The greater Middle East that Turkey is historically, politically, and religiously has been a part of, presently passes through numerous overlapping and extremely bloody crises. Divisions between those countries that are desirous to maintain the status quo and Iran that wants to radically transform the region to its advantage are running deep. Moreover, at least since 2011, the region has been broken up between those regimes that desire to arrest the flow of blood and reestablish peace, and those that promote the religious ideology of Divine right by their military might. Finally, the states involved in this life and death struggle have been busy to put together shifting alliances that only contribute to the overall chaos and anarchy.
The entry of Turkey into this mess following the eruption of the so-called Arab Spring has been an unmitigated disaster for the country and also personally for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Having been driven by his messianic Ottoman and Islamist mentality, President Erdogan has failed to comprehend the difficulty of gaining any real influence over the ethnically and religiously diverse fellow rulers who are shaping events across the region and beyond. Clearly, with the notable exception of the United States of America and Israel, it appears that it is the ruling Shi’a clergy in Iran and the Sunni rulers throughout the Arabian Peninsula who are exciting their peoples, and decisively dominate the political narratives. In this context, the policies of President Erdogan has too much the appearance of Ottoman restoration.
Adding insult to injury, he presents his ubiquitously rejected attempts at restoration as the Sunni version of a revolution, which assuredly will free them all from both the domination of the West as well the dreaded threat from Shi’a Iran. Furthermore, his contempt for the principle of non-intervention in Syria and Iraq runs counter to his declared objective of maintaining peace and stability at home and in the neighboring countries. The almost continuous unrests and the attempted coup d’etat inside Turkey, combined with the steadily deteriorating economic situation, should have given President Erdogan the required opportunity to test the effectiveness of his foreign adventures.
Yet, instead of reevaluating his objectives at home and abroad, he appears to double down and to aspire to get emotional satisfaction rather than obtaining realistic results. Subordinating his foreign policy almost exclusively to his military might bring him victories in some battles but simultaneously will earn his country the enduring hatred of both Arabs and Kurds. The absurdity of this foreign policy is made even more fatal by President Erdogan’s peculiarly Islamic driven chauvinism, according to which history proves the validity of the Turkish people claim to superiority. Justifying Turkey’s decline under his rule, President Erdogan blames everybody, except himself. Accordingly, the culprits of his failed policies are the United States of America, the Kurds, Israel, the European Union, the Arab rulers who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.
Integration into the existing realities in the world is alien to his Islamic mind. For this reason, he fights on all fronts. In the West, he ignores Turkey’s enduring alliances. In the East, he allies his country with Russia, which he fears. Even more apprehensive is he toward Shi’a Iran, which he does not trust and sees as the main competitor to his regional ambitions. In this manner, unable to see the forest from the trees, President Erdogan cannot understand the destructive stupidity of his foreign policy.
Thus, rather than shaping reality for his country’s benefit, President Erdogan is all over the map, intervening, finger pointing, and boycotting, in irrational ways. In his incompetence, he thinks that he can err as many times as he wants, without suffering the consequences. The policy of blaming the West, the Kurds, and Israel has failed spectacularly. He believes that emotional outbursts against the West and Israel would bring Turkey international support. Attacking unarmed Kurds would weaken their resolve.
President Erdogan’s ruthless quest for absolute power has devastated Turkey and has contributed to the chaos and anarchy in the greater Middle East. Today, he only clings to state sanctioned violence. Being convinced that only through violence can he accomplish everything, he even forfeited the future of his country.
Sick of the terror of President Erdogan’s reign at home and unhappy about not being respected abroad, the Turks want to be free to shape their own future. They know that their country is in need of a statesman who can think clearly in a violent and rapidly changing region. Therefore, for Turkey to resist the attraction of President Erdogan’s abyss, its citizens must define their objectives in positive rather than negative terms. However, this effort cannot be carried out with President Erdogan at the helm. It is up to these citizens to decide if they wish to continue supporting the failed policies of their current president or to change course and constructively design a more democratic environment for themselves and for the generations to come.