of weapons and ammunition disguised as humanitarian aid for Syria on trucks belonging to MIT (Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization), Erdogan’s Praetorian Guard. Reuters has also confirmed how MIT helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014.
Characteristically, the public prosecutors and gendarmerie officers involved in intercepting the arms shipment have been arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. A gag order has been imposed on coverage of the scandal and President Erdogan has personally threatened Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief with retribution. He has now filed a criminal complaint against the newspaper and its editor, demanding a life sentence.
The Turkish military is also uneasy about the charges brought against the gendarmerie officers involved, as their actions fall under military jurisdiction.
However, there is no reason to believe President Erdogan will give way without a struggle. As the Bipartisan Policy Center notes, losing power would be tantamount to a prison sentence, at best, and is simply not an option.
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