As those who frequent these pages are no doubt aware, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost his mind.
To the extent Washington’s favorite autocrat had any sanity left going into the summer, he lost it completely in the wake of June elections that saw AKP lose its absolute majority in Parliament. That meant Erdogan would have a more difficult time rewriting the political rule book on the way to consolidating his power in an executive presidency.
Adding insult to injury, the election showed increased voter support for the pro-Kurdish HDP which Erdogan equates with the PKK, Ankara’s terrorist boogeyman.
All in all, Erdogan decided the outcome needed to be undone. After intentionally undermining the coalition building process, Erdogan - gun to his head - had to call for new elections. Conveniently, Ankara decided it needed to reignite the conflict with the PKK, a move which immediately plunged the country into violence, affording Erdogan an opportunity to play the “this is why Turkey needs a strongman” card on the way to securing a “better” ballot box result in early November.
Next, he shot down a Russian fighter jet and invaded Iraq.
All of this comes as Turkey’s role in financing the ISIS terror machine has been laid bare for the world to see. Ankara was long suspected of facilitating the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and the country’s role in funding and arming the various Sunni militants battling the SAA is well known. But allegations that Erdogan’s family may be leveraging the network Barzani and the Iraqi Kurds use to pipe Kurdish crude to Ceyhan (in defiance, mind you, of SOMO) on the way to helping ISIS smuggle stolen oil are new, and have made the world reconsider how we should view Turkey.
At this point, it’s not clear what will happen next, but what we do know is that the US has rolled back requests that Turkey step up strikes in Syria and the Russians are fully prepared to shoot down Turkish F-16s that venture into Syrian airspace. Meanwhile, Erdogan still has troops in Iraq, much to Baghdad’s chagrin.
Here with a take on why Erdogan is dangerous is Burak Bekdil, an Ankara-based, Turkish columnist for the Hurriyet Daily
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Excerpted from “Turkey’s Dangerous Ambitions” via The Gatestone Institute
It is the same old Middle East story: The Shiite accuse Sunnis of passionately following sectarian policies; Sunnis accuse the Shiite of passionately following sectarian polices; and they are both right. Except that Turkey's pro-Sunni sectarian policies are taking an increasingly perilous turn as they push Turkey into new confrontations, adding newcomers to an already big list of hostile countries.
Take President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent remarks on the centuries-old Shiite-Sunni conflict: they amusingly looked more like a confession than an accusation: "Today we are faced with an absolute sectarianism. Who is doing it? Who are they? Iran and Iraq," Erdogan said.
This is the same Erdogan who once said, "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...." Is that not sectarian?
So, with a straight face, the President of one sectarian country (Sunni Turkey) is accusing another country (Shiite Iran and Shiite-dominated Iraq) of being sectarian.
Erdogan went on: "What about the Sunnis? There are Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmen and Sunni Kurds [in Iraq and Syria]. What will happen to their security? They want to feel safe."
Never realizing that its ambitions to spread Sunni Islam over large swaths of the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq, were bigger than its ability to do so, Turkey now finds itself confronting a formidable bloc of pro-Shiite countries: Russia, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and (not to mention the much smaller Lebanon).
Even before the crisis with Russia that began on November 24 -- over Turkey's shooting down a Russian SU-24 along the Turkish-Syrian border -- has shown any sign of de-escalation, another Turkish move had sparked a major dispute with neighboring Iraq.
Through its efforts to oust Syria's non-Sunni president, Bashar al-Assad, and build a Muslim Brotherhood-type of Sunni Islamist regime in Damascus, Turkey has become everyone's foe over its eastern and southern borders -- in addition to having to wait anxiously for the next Russian move to hit it -- not knowing where the blow will come from.
As Professor Norman Stone, a prominent expert on Turkish politics, explained in a recent article: "Erdogan's adventurism has been quite successful so far, but it amounts to an extraordinary departure for Turkish foreign policy, and maybe even risks the destruction of the country. How on earth could this happen? The background is an inferiority complex, and megalomania."