By Claude Salhani
Why is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan behaving like a bully? The short answer is because he believes he can get away with it.
He apparently thinks he has no real challenger at home or abroad and so he can push the envelope to his advantage and get away with it.
The bullying starts a home where Erdogan sees plots and coups everywhere. When it is not his US-based arch-rival Fethullah Gulen orchestrating coups against him, it is George Soros who is seeking to undermine his government.
“There are Soros-like people behind the curtains who seek to stir up things by provoking revolt in some countries,” he said February 19.
Even Turkish courts have got it wrong when they “dared” to free civil society figure Osman Kavala and other defendants in the trial of the 2013 Gezi protests. Those protests were a “despicable attack just like military coups,” Erdogan said. “They were not innocent riots.”
On Planet Erdogan, judges can send people to jail the same day courts acquit them, as they did in the case of Kavala and company.
Authoritarian minds do not see the world as it is. It is all centred on them and geared to obstructing the path of the righteous sultan.
Internationally, Ankara’s bullying goes full throttle, too. The three traditional guardrails that kept Turkish politics in check — the United States, the European Union and Russia — are occupied elsewhere.
US President Donald Trump is trying to get re-elected and tending to his personal and personnel problems. The European Union is kept busy by the follies of Brexit which kept it focused on the saga going on between London and Brussels.
The third major player in this equation, Russia, where President Vladimir Putin is into his own ego trip and engaged in Syria where Russians have become deeply involved in the country’s civil war.
In the Arab world, Erdogan apparently thinks there is no figure strong enough to oppose the man who believes he is the new sultan. Furthermore, his prescience counts on the help of the Muslim Brotherhood to secure his leadership of the Islamic world. At least, so he thinks.
So the bully bullies on.
After dispatching thousands of mercenaries and extremists from the Syrian battlefield to fight in Libya, he denounced European peace efforts as undue interference in the oil-rich North African country. He is so blinded by his own ego that he fails to realise his brazen interference in Libyan affairs.
Erdogan criticised the European Union’s decision to launch a maritime effort focused on enforcing the UN arms embargo around Libya, accusing European countries involved of “interfering.”
“I want to specifically mention that the EU does not have the right to make any decision concerning Libya,” Erdogan said. “The EU is trying to take charge of the situation and interfere.”
“You have no such authority,” Erdogan clamoured.
He is strangely posturing as if Libya was once again part of the Ottoman Empire with himself as grand vizier. He applauded the decision of his Libyan protege, Government of National Accord Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, to withdraw from Libyan peace talks in Geneva.
Erdogan does not hide his proclivities to war and military force, anywhere. In Syria, he betrays the same disposition in his showdown with Russia and his support to terror-inclined jihadists.
Countries in North Africa and the Middle East are showing signs of wariness about his behaviour.
It is time that the Russians, the Europeans and the Americans wake up to the mounting threat at the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe.
There are reports of a push back by countries of the region being coordinated by Egypt. Many other countries are also concerned by his bullying and with good reason.