CAIRO – 25 June 2020: Turkey's ambitions to expand in the Arab World were not set by incumbent President Recep Tayip Erdogan. He has just been venturing into making them materialize. Yet, in the process, he rebelled against the powers that made him chief of state.
Writer and Regional Affairs Journalist Hend al-Dawy tells Egypt Today that the 2017 amendment of the Turkish constitution - turning the ruling system from parliamentary to presidential - sparked outrage in the army. The move was a rebellion by Erdogan against the coalitions that had helped him become prime minister in 2001.
In the 1990s, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) allied with a military order that had 200 members who adopt the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The alliance was brokered by incumbent Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu. Post the 1997 coup, military candidates were not favored by the public opinion. Hence, Erdogan had been chosen by the order dubbed Ergenekon – constituting the Turkish deep state – to hold office before he turned against them in what is called "The Ergenekon Trials" in 2013, the writer says.
The majority of around 300 individuals – who are military personnel, politicians, journalists and civil society figures - were handed lengthy sentences as they were convicted of plotting an alleged coup.
Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Erdogan rebelled against the state's secularism, and Ataturk's "Zero Conflict" strategy involving not intervening in the conflicts of other states, the regional affairs journalist adds.
Nevertheless, there is a consensus among Erdogan and the Ergenekon on Turkey's intervention in neighboring states. That is because the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne designating the current borders of Turkey will expire in 2023. Turkey has been targeting to achieve the plan proposed in the 1920 National Oath/Pact (Al Mithaq Al Milli) on borders. The plan is about occupying northern Syria and Iraq, consisting of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Aleppo. That is why Turkey has intervened northern Iraq under the pretext of chasing PKK elements, Dawy explains.
The attempted coup was orchestrated because Erdogan has been promoting the Turkish Islamist model not because of the expansive plans he has been working to accomplish. Erdogan's project is about safeguarding his position as the Muslim Brotherhood leader but not serving the brotherhood at the expense of the Turkish state. The goal of the attempted coup was getting rid of Erdogan but not halting Turkish foreign interventions, the writer elaborates.
The disagreement occurred between Erdogan and the Ergenekon "because he started to promote the Islamist project which is against the creed of the deep state…The intelligence agencies of some states, particularly Russia, learnt about the attempted coup and informed him. That's why he was able to foil it. Some reports also suggest that the United States was involved in the coup's plan," the regional affairs journalist clarifies.
"It is noted that Erdogan has been seeking to replicate the Iranian model of Revolutionary Guard by dismantling the systematic official army and using militias," Dawy points out. That is why he established SADAT, a company training and hiring mercenaries.
"The Turkish army will avenge one day and may receive backing from the United States, the United Kingdom and some European countries who want to get rid of Erdogan before 2023 in order to thwart the expansive schemes Turkey aims for after the expiry of the Treaty of Lausanne," Dawy underlines.
"The West uses Turkey to narrow the role of Russia in the Middle East. Turkey's military intervention in Idlib took place for the first time since the outbreak of the civil war because its proxies had been bombarded by Russia and the Syrian Arab Army, and because it is Turkey's most important stronghold in Syria," the writer says.
"In parallel, Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar reinforced ties with Russia, and restored relations with Syria which has angered the United States and the United Kingdom. Hence, Turkey began intervening in Libya seizing the opportunity to negotiate on Idlib with Russia, and to push Europe to pressure Egypt to allow Turkey join the East Mediterranean Gas Forum," the regional affairs journalist adds.
The Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu made a statement at the time saying that Turkey and the United Kingdom share similar views on Libya. After Turkey-backed militias affiliated to the Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken over Al Watiyah, U.S. President Donald Trump described the moves as successful. Erdogan also stated that no projects eastern the Mediterranean will succeed without Turkey.
"Erdogan never moves without the green light of one of the super powers, particularly the Anglo-Saxon ones," Dawy highlights.
"Turkey also wants to avenge the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt while paving the way for a second wave of the Arab Spring which focuses on North Africa mainly Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania," the writer showcases.
"The red line designated by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as Sirte-Al Jufrah warning the militias from crossing it has put the United States in a critical situation given that Egypt is a stronger ally than Turkey. Therefore, it will try to make a balance. Nonetheless, Erdogan may trigger more provocations and put the West in an embarrassing position," the regional affairs journalist estimates.
"France is enraged, and Italy began abandoning the idea of using Turkey to counter the Russian power in the Middle East. Although France and Italy clashed over interests in Libya, particularly the work of their companies in the oil and gas sector, they may reach an agreement. If a political solution is not reached to conserve the interests of all players, the Syrian model will be duplicated in Libya whereas each power will deploy forces in its bailiwick," Dawy says.
"It is noted that European factories operate by the light oil of Libya. Thus, if the LNA controls eastern Libya housing the majority of oil fields, the countries currently backing Turkey will rush to broker a political solution so they would maintain their interests in Libyan oil," the writer adds.
Earlier this week, the Italian minister of foreign affairs has been in a visit to Tripoli where he asserted the necessity of a ceasefire, arms ban, foreign intervention in the country, and a political solution praising the
"The LNA and its allies, who are Egypt, UAE, Russia, and France, are very strong and can take over western Libya but it's not about military strength alone. Political acceptance among the Libyan people is crucial, and the majority of the population lives western the country," the regional affairs journalist points out.