Turkey seeks to impose new maps on Middle East - analyst

Turkey has abandoned its Western-dominated approach to Middle East strategy and is actively seeking to draw up “new maps” for the region, backed by relations with Qatar and Russia, Shehab Al-Makahleh wrote in Al Arabiya.

Turkey is partnering with Russia and Qatar because it doesn’t have the financial capabilities to expand its horizons alone due to a decline in the economy, said Al-Makahleh, who is director of the Geostrategic Media Center.

Ankara is also exploiting a dispute between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt to “grab an historic opportunity in the region,” he said.

Turkey's involvement in the Middle East originally increased by effective use of “soft power”, such as a public spat between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and then Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos a few years ago. It also flexed its muscles during the flotilla incident with Israel – when a Turkish boat was boarded by Israeli commandos on the way to Gaza – and supported some Arab protests, Al-Makahleh said.

The country switched its defence policy after 2011, up until which its “zero problems” with neighbours approach was dominant. Now Turkey rather acts to defend itself without waiting for problems to come to its borders, he said.

As former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on October 19, 2016: "As of now we will not wait for problems, we will not wait for the terrorist organizations to attack us, but we will attack the areas where these organizations are hiding, and we will destroy their bases over their heads and we will uproots of all parties supporting them."

That is the policy adopted for their attack on Afrin and even beyond Afrin that would take them to Idlib and east to the Iraqi borders, Al-Makahleh said.

“Turkey saw the attack as the best way to defend itself and contribute to the formulation of new maps instead of being imposed on Ankara, especially after the attempted coup d'état in mid-July 2016. This has been the justification for the Turkish parliament to approve military operations outside Turkish borders, chiefly in Syria and Iraq for an additional year.

“Moreover, Turkey has the intention to besiege its enemies in their areas of influence and to cut off all logistic support for them that some regional and international powers are extending.”