Erdoğan’s foreign enemies must be happy

Erdoğan’s foreign enemies must be happy

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regional enemies, from Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, must be delighting in the domestic troubles in Turkey, which are draining the energy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it focuses its attention on political survival.

This means Erdoğan has less time to concentrate on his pet and Islamist-driven foreign policy obsessions, from Syria and Egypt, to Israel and Palestine. It must also be clear to Erdoğan’s regional enemies that this situation will not change much if the AKP should come out on top from the local elections at the end of this month.  

I have been trying to point out in this column that there is an inverse correlation between the vote that Erdoğan receives and the potential for stability or instability in Turkey. Put in plain English, what this means is the stronger Erdoğan comes out of the elections – due to Islamist and ultraconservative votes - the higher the chances of instability.

One need not be a political scientist to see and understand this apparent contradiction. All one has to do is listen to what Erdoğan is saying these days to realize he is going to deepen his war against his domestic enemies if he gets the vote he wants.

In other words, he is not promising unity, stability, more democracy and increased respect for the rule of law in Turkey.

He is telling his supporters that a strong vote will clear his and his government’s name of corruption charges and enable him to fight his enemies who have established a “parallel state” within Turkey. He is trying to convince the electorate this parallel state is trying to topple him with assistance from a host of external enemies who include just about anyone, from the U.S., the EU and Israel, to al-Assad and al-Sisi.

Erdoğan claims all of his enemies are also part of an “international interest rate lobby” that is out to undermine the great successes Turkey has been registering since the AKP came to power. All of this may have convinced some in Turkey, but it is clear there is hardly anyone outside of Turkey who believes in his yarns.

The situation the AKP finds itself in today is far from what it was in the heyday of the party after 2002 when it first got elected, going on later to become even stronger in the subsequent local and general elections.

At that stage, the AKP was not only supposed to contribute to stability in the Middle East - by providing a model of democracy and rule of law, especially for the nascent Islamic democracies after the Arab Spring, but also to be one of the prime forces designing the new Middle East as a democratic place governed by the rule of law.

As the Turkish saying goes, however, the calculations made at home did not match the situation in the market place. A series of foreign policy mistakes and miscalculations first started pushing Ankara out of the center stage, as far as the efforts to finding solutions to major crises in the region were concerned.

Erdoğan nevertheless continued to be an annoyance for the Syrian and Egyptian regimes, as well as Israel and the U.S., and posed an obstacle even to the efforts of his own Foreign Ministry which has been trying to reinstate Turkey’s regional standing by focusing on the realities that govern the Middle East.

Today, however, Erdoğan barely mentions Israel, Syria or Egypt. It is also clear Ankara has no time to contribute to efforts aimed at resolving the Ukrainian crisis, even though this situation is also of close concern to Turkey for a host of reasons and not just the sympathy among Turks for Crimean Tatars.

It is, therefore, not hard to imagine just how happy those in the region, who Erdoğan has been unreservedly vilifying in the name of democracy and the rule of law, must be to see him not only facing serious domestic troubles, but also to see him undermining democracy and the rule of law in his own country.