By Andreas C Chrysafis
January, 2015 (No 68) ©
Turkey’s Erdogan/Davudoglu leadership in its ambition to establish an imperial Turkish Empire have courted Sunni Hamas to set up its headquarters in Ankara. In return, Turkey will obtain a unique geopolitical opportunity and a base to be at a breath’s distance from Israel. Since no other country in the region trusts Turkey, having a strong influential foothold in the Gaza Strip is a godsend and perfect for Erdogan’s expansionist plans in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Supporting Hamas is a calculated move and will serve as a stepping stone towards establishing a new Turkic Empire; a collection of ethnic groups that live in northern, eastern, central, and western Asia and including parts of Eastern Europe and also in northwestern China. It is estimated that around 200 million Turkic-speaking people are scattered across those regions and Erdogan envisions himself as the new Sultan who will rule those people under an Islamic umbrella.
Ambitions for Neo-Ottomanism (Yeni Osmanlicilik) and an Islamic Turkish Empire and also abandoning the traditional secular Kemalist ideology, was the aspiration of Turkey’s former president Halil Turgut Ozal (1927-1993). His dream was for Turkey to regain its past grandeur and expand its political and economic influence to equal all other world powers. Rather than looking for a closer union with western values, Neo-Ottomanism calls for a greater political engagement within regions formerly under the old Ottoman Empire.
Influenced by such an autocratic concept, Ahmet Davutoglu is perhaps considered the architect and brains behind the idea of Neo-Ottomanism. Meanwhile, President Erdogan sees himself as the prophetic leader who will fulfill that ambition of uniting all Turkic people into one Islamic empire. He will then receive empire officials at his recently built Aksaray (White Palace) – 1,000-room edifice that cost over 1 Billion Euros to build.
This view is supported not only by the state, army, political parties and intellectuals but also by a large part of society. For that to happen, president Erdogan has to change the Turkish Constitution first and name himself as the indisputable head-of-state (Sultan) of this new Islamic Turkey. Absolute power is essential and that means: military power and not votes – they can be bought!
Ankara has planned this ideological move for years and NATO has been the one perfect source for providing the resources, finances and modern technology toward the realization of this new but unpredictable entity – unpredictable because it will not be based on democratic values.
In fact Neo-Ottomanism has been brewing inside the Turkish cauldrons from the day Turkey joined NATO in 1952. Membership was manna from heaven; it helped to boost an elite sector of society to grow powerful and gain prominence but not the growth and respect of human rights or the elimination of poverty.
The current overall poverty rate in rural and urban Turkish households is 35% and 25% in urban areas respectively, while two thirds of children live in persistent severe poverty (EU Statistics). Those numbers will pose serious social problems and instability (if not radicalism) in the future. In fact, if it were not for NATO and the EU, Turkey would still be called today the “poor-man” of Europe due to an embedded cultural corruption, nepotism and lack of Rule of Law.
At the cost of social deprivation, Turkey has grown into a powerful force to be reckoned with. Its modern military armed forces exceed 662,000 and have $18 Billion military budget expenditure. In fact, the Turkish army is larger than the armies of the UK, Germany and France combined and has become second to NATO. Such mighty power has its costs. It was build at the expense of Turkish citizens and abuse of their human rights as well as the loss of freedom of speech. Opposition to government policy is labeled as “unturkishness” and treated severely with imprisonment.
On the face of it, Turkey has transmuted into a provocative nation but the idea of abandoning its secular Kemalist principal and replacing it with Neo-Ottomanism raises eyebrows in the US, NATO and the EU. Would they accept a fundamental Islamic State in their midst? Not so likely and that infuriates Ankara for it may lose its support from the hen that lays the golden eggs.
Recently, Erdogan has actually accused the EU of “adopting anti-Islamic racist policies”. The EU however is quite concerned with the rising Muslim fundamentalism such as the “Islamic States” (IS) – which Turkey “indirectly” supports – but especially the French people who only recently experienced Jihadist barbarity in the heart of Paris. It will be an impossible task to convince member states to cast a unanimous seal of approval on Turkey’s EU membership – Cyprus for certain will veto its membership!
Meanwhile Erdogan continues his contacts with other Islamic nations. His visits last year in Egypt, Libya and Tunis were not coincidental. They were aimed to test the ground and see how democratic those regimes were and how easily they could be influenced by Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman imperial nostalgia.
Officially he was given the cold shoulder but not so from fundamentalists or Jihadists. In Egypt he was greeted by Islamic slogans such as: “Egypt, Turkey – an Islamic State”, “Egypt, Turkey – an Islamic Caliphate” and more of the same. Those ambitions certainly cause suspicion and concern in Western Europe.
On the 100th Anniversary of the Turkish extremist organization “Turkish Hearths”, Ahmet Davutoglu gave a robust speech and stated: “during the coming decades Turkey shall have a leading role not only throughout the Balkans – where according to Ankara is traditional Turkish territory – but it will also have a decisive strategic and military influence in Libya, throughout the African countries and in events in the Near East”.
He truly believes that the Balkans, including Cyprus and Thrace – once under the Ottomans – are still satrap to Turkey.
Allowing Hamas to set up headquarters in Ankara did not go down well with Jerusalem – in fact it infuriated Israel, which vehemently condemned Turkey: “it is inconceivable that a member of the inter-governmental military alliance of NATO would maintain ties with a terrorist organization”, announced the Israeli government and urged NATO and the EU to impose sanctions against Ankara.
Israel will certainly not tolerate Turkey’s surreptitious provocations inside the Gaza Strip and will take action when necessary to protect its interests.
With Turkey’s constant meddling no country is safe in the region and more so today with the discovery of natural gas. Yet Ankara expects to join the EU group of democratic nations; a nation that keeps refusing to recognize another EU member state – the Republic of Cyprus – where Erdogan and Davudoglu insist: “there is no such country called Cyprus”.
So how does one deal with such a nation, which Reporters Without Borders describes as “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists”? Unless NATO, the EU including the USA are compelled to change their collaborative policy, Turkey’s new Islamist ambitions of Neo-Ottomanism will become an explosive issue and impossible to constrain. By then it will be too late!
The one nation that is under real threat of Neo-Ottomanism is Cyprus. This ancient island has once again become a Turkish satrap and its destiny remains uncertain. Unable to influence allies and friends to effectively deal with Turkey’s military occupation, Cyprus is trapped. It chose peace and a passive diplomacy to convince world powers to help get rid of the Turkish aggressor but that did not work. Instead, Turkey has been transformed: from a military aggressor to a “peacemaker” of sorts.
Under the current situation, Ankara without a doubt will continue its provocations and geopolitical farce for a “negotiated solution” to the Cyprus problem – forty years on and Cypriots hear the same old rhetoric. Meanwhile, it allows Turkey to consolidate its control over the island.
Israel had the right idea to demand that NATO and the EU impose sanctions against Turkey – just like they did with Russia. Equally, Cyprus has the legitimacy and the opportunity to lead the way forward and isolate Turkey in more ways than one by following Israel’s footsteps. Sanctions against Turkey through the United Nations and the EU would be a good start; the rest will follow!
But, would EU Cyprus do that? That is the question!
Andreas C Chrysafis
Author – Writer – Artist