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Isolation Strangles Turkey

Isolation Strangles Turkey

Sunday, 5 May, 2019 - 09:15
Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

A quick review over Turkey's foreign relations throughout the past decade would clearly show how some countries lose their alliances, special relations and friends to suddenly find themselves alone.

Turkey’s relations started to deteriorate with Germany through the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, France, Sweden and Denmark, reaching Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and the United States of America.

Its reckless policies, based on a right-wing populist scheme led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have distanced its vast majority of former friends, except for Qatar and Iran, its closest allies. Notably, they both also suffer from isolation; as though these countries are meant to unite and be isolated together.

It’s so easy to list Turkey’s political mistakes. For example, its unlimited support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world. It also allows a large number of displaced people and migrants from Syria, Iraq and other countries to travel illegally to Europe, in order to blackmail it. Not to mention its unjustified verbal attacks against Saudi Arabia and UAE, the establishment of a military base in Qatar - after the detestable exploitation of the Gulf crisis, the ugly and cheap political use of the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the outsmart act of combining its NATO membership and buying advanced weapons from Russia and its support for extremist groups in Syria.

Had not the article’s word count been limited, I wouldn’t have stopped counting more reckless Turkish foreign policies that led to its distressing isolation.

The result is that Turkey no longer has real friends nor allies in the Middle East and abroad. It has become alone, facing an augmenting political crisis on one hand and an economic one on the other hand.

Erdogan’s greatest problem is that he wants to impose his vision all over his country’s features, causing the state to become politically fragile and in constant tension with others, since isolation is only one of the crisis’s consequences.

Economically, however, the disaster is inevitable. The Turkish economy is currently suffering as it never did before. It has been in recession since the end of 2018, inflation has amounted to about 20 percent, food and medicine are becoming much more expensive, the lira is under intense pressure and its price fluctuates repeatedly with temporary losses of two percent per day.

Turkey also has to pay about $118 billion in foreign currency loans during the next 12 months. It has lost tourists from the GCC because they feel they are in danger in Turkish cities, according to official Turkish reports.

All this proves that Erdogan is neglecting the fact that his country is geographically diverse and politically complex for one person to decide its features, according to his own vision.

Had the economic collapse brought Erdogan to power in 2002, perhaps a future economic collapse could mean the end of his rule.

Of course, Turkey’s isolation did not begin today. It is ineluctable to recall the failed coup d'état of July 15, 2016, after which Erdogan decided to choose a different path. He has become increasingly tyrannical in a gradual manner by playing the role of the “oppressive ruler,” as described by Soner Cagaptayin his book, “The New Sultan.”

Erdogan did not only use the power of the state of emergency, which allowed him to prosecute the mass who were accused of organizing the coup, but also launched a much broader campaign against all opponents.

This path was at the internal level. On the foreign level, he used the conspiracy theory in his frequent speeches among his supporters, being the world's most prominent leader delivering speeches.

The “Crusader” Europe, as Erdogan described it, is conspiring against his country, adding that the United States is also conspiring against it by hosting Fethullah Gulen, and he did not exclude Saudi Arabia, the UAE and his own people.

Aren’t there currently about 260,000 detainees in Turkish prisons, including 44,000 accused of terrorism?!

While delivering his populist rhetoric, Erdogan found acceptance among his supporters, who only make up to 50 percent of the country's population. While the second 50 percent expressed their position during the last municipal elections in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the country's three most important and big cities.

The extent of his popularity also came to light in the referendum on amending the constitution in 2017 after only 51.5 percent agreed on this amendment, while the rest rejected it.

This all sheds the light on an unfortunate fact that the country is already in a major crisis, and that isolation is only the tip of the iceberg. Turkey has become deeply divided between a right-wing conservative camp of pro-Erdogan Turkish nationalists and another group of anti-Erdogan secularists, leftists, liberals and Kurds.

Erdogan, for his part, uses the conspiracy theory as a pretext to all the political, economic and social problems faced by his country.

As isolation grows and further strangles the country, the whole world sees this fact except for one man who dreams to play the Sultan’s role, even if with a paper crown.

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