Erdoğan defies West to consolidate domestic support - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan escalates tensions with Greece and the West to garner domestic support, analyst Burak Bekdil said in an article for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on Sunday.

Erdoğan has been pursuing an assertive, often unilateral foreign policy in recent years, including sending vessels to the disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean despite the European Union's objections, Bekdil said.

"He will try to keep tensions high enough to show a heroic front to his Islamist/nationalist party fans, but not so high as to spark EU sanctions at a time when Turkey’s economy is sputtering," he said.

"On the pragmatic level, Erdoğan knows any foreign confrontation will boost his approval rating at home."

In his early days as head of state, Erdoğan was praised by Western diplomats and analysts for his potential as a leader who could combine political Islam and democracy in a country with a complex ethnic, religious, and social mix.

However, the Turkish president's Islamism is "inherently anti-Western", the analyst said.

"He loves to portray any dispute through the lens of an unsophisticated parochialism that can be summed up in the phrase 'We are good Muslims who oppose the infidels'," he said.