From Russia to Egypt and Israel: All sworn enemies of the Sultan

It’s almost reassuring that Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan has declared in an interview that he believes “foreign powers may have been involved in the failed coup d’etat” in his country. Erdoğan has always found many scapegoats for his troubles, for the lack of totalitarian consensus that he desires, for his country’s stalling economy, and among those perplexed at home and abroad by his yearning to become the new sultan.

At the time of the Gezi Park protests in 2013,the following were alternatively accused: the CIA, Europeans jealous of his successes, the German airline Lufthansa, the “telekinetic conspiracy” (sic), and more often than not, the Jewish Lobby, his personal favorite.

On America, the most classic among the various conspiratorial ghosts, Erdoğan has been deterred by Obama’s determination to consider Turkey as a leading partner since the very beginning, the first among the Islamic countries that he visited in 2009, and Erdoğan an interlocutor for whom he has publicly shown signs of respect. Now the insistent request calling for Gülen’s extradition – the man deemed responsible for the latest coup – and the legal and political restraint on behalf of the American administration to do so reveals that the fire has been smoldering under the ashes of discord for some time. However, it is unlikely that Erdoğan is referring to the U.S.- or solely to the U.S. -by saying “foreign powers.”

Erdoğan’s favorite enemies are of course (beyond the Kurds who certainly would have loved very much to see Erdogan’s down fall but seem unable to see about it themselves), Israel, Russia, and Assad’s Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian jet, a Sukhoi, on November 24 last year and Syrian rebels killed one of the two pilots.

This incident marked an all time low in relations between the Turkish government and Putin, who was already devastated by the war in Syria. Turkish support to the Salafists of Ahrar Al-Sham and the Jaysh Al-Islam, allies of the Al-Nusra Front were ripped to shreds. The Russian aerial operation would have allowed Assad to retake Homs, Hamaand Palmyra, if it had been torn from ISIS.

Coming under attack was also Erdoğan’s rapport with ISIS, which has turned Turkey into a point of arrival and departure for its foreign fighters. Russia strongly resented this action and Erdoğan refused to offer his apologies. Recently however, on June 26, he offered them, and this together with Turkey’s radical foreign policy shift is that of the relationship – poisoned by Erdoğan’s egregious anti-Semitism with Israel, and with it the return of diplomatic relations and the promise of 20 million dollars in compensation to Ankara for the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.

Is it a good deal? Certainly, it’s strategic and stabilizing from the long-term perspective just as the apologies to Putin were. Difficult, however, is any diabolical farsightedness by one or the other to act right now against Erdoğan. Israel’stance within this Middle East earthquake at present is to safe guard its neutrality. Moreover, it does not intend to deal with either the Shia-Sunni conflict or that of the intra-Sunni conflict unless it’s obligated to do so.

If anything, hopefully its reconciliation with Turkey can help to contain Hamas and Erdoğan’s fierce passion for Gaza’s master terrorist group: a passion that has prompted even Ismail Haniyeh to show up after the failed coup in order to sing the praises of democracy (he, a genocidal Islamist autocrat!)and to bake a big cake with him and Erdoğan painted on its miling.

Netanyahu has, like Putin, congratulated Turkey on having restored democratic normality. Still,an Israeli Arab member of the Israeli parliament from the Joint Arab List, MK Tareb Abu Arar, has accused his government of “ideologically” supporting the failed military coup in Turkey. Moreover, the Arab media has reported that General Akin Ozturk, Turkey’s retired air force commander and the nation’s military attaché to Israel between 1996-1998, played a role in organizing the coup.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since then: Turkey has been a great ally of the West, but has gradually shifted under the Islamist Erdoğan. In 2003, he refused U.S. troops passage to Iraq. In 2010, he voted against sanctions on Iran at the UN. He has moved the cannons (ideals) with the war in Syria, which has not only backed the U.S. into a corner, but has also opposed American initiatives repeatedly. This is due to the fact that Obama has no intention of replacing Assad as Erdoğan instead desires. His relationship with NATO is untrustworthy; his strength in that area is called the memory of a dream, and suggests the risk of nuclear weapons falling into his hands. Furthermore, his plan of entering the EU today sounds quite grotesque. Mogherini repeats that things will be challenged if it reinstates the death penalty.

However, the death penalty has already been applied in these last days to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people and thereby violating all kinds of human rights. Additionally, Erdoğan holds in his grip not only the entry of refugees, but also the leash around terrorist’s neck. Iran is his friend, but is allied to his enemy Assad. Egypt, which is Sunni, has provided military aid to Syria’s Assad, but Sisi is the greatest enemy of Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Therefore, who are those that could no longer want Erdoğan around? It seems like everyone even though U.S. flights continue to take off again from Incirlik Air Base against ISIS.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (22 July, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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