Ottoman Empire. Is Turkey trying to repeat the history of its ‘Islamic Golden Age?.
If you look at the Middle East, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia on the world map, you will probably be surprised to see Turkey’s presence in almost all war-torn or tense areas.
Until a few years ago, Turkey claimed that “relations with its neighbors are not strained.” But today, Turkey has a clear presence in tense areas such as Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
He is seen fighting the Kurds in Syria and its own territories, while he is at war with Athens over Cyprus. In the Mediterranean region, Turkey is in a state of conflict with Greece and other countries in the race to seize energy resources.
Similarly, Turkey’s tensions with Russia, the United States, Israel, the European Union and NATO are growing.
For 600 years, the Ottoman Empire stretched from southeastern Europe to present-day Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, Greece, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the empire’s influence grew.
Its jurisdiction ranged from the North African country of Algeria to the Arab world. Experts believe that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoغانan, who has been in power in Turkey since 2002, has formulated an enthusiastic and encouraging foreign policy in view of its “golden history”.
Turkey is a regional power
The Turkish people and military see their country as a regional power in terms of population, economic status and commercial potential. Turkey shares borders with eight countries. Sunni Muslims make up 74% of the population, while the total population is about 85 million.
It should be noted that the establishment of Turkey took place after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey has formally pursued a policy of secularism since 1928, but the influence of Islam on its society and politics has been significant.
President Erdogan initially sought to reconcile Islamists and secularists, but at the same time laid the groundwork for a strong, sovereign, independent government.
Between 2014 and 2016, Turkey pursued a policy of “no conflict with its neighbors” and has since offered its services to mediate in many international disputes. Turkey also began promoting non-military activities, for example, opening embassies in Africa and Latin America and seeking cultural reconciliation.
Karim Aktim, a professor at the Center for Southeast European Studies at Austria’s University of Graz, says Erdogan encouraged investment in the Balkans and the Middle East, and created a free trade zone with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. ۔
Turkey also seems to play an important and contradictory role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adversarial relations between Erdo یan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are common.
In 2010, a diplomatic standoff between Israel and Turkey erupted when Turkey provided humanitarian assistance to Palestine. Since then, trade and military relations between the two countries have been severely strained.
Turkey supports Palestine. He has also criticized the US decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Turkey says violates a UN resolution.
Effect of consensus on increasing influence
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have recently recognized Israel and withdrew aid to Palestine. Turkey also tried to mediate between two Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, in Istanbul last month.
Turkey has backed Qatar under pressure from Israel from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and has been criticizing Egypt on that basis. He accused Egypt of defaming the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite all of Turkey’s attitudes, there are indications that its relations with Israel could improve. Erdogan’s control over his army is gradually increasing. The Turkish military has traditionally been secular.
He supported the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring. He has also backed Islamic militias against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. After a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, he has adopted a hardline ideology.
According to the peace agency Pinar, the economic and financial crisis and the large influx of Syrian refugees have hurt Erdogan’s party and benefited the right-wing party and the nationalist National Action Party. ۔
Soli Ozil, a professor at Istanbul’s Qadir Haas University, admits that after the Cold War, various schools of thought spread the idea that Turkey had an expansionist view of its interests and wanted regional domination in the Gulf Is.
Islamists in the Justice and Development Party (PJD) are now nationalists, anti-Western and pro-Asian. In it, both civilians and the military agree to strengthen the military’s foundations and increase its strength.
Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean region
During the Cold War, Turkey was a strong ally of the West and a member of NATO and the European Council. Due to its geographical location and cultural characteristics, in which Islam exists with a strong secular tradition, it was considered a bridge between East and West.
At the same time, it was seen as a wall against UN influence in the region. Even after the September 2001 incident, the effects of radical political Islam remained far from over. Even so, Turkey’s undisputed status was not Muslim.
He was at war with another NATO member, Greece, over Cyprus’ sovereignty. In 1974, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus. Turkey declared the region the Northern Republic of Turkey in 1983, but it has not been recognized internationally.
Tensions between Greece and Turkey flared up again last August when Erdogan began searching for gas in the Cyprus region.
Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Egypt have already reached an agreement on the possibility of gas presence in the Mediterranean region. Turkey says it has a right to it. Germany is trying to mediate between Greece and Turkey, but the issue has divided the European Union and NATO allies.
