Erdoğan striving to restore Ottoman era influence, position - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is striving to become the new Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with the added desire to restore his country’s influence to the position it held during the Ottoman Empire and even Seljuk Empire, wrote political commentator Micah Halpern in the Jerusalem Post on Monday.

As part of this goal, Turkey’s strongman is laying claim to territories in the eastern Mediterranean, while invading parts of neighbouring Iraq and Syria, Halpern wrote.

Turkey disputes Greece’s claim to exclusive rights in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey's Oruç Reis vessel, along with a naval escort, is surveying for hydrocarbon resources. Greece says the vessel is over its own continental shelf, where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil, and has deployed its own warships to shadow the Turkish vessels. 

Elsewhere in the region, Turkey maintains a military presence in neighbouring war-torn Syria, where it backs rebel forces and has launched a new military operation into Iraq in a bid to target Kurdish forces linked to an insurgency on its own soil.

“Erdoğan is positioning himself and his country to fill what he sees as an extremely important power gap,” Halpern wrote. “He wants to oust today’s equivalent (of the) Holy Roman Empire and occupy that position himself.”

The analyst points to a recent map of Turkey shared on Twitter by a former lawmaker from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which signals the country’s desire to revive the vast borders of the Ottoman Empire.

On Friday, Metin Külünk, known for his close ties to Erdoğan, shared the map - which includes northern Greece through to the eastern Aegean Islands, half of Bulgaria, all of Cyprus, most of Armenia and large swaths of Georgia, Iraq and Syria - to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Manzikert, dating back to era of the Seljuk Empire and its defeat of the Byzantine army in 1071.

The map represents Erdoğan’s “vision to recreate the period of Turkish and Ottoman greatness,” the analyst wrote.

The Turkish leader has been effective in creating an Islamic party that ousted the security and military caste that had effectively checked Islamic extremism, Halpern said, while he became increasingly Islamist and more extremist.

Thus far it is Erdoğan’s ideology, not his economic interests, that has steered his decision-making process, Halper said.

But, he wrote, this will only take him so far  “as success is all about economics.”