'Erdoğan’s existential wars in the region unsustainable for Turkey' - Analysis

Turkey's military operations across Libya, Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan are not financially, militarily and diplomatically sustainable, Ahval columnist and political scientist Cengiz Aktar told Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar during a podcast on Monday.

Turkey continues to increase its military footprint in the region, including Syria’s Idlib province, where Turkish reinforcements have reportedly been sent to the key city of Jabal-i Zawiya. On Sunday, Turkey marked as a military target the rebel-controlled Al-Jufra air base in Libya, a strategic point which Egypt has called a “red line” for military intervention by Ankara’s regional rival.

On Sunday, Turkey's Presidential Communications Directorate said that the military base key in controlling oil supply lines in energy-rich North African country holds great importance for Ankara.

The fact that this declaration was issued by the Turkish Presidency and not by the Turkish Defence or Foreign ministries, which have traditionally had a say over foreign affairs and military operations, demonstrates that they "are not relevant, and that the Erdoğan's Palace has fully taken over the foreign policy issues," Baydar said.

This kind of statement about another country, according to Aktar, is unseen and unheard of in the diplomatic arena.

The announcement from the presidential office came after warplanes struck an air base recently recaptured by the Turkish-backed forces of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) overnight Saturday.

With Turkey’s military support, the GNA has turned the tide against a 15-month offensive by the Libyan National Army (LNA) to seize Tripoli.

An LNA military source told Reuters that “unidentified aircraft” had carried out the strikes against Al-Watiya.

Aktar also commented on a flurry of diplomatic activities involving Turkey and a number of hot spots in the region over the next few weeks.

France has called for a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers to specifically address problems pertaining to Ankara on a host of issues.

During a press conference with visiting EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell in Ankara on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu listed a number of grievances Turkey has against EU members like France and Cyprus.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would be forced to respond to new sanctions by the European Union over developments in the East Mediterranean.

Çavuşoğlu's rhetoric – which listed a quite a few demands from the EU, from visa exemption to the Custom Union revision, while at the same time threatening the EU – demonstrates Ankara's dissonance regarding its messages to the bloc, Aktar said.

Baydar underscored NATO’s stance remains unclear in the Libya conflict, which alliance member Turkey has been investing abundant resources into with the support of the Qatari government.

There are a number of regional and global meetings set to discuss Libya developments, said Aktar, starting with the United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday to discuss the new Libya sanctions.

Washington remained largely detached from Libya for two years, July 2, 2018 U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Stephanie T. Williams, of the United States, as his Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs in Libya and Williams has been in acting since then.

On Thursday, the European Parliament will hold a session titled "Stability and security in the Mediterranean and negative role of Turkey".

On July 13, the EU will convene for a special agenda item on Turkey at France’s request, where potential sanctions against Turkey are reportedly to be discussed.

Aktar pointed to two Turkey-linked major developments occurring in the Eastern Mediterranean this summer, the first of which being the expected conclusion of Egypt and Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone agreement by mid-August.  A similar agreement is anticipated between Greece and the House of Representatives in Tobruk.

Commenting on Turkey’s presence in Syria's Idlib, Baydar said that contrary to earlier stages, the war in Syria was much more crowded, which means it will take time to see a clearer picture regarding the Turkish offensive.

According to Baydar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sees the conflicts in Syria and Libya as essential and himself as the sole remnant power of the global Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) movement to advance Ankara’s goals in the region.  Qatar, on the other hand, while funding Erdoğan's war machines, also is franchising military power to Turkey to advance in Libya or Syria, Baydar said.

An unknown factor is where the United States stands on all these conflicts. Phone calls between Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump appear to be driving Erdoğan forward in various conflicts, Baydar said.

If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the upcoming U.S. elections, he will come with very strong team, Aktar said, noting that private calls between Washington and Ankara should not be expected to continue as before.

Aktar drew comparisons between Turkey's current situation and the Greek colonels who were overthrown after Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, or the 1982 Argentine military junta, saying Erdoğan's wars are also unsustainable.

"We are approaching, slowly but surely, one way or another, the same fate,’’ Aktar said.

The political scientist also noted that antagonising two regional heavy weights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the same time, as Turkey currently does, will not allow a country to go far in the region.