BLOG 267 August 24, 2015
When you say “turkey,” Americans think of the Thanksgiving Holidays. In the Middle East, Turkey means a nation that was once the Ottoman Empire stretching back to 1299 when it all started. The Ottoman Empire reached across Southeast Europe, Western Asia, North Africa and held what today is called the Holy Land. The Turks were Muslims and are remembered for the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. (And that’s one reason we should pay attention to what they are doing.) The Ottoman Empire began to disintegrated with World War I and lost the Palestinian region to the British.
Periodically, I have written about the current President Recep Toyyip Erdogan and his ambitious attempts to restore the Ottoman Empire because the West needs to be aware of what his intentions are. Most recently, Erdogan granted the United States the right to use the Incirlik base in Turkey for air strikes against ISIS. The Allies were moved dramatically closer to hitting ISIS.
Erodogan didn’t make this shift because he’s a nice guy nor was the issue fighting ISIS. He would certainly be delighted to see Assad fall, but Erodogan does only what serves Erodogan’s purposes and saving Syria isn’t in the cards.
Erodogan’s grant of a Turkish base for the war is only a cover for his actual purpose The goal is to attack the Kurds.
The Kurds have proven to be valiant fighters and made some of the most important gains during the civil war in Syria. Their success gained important attention in the West and new backing from the Allies. Kurdish victories united several areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. They are no longer a forgotten minority.
Kurdish success worries Erdogan.
If the Kurds continue their military success, they could gain control of a 500 mile stretch of the border with Turkey. What worries Erdogan is the possibility of the emergence of a Kurdish controlled country along his border.
At this time, American air power and the Kurds have driven ISIS back to the east and south. Erdogan apparently wants to use his air force with the Sunni Islamist rebels in Aleppo to destroy the ISIS stronghold between Jarabulus and Marea. The goal is to remove ISIS control of all territories along the border and replace them with groups favorable to Turkey before the Kurds take the area.1
Observers on the scene report that Erdogan probably has a much larger personal objective. He is working hard to gain a parliamentary majority so he can push the country toward a Muslim caliphate-dominated government. If he gains that edge, he will undoubtedly attempt to change the constitution and give his office more power.
Turkey has had a significant secular population that has so far rejected attempts to turn the state into a Muslim religion dominated country. Erdogan continues to press for a reversal of this situation.
Make no mistake about it. Erdogan does what suits Erdogan best – and nobody else.