Turkey losing soft power as Ottoman past revived – WSJ

Turkey is losing the “soft power” it has built up in the Middle East, partly due to its popular soap operas, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes "thinly veiled territorial claims" and harks back to the country’s Ottoman past, said Yaroslav Trofimov in the Wall Street Journal.

Erdoğan’s Turkey is increasingly getting into armed conflict and acrimonious fights with its neighbours and allies as it projects Turkish power abroad, Tofimov wrote in a weekly column for the newspaper.

“That, naturally, elicits little sympathy among the Ottomans’ historical foes, the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates,” he said. “The Syrian regime - and the Kurds - have stoked similar resentment by describing Turkish troops in Afrin as “Ottoman invaders”, he said.

Turkey launched a military incursion into Afrin on Jan. 20 to battle Kurdish groups that have  to set up an autonomous enclave near Turkey’s border.

The Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Centre’s (MBC) decision to cancel all of its Turkish TV series - the company didn’t say why - came after an argument between Erdoğan and the United Arab Emirates about the behaviour of an Ottoman commander in Medina, Saudi Arabia, during World War One.

Erdoğan is trying to revive an “Ottoman Caliphate”, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told journalists in Cairo on Monday, Trofimov said.

Salman described Turkey as part of a “triangle of evil” alongside Iran and terrorist organisations, according to Egypt’s state-run al Ahram newspaper.

“Saber-rattling is not what builds soft power,” said Saudi analyst Mohammed Alyahya, a senior fellow at the Gulf Research Center, according to Trofimov. “Turkey has a lot to offer, but Erdoğan’s politics have been overshadowing those things.”