The United States has sided with Greece. Turkey has written a letter to the European Union about millions of refugees from Syria and other countries. It also signed a six-billion-euro asylum agreement with the European Union in 2016
Kurdish and Syrian
Turkey’s confrontation with the West is also due to the Kurds. The Kurds have a population of 20 million and are spread across four countries (Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran). The Kurds live in large numbers in the eastern region of Antolia, Turkey. Kurds make up 55% of the population, or 20% of Turkey’s total population.
For decades, Turkey has been at war with Kurdish independence and trying to suppress them. Since 2015, the Turkish government has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians and key members of civil society.
In October 2019, the Turkish army entered the Syrian city of Idlib and attacked the Kurdish organization, the Syrian Democratic Unity Party, and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units. There, Kurdish fighters are fighting Islamic State with the help of the United States, France and Britain.
Erdoغانan believes that the growing influence of the Kurds in Syria could encourage Kurdish separatism in Turkey as well. The United States announced in October that it was withdrawing 2,500 troops.
Bashar al-Assad then recaptured Kurdish-held areas. Relations between Turkey, Russia and Syria are also deep. Turkish and Russian forces have established better coordination to establish control in the region.
When NATO criticized the move, Erdogan said Turkey could take any step in the interest of its national security “without anyone’s permission”.
Intervention in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh
Russia and Turkey are supporting different sides in the ongoing civil war in Libya. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa. In December last year, the Turkish government announced it would provide military assistance to Libya’s National Accord Government (GAN).
GAN also has the support of the United Nations. Insurgents led by Khalifa Haftar have started a war. Khalifa Haftar was the army commander of former President Muammar Gaddafi, and some Islamist parties are part of the rebel group he is leading, known as the Libyan National Army.
GAN controls the western part of the country, thanks to the Turkish military, Qatar, Italy and the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, General Haftar has the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
According to Sylvie Kaufman, director of the Le Mood newspaper, Russia has provided Haftar with 1,000 fighters. France’s role is not very clear here, but it seems that it is in favor of Haftar and he is trying to go along with Russia.
France also has conflicting interests with Turkey over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition to Libya, Turkey and Russia have come face to face in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
While Russia is trying to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey has openly supported Azerbaijan. Turkey has previously supported Azerbaijan diplomatically, but Russia says it has also provided arms to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s international control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region is recognized, but the majority of the region’s population is Armenian. Both countries were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
Russia and Turkey: Friend or Foe?
Political relations between Russia and Turkey have long revolved around influencing and controlling the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Caucasus, and the Middle East. The two countries, despite having different positions on different issues, agree that they have a vision for the future.
Both Erdogan and Vladimir Putin believe the world is a multi-polar world and their countries want more power from China and other emerging nations, as well as the United States and Europe.
The think tank Pinar Tank believes that the new alliance between Russia and Turkey should not be seen as an organization aimed at eliminating or weakening NATO. It is actually a confluence of facilities that protects the national interests of both countries. Turkey wants to take a different stance on foreign policy and Russia’s target is Turkey’s relations with NATO.
Although there are differences between the two countries on regional issues, Turkey and Russia have deep business ties. Russia is Turkey’s third largest trading partner and the most important country to meet Turkey’s energy needs. The two countries also have a partnership in the field of nuclear energy.
In January, the two countries decided to jointly implement the 930km gas pipeline project. The gas pipeline to Europe will pass through the Black Sea but will be far from Ukraine.
Problems with NATO and the European Union
Turkey’s relations with the United States are no less contradictory. The United States has been trying to prevent Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government from turning completely to Iran. Turkey has always criticized the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran.
But on the other hand, Turkey has a US and NATO military base. The base has been the scene of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the past, but now Erdogan’s government has threatened to close it.
The United States has also refused to extradite Erdogan’s opponent, Fethullah Gulen, to Turkey. In 2019, a new turning point in Turkey-US relations came when the Erdogan government announced its intention to buy the S-400 anti-missile system from Russia.
Turkey says the United States refused to sell it Patriot missiles in 2017. Syrian refugees in Turkey are also a problem. Turkey wants to keep these refugees in an area of Syria, which is complicating the situation.
Outside of Europe, Turkey is also being named in the Venezuelan political crisis. Elections are due there in December, and Turkey is working with the European Union to persuade opposition political parties to participate in the election process.
The European Union is ready to be a conditional part of the process, but the United States opposes it.
“From a European point of view, Turkey has three identities,” said Mark Perini of Europe in the Karangi think tank.
“Turkey is a strategic partner of Europe in terms of economy and trade. He is an opponent of Europe in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean and a negative player in NATO.