Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Photograph:( AFP )
Turkey now stands between democracy and dictatorship; the West and West Asia
For the longest time in recent history, Turkey tried to maintain a facade of a peace-loving, secular country in hopes of making it to the European Union.
In 1959, Turkey applied for EEC, or the European Economic Community membership, which was accepted. In 1989, Turkey applied for a full membership of the European Union. But Europe was not comfortable with the idea of letting Turkey in, claiming it is a very populous country. Turkey also had disputes over Cyprus, prompting EU to be careful.
In 2007, France and Germany blocked all negotiation about Turkey's EU membership after because the country refused to admit its role in the Armenian genocide. In 2016, after the failed military coup, Turkey’s human rights record worsened.
In the last 15 years, Turkey has been chasing a new dream. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current president of Turkey came to power in 2003, when he was the prime minister. Erdogan wanted to become the Caliph, or in other words, the ruler of the Muslim world.
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On paper, Erdogan maintained that joining the EU was Turkey's strategic goal. But in practice, Erdogan was looking east, towards the Arab world.
Turkey refused to recognise the Republic of Cyprus. In 2013, Turkish police cracked down on protesters. In 2014, and 2016, the government launched a purge, and Erdogan became more authoritarian.
To justify its posturing in West Asia, Turkey started dwelling on it Ottoman history. With his intervention in Syria and Iraq, Erdogan became unapologetically authoritarian.
Turkey's present goal does not include peace or Brussels: it involves unseating Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world.
Saudi Arabia is the guardian of the Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina. Turkey wants to project itself as a country not too concerned with the Shia-Sunni divide.
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi gave Erdogan the opportunity to slam Saudi Arabia. He uses Pakistan as a tool against Saudi dominance. And he buys Pakistan's loyalty with anti-India statements on Kashmir.
Turkey could have been the bridge between the Muslim and the secular world. But Erdogan chose to be the wedge. His priority was to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.
Turkey's army is one of the most powerful in the NATO, and he’s using it to fuel the fight between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is a Muslim country with oil. Erdogan's dreams of a caliphate do not acknowledge boundaries and contradictions. He attacks the ISIS, then does business with it. He fights for the Muslim brotherhood, but also commits crimes against the Kurds. He occupies parts of Syria. But contests Israeli occupation of the West Bank. He remains a member of the NATO, but fights NATO forces in the Mediterranean. Turkey now stands between democracy and dictatorship; the West and West Asia.