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Erdogan in The Trap Alone

Erdogan in The Trap Alone

Sunday, 1 March, 2020 - 12:15
Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long presented himself as a skillful player. Turkey, a secular state with a brotherhood spirit, is a NATO member who has strong military ties with Russia. Erdogan defends Syrians on one hand while occupying their country and bombing their citizens on the other. He hosts refugees and then takes advantage of them.

However, Erdogan's skills are failing him one after the other, with his most major fall in Idlib where 33 Turkish soldiers got killed in a Syrian raid backed by Russian air-force.

This surprised Erdogan who found his country in a military confrontation and an upcoming war with Russia. His fears were heightened with the prospect of facing an all-out conflict without his allies who left him alone, which contributed to tightening the noose on his already limited options.

The painful blow Turkey received may cause major repercussions on Ankara in the event of any tiny mistake in the response, and could lead to a comprehensive confrontation with Russia.

When Erdogan decided to launch a major military campaign north of Syrian last October, observers considered this a disastrous step that would only trap the Turkish regime.

As usual, the Turkish President believed he was capable of controlling all through his occupation of the Syrian border areas; an old Turkish dream.

Erdogan is now facing a harsh military policy, with Moscow justifying the military attack on Turkish forces saying they were accompanying “terrorist groups”.

Russia also informed the Turkish President of the consequences of any reaction, warning that he will find a stronger retaliation, while Washington did not take a single step to help him.

Erdogan expected some help from NATO, even if timidly, to which he received a response via Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, who refused to activate Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and support Turkey in its military operation in Idlib. The FM noted that Ankara did not seek the approval of the alliance in its operation in the first place.

Erdogan's options are very limited as he cannot respond to the humiliating military strike he suffered in Idlib, and is unable to drag the US to confront Russia in Syria and internationalize the crisis, so he resorted to the old-new issue of using the Syrian refugees.

Of course, the refugees' crisis is not a humanitarian issue as promoted by the Turkish regime, but one which it can exploit whenever needed.

As long as Erdogan has neither the military nor political ability to confront the Russians, the only solution is to threaten Europe of flooding it with tens of thousands of refugees. However, the truth is that there are about three million civilians in Idlib suffering from pressures arising from years of political and military confrontation between Turkey and the Syrian regime.

Syrians suffer from a major humanitarian crisis in light of the constant bombing, starvation, and freezing cold, which made them lose all hope in surviving, as quoted in the British newspaper “Daily Telegraph.”

If the Syrian regime was complicit in their suffering, the Turkish occupation has made things worse.

With arising political and military complexities for the Turkish regime, it'll be almost impossible to find a solution.

Erdogan now finds himself politically exposed, weighed down by military humiliation without allies, and above all facing escalating rage at home. So, what kind of trap did Erdogan put himself into?!

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