Reading into Turkey’s influence in Lebanon

Truth is the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is exploiting poverty and hunger everywhere — be it Sudan, Mali or Iraq, and now it has settled its offices in Tripoli and Akkar in Lebanon.

By Christiane Waked

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Published: Fri 18 Dec 2020, 10:02 PM

Wherever Erdogan’s Turkey has marked its influence, chaos followed. Through covert financial means, Turkey has been able to promote its political agenda worldwide. Since 2004, and more extensively last year, Turkey has been investing quite generously in the northern regions of Lebanon through social aid portals. Truth is the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is exploiting poverty and hunger everywhere — be it Sudan, Mali or Iraq, and now it has settled its offices in Tripoli and Akkar in Lebanon.

As wolves in sheep’s clothing, these aid portals are targeting the young from poor ghettos, luring them with healthcare and social assistance facilities for their families in exchange of their loyalty towards them.

Turkish aid is also coming in the form of support for schools, establishing irrigation networks, digging water wells, restoring buildings and heritage sites in Tripoli, dating back to the Ottoman era.

The latter occupied the Mount Lebanon from its conquest in 1516 until the end of World War I in 1918 and caused the death of 200,000 Lebanese through starvation when the commander of the fourth army of the Ottoman Empire, Jamal Pasha, barred crops from neighbouring Syria to enter Mount Lebanon and the Allied forces blockaded the Eastern Mediterranean.

It seems that many Lebanese have a poor memory when it comes to history and repeating the same mistakes is their trademark. Today, many pictures of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are being displayed in these regions.

By now, it is clear that Turkey wants to expand and impose its influence in the region, and it is interfering in hotbeds of conflict to meet its foothold, especially in the Sunni areas after Kingdom of Saudi Arabia withdrew its helping hand from Lebanon three years ago.

Wherever there is a political vacuum among the Sunnis, Turkey does its best to cover it in order to expand its influence and that’s what happened in Syria and what Ankara is trying to do now in both Lebanon and Iraq.

Turkey also is keeping a close eye on the North Lebanon port of Tripoli due to its strategic closeness to Cyprus.

An interesting fact is that the regions where Turkey has influence in northern Lebanon, there are important growing cells of Daesh that are becoming an incubator environment for extremism and radicalism. These sleeping cells can not only create chaos and cause terror in Lebanon, but they can spread to Europe and worldwide too.

That is why last week, three ambassadors in Lebanon, among them the American, Dorothy Shea, the German, Andreas Kindl, and the French, Anne Grillo visited Tripoli.

The visits targeted mainly civil and economic institutions with economic potential, such as the port, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and educational institutions.

The French Ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo, visited The French Lycee and The French Institute and met civil society activists in a café “Warsha” located on the port, she also met with the acting Mufti Muhammad Imam where they discussed the role of the city to fight extremism.

These visits are also a clear message to Turkey’s increasing presence in Tripoli and northern Lebanon — the European and the French, in particular, won’t accept Turkey having a stranglehold on Lebanon and its youth.

Lebanon, in particular, has a very special place for the French whose president, Emmanuel Macron, is preparing his third visit after the Beirut blasts where 191 persons were killed, 6,000 injured and 300,000 were left homeless.

Macron has been actively leading an international assistance for long-overdue reforms and collecting aid for the crisis-ridden country.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

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