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Opinion and Editorial

Turkey losing friends, making more enemies

Abdulrahman Al Rashed
Filed on June 18, 2020

Few people know that Turkey has a military base in Mogadishu, far from its borders, and that Turkey's largest embassy in the world is in the Somali capital.
Turkey has also had a foothold in Sudan's Suakin island, but its plan to build a military base there collapsed with the ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir, as the new leadership in Khartoum cancelled all military agreements with Ankara.
Are these Turkish red circles scattered on the map of the region a result of a well-planned policy, an expansionist project or just the reactions of a narcissist?
During the early years of the war in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reluctant to cross the borders militarily. Today, however, his forces are inside Syria, but they have lost most of their battles against the Russians and the forces of the Assad regime, as well as against the Americans.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has been keen to broadcast the news of his forces' victories in Libya to the Turkish people, who are depressed by their poor and deteriorating living conditions. His plan was to spread a stream of news promising his gains, most notably the signing of oil agreements with Libya, and his intention to explore the areas he has drawn as a maritime border in the Mediterranean, despite Greek objections. He has also hurried to talk about oil discoveries.
But all this may be an attempt to raise the morale of the Turkish people, who have been receiving successive economic blows, one after another, for two years now due to political reasons.
The damage done by Turkey's military adventures in the region, often funded by Qatar which is looking for a regional power to climb on, is not to be underestimated.
Indeed, the Turkish president is following in the footsteps of the Iranian regime and its expansion in the region.
Following the Iranian model, Turkey is using foreign militias in its war in Libya, and there are reports of its intervention in Yemen too. It has also used Syrian militias to strike the Kurds of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
These adventures and military bases, however, do not tell us what Erdogan's policy is, if there is one.
Erdogan's project calls for building a major regional power parallel to Iran, and possibly replacing it, given that the US blockade of the Iranians has already weakened them considerably. Turkey, with its 80 million people, assumes regional roles in Central Asia but has not succeeded much against Russia and Iran.
Unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran, with their huge oil reserves, Turkey is a country without substantial financial resources and with an economy largely dependent on Russian tourism, European markets, and Turkish remittances from the West. This is why Erdogan is relying on Qatari support to save him from every crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic that has halted the economy and the collapse of the lira, which was a concern until Doha gave him $15 billion.
At the moment, Turkey is present the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea. The expected result of its political expansion and military involvement will not be the spread of the influence of the ruler of Ankara, but rather weakening it; as he will not be able to act freely in a vast and troubled region without powerful allies.
Erdogan is still facing undecided tests, such as in the war in Syria, Russian missiles issue, and his military dispute with the Americans.

Abdulrahman Al Rashed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al Awsat. - Asharq Al Awsat

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