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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2908

Recep Tayyip Erdo?an – the Turkish leader and his punctured aura of invincibility

Hemantha Yapa Abeywardena writes from London…

Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, the Turkish President, was in for a rude awakening this week, when his ambitious military offensive hit a geo-political landmine.

Much to his dismay - and that of his countrymen - Mr Erdogan found out that he was completely isolated on the diplomatic front: he could not count on a single nation in the international community, which was prepared to buy his argument; the Arabs, Americans, Russians, Europeans and even Iranians were united in declaring the move was not acceptable.

Even China, which usually does not jump on the bandwagon of condemnation of aggressive nations, wanted Turkey to abandon the operation, describing it as unacceptable; India wanted Turkey to do the same.
Even Turkey’s all-weather friend – and neighbor – Azerbaijan issued a lukewarm message in support of Turkey in its hour of need; it, however, did not have enough momentum to leave a dent on the international outcry against Turkey.

In the recent past, Mr Erdogan, like Imran Khan of Pakistan, has been a highly-ambitious advocate of Islamic unity and a fierce critic of Islamophobia. He has been critical of the way China treats Uighur Muslims, Israel security forces treat Palestinians and the methods used by the Indian army against Kashmiris.

In this context, the quick reactions by India and China are perfectly understandable, when they got the opportunity to do so.

Local critics of both Mr Erdogan and Mr Khan often see the two leaders have their own blind spots, when the duo talks about Islamic unity – and suffering.

In Mr Erdogan’s case, he has an inherent dislike of the Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims just as who Mr Erdogan is; he sees them as a threat to the existence of Turkish state and is hell bent on destroying them at the first available opportunity.

Mr Khan, on the other hand, never comments on the atrocities against Houthis in Yemen or Uighur Muslims in China. He simply does not want to antagonize Saudi Arabia, UAE or China – for obvious reasons.

The inability to address these issues satisfactorily impacted very badly on the two leaders in the international politics: during the Kashmir issue, Mr Khan vented his frustration by blaming the lukewarm global response on international media and global powers.

This week, Mr Erdogan found out the same, when he realized he is on his own in the battle against Kurds.
Kurds enjoy an enormous sympathy by the people in the West; they are grateful for the sacrifices made by the Kurds in the fight against ISIS; thousands of Kurdish fighters lost their lives, including women fighters.

Even President Trump underestimated the Western public sympathy towards Kurds, when he announced the abrupt withdrawal of troops from Kurdish areas; when the global outcry against his move peaked, he was left with no choice, but to issue Turkey with a stark warning in an unflattering letter that was later leaked to the public.

Although the letter was neither Dickensian nor diplomatic, the sentiments of its tone resonated very well with the Western public mood. Having been rattled by the public anger, President Trump warned that he would destroy the Turkish economy if they inflict collateral damage on Kurds.

It was not an empty threat; he would see it through too. This is what exactly happened to China; it admitted this week that its economy saw the worst growth rate for 3o years.

With its own economy already in the doldrums, Mr Erdogan cannot afford to enter into a trade dispute with the US at present. This ground reality sheds light on his reluctant decision to pause the fighting for 120 hours, while issuing veiled threats against the Kurds.

In fairness to Mr Erdogan, he is within his right to dealing with the refugee crisis, millions of them being from neighbouring Syria. Unfortunately, he completely misjudges his own global standing, when he launched the military offensive on against the Kurds on impulse.

Mr Erdogan is threatening to hit back at the Kurds in a few days’ time when the ceasefire ends. It’s, however, easier said than done.

Mr Erdogan cannot afford to make yet another blunder again, as the political landscape completely turned upside down in a matter of few days, when the Russians took over the stretch of land separating the Turks and Kurds.

Although the Europeans do not find the Russian move comfortable, President Trump declared he did not have a problem with it as long as they protect Kurds.

It’s far too early to predict Mr Erdogan’s next move. His political opponents, meanwhile, may use the ‘famous’ letter sent by President Trump – and its unflattering references to Mr Erdogan - to taunt him during his political career with relentless vigour, as Mr Erdogan has made lots of enemies at many different levels in Turkey during a political career that spanned almost three decades.

- Asian Tribune -

Recep Tayyip Erdo?an – the Turkish leader and his punctured aura of invincibility
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