Turkey extending footprint across the Arab world but lacks vision - Economist

Turkey is expanding its footprint and influence across the Arab world by using force more than diplomacy, but it does not appear to have a clear vision for the region, the Economist said on Saturday.

Ankara’s military spending has increased by nearly half since 2016, and in the past year Turkey has occupied north-eastern Syria, launched an offensive deep into northern Iraq, and intervened decisively in Libya’s civil war.

Turkey has also in recent years installed a Turkish garrison in Qatar, established a base in Somalia, and shown an interest in Yemen’s civil war, offering Turkey as a safe haven for the Islamists fighting on behalf of the exiled president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

But while Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pursuing economic interests and dealing with perceived threats abroad in an increasingly aggressive and assertive manner, Turkey may not have the necessary staying power or an all-encompassing vision for the region, the Economist said.

“Its armed forces may already be stretched thin, having lost thousands of officers to show trials and purges in the past decade,” the Economist said. It added that Ankara’s operations in Syria alone cost up to $3 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Egypt has mobilised its forces on Libya’s border and is vowing to cross if Turkish-backed forces advance further. Russia is also on the opposing side in Libya - and in Syria, where it is believed to have killed dozens of Turkish troops in February.

“Erdoğan may soon feel he has bitten off more than he can chew,” the Economist said.