Turkey’s Erdogan Tangled in His Own Web of Deceit

Turkey’s foreign policy centered around Recep Erdogan’s ambitions has been devised as a giant web weaved all across Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe. Now the Turkish leader may fall prey to his own schemes.

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“Zero problems with neighbors” – this was the catchy motto selected by then Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for his country’s foreign policy not so long ago. These days, when the relations of Turkey with neighbors and more distant states alike appear to be made of problems almost entirely, the motto looks like a dark joke – a one that didn’t age well (or did, depending on the point of view) – and gives grounds for re-evaluation of the Turkish leadership’s actions and decisions that led the country to its current state.

Indeed, it was in the relations with its neighbors, first and foremost Syria, where Turkey faced the crucial challenges over the past few years. Under the leadership of Recep Erdogan Turkey intervened into the Syrian conflict, having cut ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad and started open military confrontation with the Syrian Kurds.

As the Syrian crisis quickly escalated from a local conflict to a full-blown proxy war involving both regional and global powers, Turkey’s move threatened to undermine its relations with the concerned parties. Ankara’s intervention clashed with the interests of all of Russia, Iran and the US, putting bilateral ties and projects under threat. The acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems went through only after multiple delays and difficulties. In turn, the US removed Turkey from F-35 joint fighter program altogether. Turkey-Iran relations also experienced a a substantial decline. Moreover, aggressive policies pursued by Turkish leadership unnerved NATO members, prompting them to reconsider Turkey’s status in the alliance. Already worsening relations with European states were further deteriorated by Turkey’s ambiguous stance on the migration crisis after Erdogan elected to exploit the issue to blackmail the EU leaders, simultaneously threatening to open borders and demanding financial assistance.

The same stands true for Turkey’s actions in Libya, where Ankara supports the Government of National Accord, and hence confronts the Libyan National Army led by strongman Khalifa Hafter, who is backed by both regional players and EU states wary of a new influx of migrants from Libya.

It is no surprise that Turkey’s ungainly efforts to export its Syrian experience to Libya brought equally woeful results. As in Syria, Ankara found itself in collision with Moscow and resorted to verbal attacks against the Russians. Imagine the absurdity of the situation: Turkey accused Russia of sending Syrian militants to Libya – despite Recep Erdogan’s open claims about Turkey doing the very same (it must be noted that Erdogan’s statements did not discourage Turkish police from arresting two journalists who reported on death of Turkish intelligence officer in Libya). And on top of that, Turkey pays double the amount of reward Russia allegedly provides to those willing to travel to Libya, according to an Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov.

Israeli analyst backing Turkish narrative is peculiar enough to suggest that Erdogan’s meddling with a three-dimensional chess game was, unbeknown to him, exploited by a much more competent player who did not miss the opportunity to create tension where it suits them.

It is only to be expected that sooner or later – likely the former, taking into account the situation – the schemes cunningly composed and guilefully executed by the Turkish leadership will end in the only possible and totally foreseeable way – Recep Erdogan finding himself tangled in his own web of deceit. For that, he will have no one to blame but his ambitions.

Ahmad al-Khaled is a Syrian journalist with primary focus on the involvement of foreign actors in the Syrian conflict and its consequences on both regional and global levels. He currently resides in the United Kingdom.

4 thoughts on “Turkey’s Erdogan Tangled in His Own Web of Deceit”

  1. “Imagine the absurdity of the situation: Turkey accused Russia of sending Syrian militants to Libya – despite Recep Erdogan’s open claims about Turkey doing the very same.”

    Gee……where have I seen that before? It seems rampant hypocrisy is the universal attribute of all State functionaries.

  2. Let us see. The author strikes me as one of many narrative creators.
    This particular narrative is West-commissioned. Let us see. Author is listing every carefully embellished reason why we should think that Erdogan is stupid.
    Contrary to the narrative — policies Turkey is pursuing are very logical. And contrary to superficial thinking, Turkey is pursuing regional power goals, to both advance Turkey’s security and economic interests. Turkey’s regional role is supported by Russia, Iran and China. It is supported by Iraq and — believe it or not — Syria. Trump likes to praise strongmen if he feels he can stroke their egos and get what he wants. Did not work with Turkey, nor Orban nor Hefter.
    Turkey and Russia keep tactical ambiguities— needs must. From Kurdish play, Idlid, Libya — same game. They take charge of the opponents in a conflict then once firmly under their control — solve the problem jointly. It worked like a charm with demolishing Kurdish would be autonomy in Syria, in Turkey corralling most militants along Turkish-Syrian border, and permanently securing the porous border with Russia’s help. Patrols are on-going. Syria protected from Kurds on both sides of border forming continuous areas. Turkey corralling Western supported PKK. Iraq and Peshmerga Kurds grateful for Turkey’s actions against PKK that West supported inside Iraq. Turkey and Peshmerga Kurds on good terms. Turkey and Russia have cut up Idlib by patrolling M-4. Turkey is moving in weapons to help growing number of militant groups in Idlib under
    its control AGAINST HTS. HRS is Western funded through White Helmets, a romantic special ops funded mostly by UK and US. Once Turkey peels off militants from HTS — it will have to fold tent and arrange for decamping. Or will have to split — those that will integrate under Turkey or be evacuated. Post-HTS Idlib will be ready with the rest if Syria for political process.

    Libya is the same game. US placed “unity” recognized government in Tripoli, dismissing Heftar as “has been”. With the help of Egypt and Russia took over mist of the country. US then started courting him, taking helpless Tripoli for granted. And kind of ignoring Russian-Egyptian advice hoping to cut the deal with US. He was threatened as his family is living in US. Russia-Turkey deal again, this time Turkey to support abandoned Tripoli, getting Heftar wrong -footed.
    And incidentally — thwart Israeli claim on East Mediterranean exclusive rights on gas finds. With Turkey-Libya deal, no pipelines can go to Greece without their participation. Now more Russia-Turkey tactical ambiguity— trading comical barbs about Syrian fighters. The less militants in Syria, the better. Some are actually returning home, as they were initially hired to “help” liberate Syria.

    When all is said and done, Assad will be more then ready to retire, and the battle hardened government and military will provide stability and continuity, allowing for constitutional committee to move elections along. Turkey eill along with Egypt emerge as regional power.
    And peace with neighbors will be on a firm footing, not endangered by Kurdish or Islamic proxies any more. With Saudis now playing poor US cannot be too mad if they no longer shell out money for assorted Salafi freedom living head choppers.
    In Lubya, Heftar being taken a peg down us good for him — he is less of a king maker, thus his family is safe for now. US does not have much influence with either camp.

    As for hinting Israeli pleasure — it matters nothing at all what Israel does at present. It is too busy planning annexation of West Bank, and having fun bombing Syria.

    Once all of Syria is ready for elections — and a legitimate government elected — Israel will lose its current flexibility.

    But then — it may try its luck with Lebanon again.

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