Turkey: Erdogan’s Foreign Policy Illusions – OpEd


By Maria Maalouf*

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expansionist ambitions in Libya, along with his repeated threats to the UAE, Egypt and other countries, do not mean that he is brilliantly successful in foreign affairs. Generally speaking, foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy and its biggest duty is to promote the security of the nation. While Erdogan continues his suppression of freedoms and civil liberties inside Turkey, he is also aggressively wreaking havoc on many countries.

Erdogan’s foreign policy is made up of two pillars: Support for Islamists everywhere and a paranoid diplomacy that sees increases in his nation’s security from assaulting his neighbors, like he is currently doing in Syria, Iraq and with the Kurds. Predictably, all the interventionist foreign policies he is pursuing will soon collapse. Turkey will then have to resort to its traditional role of being a limited and often weak regional power.

By means of usurpation and falsehoods, Erdogan has arrogated for himself supremacy over the Islamic world, which is made up of many nations, each having equal rights to defend themselves and institute the unity and progress of Muslims. Urged by a desire for dominion, he has raised himself from the position of one among many Muslim leaders to lordship over the interests of other Islamic countries, seeking absolute authority in his tyrannical and demagogic messages.

At the same time, he has transformed Turkey into a nation that suppresses the judiciary and intimidates its citizens. Instead of being the bearer of the Islamic tradition of harmony with Europe and NATO and a reconciler of relations between East and West, he has become a theocratic empire builder. He has perverted decent national efforts to end the civil war in Libya.

His abuse of foreign policy is carried to the extreme, whereby he does not believe that each nation has equal rights to protect its sovereignty, ensure its security and be an active member of the community of nations, upholding the decent principles of mutual respect among the countries of the world. He has resurrected the tradition of mercenary warfare by hiring scores of them to fight his wars in Syria, Libya and against the Kurds, creating routes for them from Central Asia, for example, to deploy them in whichever area he wants to ruin and devastate.

While covert operations are often used to allow a nation to carry out serious secret schemes against others, Erdogan is not shy about his foreign policy assaults. He attacks countries explicitly and viciously. In Libya, he fueled the instability there by transporting militias from Syria to defend the government in Tripoli, whose actions contributed to the division of the country. Even a country like Chad, with its oil and mineral resources, has not escaped his wrath. Despite short-term successes in these two nations, his record will be one of long-term failure.

Needless to say, Erdogan has shepherded the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and has been trying to undermine the legitimacy of the government of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. He is filling the airwaves with propaganda against Egypt, the UAE and other honorable nations.

If Erdogan is labeled the new Ottoman sultan, he will never be able to regain one foot from that defunct empire. If he wants to carve out enclaves for the Islamists in Europe, Syria, Libya and among the Kurds, this is absurd because they do not have any political foundations to sustain their existence. There is no purpose to Erdogan’s foreign policy except power grabbing, and the criteria for his success is territorial aggrandizement.

Hopefully his policies will be a fiasco, meaning Turkey will turn to a new and moderate beginning in its engagement with the world. Will his successors return Turkey to the fold of civilized nations? Most likely, yes. His risky and wrong involvements in many countries are not binding for whoever will rule Turkey after him. There is a disapproval of Erdogan’s policies. This could lead to resistance to him and his proxies, which would yield good results.

Finally, no one should fear his grandiose schemes because many inside Turkey are admitting they have no chance of success. Turkey under Erdogan does not desire peace. One policy now being implemented to ward off the dangers of Erdogan is the German government’s demand that he respect Greece’s maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. This could be a good opportunity to curb Erdogan’s power.

  • Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher and writer. She holds an MA in political sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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