Turkey: Zeroing out solutions

July 23, 2019
Turkey: Zeroing out solutions
Abdulrhman Altrairi

For Turkey, 2023 will be an important year, not only because presidential elections will be held for the second time since constitutional amendments in 2017 abolished the post of prime minister and gave the president great centralized power, but because it marks the centenary of Turkey’s founding following the Treaty of Lausanne.

The Treaty of Lausanne led to the independence of several Arab regions from Ottoman occupation and gave Turkey control over the northern Syrian territories. The agreement contributed to the demarcation of the borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. President Erdogan has called the deal a humiliation to Turkey.

Looking at the domestic situation in Turkey today, the internal mood has changed considerably since the failed coup in 2016. After the presidential election in 2018, Istanbul municipal elections resulted in a victory for Akram Emam Oglu twice, even though he faced a strong opponent, Binali Yıldırım, the former prime minister, or perhaps it is more accurate after the recent constitutional amendments to say “the last prime minister”.

That change has been an indication of Erdogan’s falling popularity in Istanbul and Ankara, although, of course, the AKP has not always bet on major cities. On the other hand, some differences within the party have begun to emerge, including the efforts of former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan to form a new party.

This means that one of the leaders of the party wants the Turkish voter to distinguish between the leaders of the party and President Erdogan, and it seems that Ali Babacan will receive the support of former President Abdullah Gul in the establishment of a new party. For his part, Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke in public after a long silence and held an interview of more than three hours during which he indicated that he is also ready to form a new party.

Ahmet Davutoğlu is the author of the theory of “Zero Problems Policy” that followed the failure of joining the European Union and also preceded the Arab Spring, and was therefore aimed at turning Turkey into the “Japan of the Middle East”, according to Oglu, for the economic development and well-being of the Turkish people.

Today, Erdogan seems to be forced to implement the theory of “zeroing out solutions.” This is primarily an economic impact, with inflation at 15.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019. However, there is also a political effect, and Erdogan has completed a S-400 deal with Russia, which means that he lost the opportunity to participate in the manufacture and ownership of American F35s.

This might be an attempt to blackmail NATO countries, especially European countries, as since 2015 the wave of refugees to Europe has brought economic benefits to Ankara. However, NATO was ultimately formed to counter Soviet ambitions, and buying air defenses from Russia and remaining in a defense alliance with Europe will not last long even though there is a Turkish bet on its importance to Washington in NATO, especially with the Incirlik Air Base.

A further Turkish provocation of Europe came in May, when Ankara launched oil and gas exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Cyprus. At that time, Erdogan waved the military option by saying: “The Turkish army will not hesitate to take the steps it took 45 years ago when it comes to the life and security of the Turkish Cypriot people.”

Having relations with both Hamas and Israel along with both Washington and Tehran cannot lead to a successful future for Erdogan. If he wants to make both Europe and the United States rivals, he will be faced with economic sanctions, and if we add his hostility to the Arab world along with the rest of his party’s leadership, it increases the risk of him exiting the door sooner rather than later.

The author is a Saudi political analyst and media Consultant. He can be reached at me@aaltrairi.com and on Twitter @aAltrairi

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