Turkey: From model country to terrorism backer in the Middle East

With the rise of the Islamist Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) to power in 2002, Turkey was shown as a model country blending Islam, democracy and secularism in the Middle East.

Described as the "the Turkish model", Turkey experience under the AKP government was cited as exemplary to other Muslim countries. 

The Arab Spring, which broke out by the end of 2010 in Tunisia, handed a golden opportunity to Ankara. Turkey's then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu became the most popular politicians in the region.

However, Ankara abandoned its "soft-power" policy and began to pursue an increasingly hard-line approach after Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a military coup in 2013.

As a result, in the eyes of many in the region, the once "model" country turned into the most hated and occupying state seeking to re-establish the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. 

The biggest reason for such a dramatic transformation has been Turkey's rapid rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist organisation. Turkey has hosted the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey and Erdoğan has also secretly begun to support the Brotherhood-inspired Islamist groups in Syria and Libya.

Afterwards, other jihadist groups in the region have been added to the list of the Islamist groups supported by Ankara.

Turkey has been locked in a debate over sending troops to Libya for a while. Erdoğan has reiterated in every platform he attended that Turkey would provide military assistance for Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) upon request.

The GNA last week officially requested military support from Turkey for land, sea and air defences against Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls swathes of territory in the east and south of the country.

On Monday, the Turkish Presidency sent a motion to the Parliament on authorising the dispatching of troops to Libya. The Parliament is going to discuss the proposal on Thursday, state-run Anadolu news agency reported

 It is clear that the Turkish Parliament will pass the motion, but there are still some questions that remain unanswered. Will Turkey send regular forces or remnants of the Syrian jihadist groups to Libya, the latter of which has been frequently claimed in recent days by some social media accounts and media outlets. Or will a mixed group of the two will be deployed?

According to some unconfirmed information provided by Turkish officials who wanted to remain anonymous; Erdoğan's first priority will be the jihadist militants. By this method, it is argued, both Turkey's involvement in

the war will be veiled and public indignation to be sparked by possible losses will be prevented. Small Turkish forces will be sent to provide the jihadist groups with technical and logistics support, according to sources.

While Turkey's secular main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the nationalist Good (İYİ) Party supported the government's previous motions sending troops abroad, they are now opposed to move of deploying Turkish troops in Libya.

However, a new "voting yes despite our hearts burning" incident may take place at the last moment. On October 8, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said they would grudgingly support a motion to renew authorisation for Turkish troops to enter northern Syria citing national interests in spite of his party's objection to Erdoğan's foreign policy.

While Turkey has already been bogged down in Syria, it is getting drawn into a more dangerous war in Libya, alongside jihadist groups ideologically and strategically affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).