President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is used to getting off scot-free. For quite some time he has been saying and doing anything without shame, he violates the human rights of his citizens, jails more journalists than any other nation, represses his own people when they protest and rebel, and accuses the United States of being authoritarian and supporting terrorists, as well as continues to impose Islamic fundamentalism upon his people… And yet he can count on the useful preconception that paints Turkey as a mediator between the West and the Arab Islamic world in the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whom he has buried forever; now, bombing and leaving dozens for dead in Afrin, a Syrian Kurdish enclave, and boasts of having defeated ISIS, instead, the Kurds are clearly the worst enemies.
Meanwhile, he attacks Israel and Jews with evident anti-Semitic tones every minute, accusing the Jewish state of being “a terrorist state” and the Americans of having “perpetrated a tremendous amount of self-serving brutality in its history”, proclaims himself as the Muslim defender of Jerusalem, screaming that Trump should have called him on the phone before making such a wrong decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that he has his own plan with respect to bringing his embassy to Jerusalem… Nevertheless he’s given consideration and space.
A couple of days ago in Rome, while some, thank goodness, demonstrated in favor of the besieged Kurds, Erdogan who declares himself the representative of 1,700 million Muslims, counted on the fact that he could, as usual, succeed in intimidating Italian leaders and also the Pope, a special personality with an obamian attitude toward appeasement and friendship with the Muslim world.
All fear Erdogan who screams and yells and leads the Muslim Brotherhood. He actually blackmails the west as he retains in Turkey, in return for abundant rewards from the EU, the tide of refugees who in 2015 were flooding into Europe’s borders from Syria in flames. He could let them go if displeased by the EU.
The fact, however, is that Syria is likely to return to the hot coals precisely because of his atrocious hatred of the Kurds, and treats them all terrorists and bombs just those who have helped decisively against ISIS.
So, Erodgan has gone too far: he has brought heavy weapons and bombings on the ground in Syria again, humiliated verbally and practically the U.S. in the area therefore urging the U.S. Defense Minister to say that “Turkey is distracting from the war against ISIS”; actually, it risks greatly irritating the United States, and Russia too, which in its complex and cynical policies has brought Iran and Turkey into a self denied peace process, but now sees them on opposite sides concerning Assad’s political survival.
As for the United States, Erdogan went in search of consensus following the visceral dislike Trump has aroused in Europe and in the Pope, but he has exaggerated. Who wants really to engage a pro Erdogan, pro Iran, pro terrorist fight with the United States? Nobody does, including Europe or even the Arab world.
It’s difficult, even if Erdogan meets with Salman of Saudi Arabia, it’s unlikely that the latter prefers an alliance with him – the self proclaimed defender of Jerusalem – over Trump, who is offering the Saudis a privileged rapport asking in return for them to become the promoters of a new peace process. And Erdogan hates this, and Israel. Too much, even for Pope Francesco that Erdogan tried to seduce during his visit to Rome, with little success, even if also this Pope seems not to have much sympathy for Trump and also for Israel.
Those who fought against ISIS – the Americans, French, Germans, and Italian volunteers – are now in Afrin deployed against Erdogan. Perhaps, you have exaggerated, president.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (February 5, 2018)