Turkey’s Syria offensive a new step on the way to becoming a rogue state

Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria marks a new phase in its foreign policy in which it is willing to break with established diplomacy and international law.

Turkish foreign policy has been undergoing significant change for some time; shifting away from the West and towards establishing closer relations with Russia, including cooperation in defence.

The foreign policy changes are naturally linked to the new political system taking root in Turkey. For decades Turkish foreign policy was based on using diplomatic means through formal channels, but since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey’s backing of Syrian rebel groups marks a departure from peaceful diplomacy.

Before the start of its latest cross-border offensive in Syria, Turkey rebranded some 30 Islamist opposition groups operating in northern Syria as the Syrian National Army (SNA), making them military units that Turkey unofficially supports and manages, politically and financially. Turkey has become just like other Middle Eastern countries that sponsor extra-territorial unofficial armed groups to undermine its neighbours and rivals.

Neither Turkish decision-makers, nor the public fully grasp how damaging Turkey’s negative image will be in the long run. Turkey is now widely perceived as a country that supports jihadist groups and uses violence against civilians. The fact that slain ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was living only 5 km from the Turkish border also raises questions over Turkey’s possible support for the extreme jihadist group.

Either Turkey knew he was there and did nothing, or failed to find out the world’s most wanted man was living so close to its territory.

But amidst the rising tide of nationalism in Turkey, no one cares much about such important issues or thinks about the long-term consequences.

Turkey has been transformed from a country that has cooling relations with the West, to one that actively opposes it; from a country with problems, to a problem country.