A leader the West will have to contend with

A leader the West will have to contend with

The more Erdoğan hits at the West – the way he did on Tuesday, May 13, again – the more points score in Turkey, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and even parts of South America. He is not just a source of admiration for Islamists anymore. He has become the voice in the world of the previously voiceless masses against what is seen as an arrogant West, riddled with double standards.

Western leaders and politicians may throw barbs in his direction, but this is all water off a duck’s back for him. He has no worries or concerns about any political or economic retribution from anyone. Turkey has enough critical mass politically and economically today for him to wipe this aside with the back of his hand.

He can shout down the German President, tell the U.S. ambassador he is only in Ankara on sufferance, and blast at Freedom House for spreading misinformation about press freedoms in Turkey and it all works to his advantage.

Erdoğan will even turn the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) latest ruling against Turkey on Cyprus to an advantage, in which Ankara is being ordered to pay an unprecedented sum of money in compensation to Greek Cypriots.

There was a day when this might have caused concern in Ankara, but no longer.

Having no faith, trust or love left for Europe, he is prepared to risk Turkey’s Council of Europe membership by telling the ECHR where it can get off.

Erdoğan will refuse to pay the compensation, of course, which is bound to score more points for him at home being an issue that unites everyone. As far as his position on Cyprus is concerned it is no different to that of the former Kemalist establishment.

This Cyprus problem was settled “de facto” in 1974, and if a “de jure” settlement has not been found because the West refuses to look at it objectively in its historic context, then so be it! The caravan moves on.

In the meantime, no one should threaten that until this settlement is found, Turkey will never be admitted into the EU. Erdoğan believes that Europe will never give EU membership to predominantly Muslim Turkey anyway, even if Cyprus is resolved.

His remarks about remaining committed to Turkey’s EU membership bid, on the other hand, are only uttered for the sake of diplomacy.  Erdoğan is, after all, the one who half-jokingly and half-seriously asked President Putin to help Turkey join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in return for which he said he would dump the EU.

He also believes Europe can only go so far in “punishing Turkey” because of strategic reasons that still require Turkey to remain in the Western fold. This is the Erdoğan the West is going to have to contend with once he is elected president, as many expect him to be.

Even Malaysia’s virulently anti-Western former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad falls into a second league compared with Erdoğan. There are also factors working to Erdoğan’s advantage as well. One would have thought the Turkish economy would start shaking at its core due to his policies and outbursts.

The situation following the March 30 local elections, when his party garnered nearly 45 percent of the vote, points to the opposite. The stronger Erdoğan gets at home, the more economic interest he seems to attract from the West for Turkey. He knows the West is based on pure self-interest and that Turkey remains one of the most lucrative and viable options for those hoping to turn quick or a long term profits.

When someone is faced with a difficult task, Turks exclaim “May Allah make it easy for them!” This is all one can wish for the West as it tries to cope with what appears to be an increasingly irascible Erdoğan. May Allah make it easy for Turkey also, of course, but that is another story…

We are faced with a major tragedy in Soma. This is a sad day of national mourning for Turkey. There will be lessons to be learned from this tragedy. It is sad, however, that some of these will only highlight what might have been prevented. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families of those killed.