Don’t mind Erdogan the gambler

Don’t mind Erdogan the gambler

Saturday, March 7, 2020 10:03 am


Tayyip Erdogan

By Owei Lakemfa

Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has two boiling pots on the same fire. It is fighting a war against Syria, having invaded that country since October 9, 2019. Like  a parasitic virus, it was an opportunistic invasion; moving in to replace the departing American forces.

It assumed  that  after  fighting repeated American and Israeli attacks,  years of ISIS and  al-Nusra jihadist  wars and battling a  plethora  of terrorists groups, the Syrian  army had become so weakened that it can easily be overrun by Turkish  military might. Turkey also hoped to annex Syrian lands running long their 822-kilometre border.

To overawe Syria, it  sent in some 15,000 troops backed by an ethnic militia. Turkey had also hoped  to pressure Syria into joining its genocidal  wars against the Kurds with whom  Syria holds   no grudge. But what confronted Turkey was a battle-harden Syrian army led by a focused President Bashar al-Assad who is not prepared to cede any part of the motherland.

Owei Lakemfa

In the last five weeks, fighting has escalated with at least 54 Turkish soldiers fighting  alongside Syrian rebels, killed in the Idlib province. Thirty four of them were killed on February 27 alone. Also, a   dozen Turkish observatory posts have come under bombardment.  Turkey responded with “Operation Spring Shield”  But with the body bags increasing, Erdogan this Thursday, sought audience with Russian President Vladimir Putin a strong ally of the Syrians. 

Erdogan in trying to mobilize Turks to support his invasion said: “Those asking the question ‘What business does Turkey have in Syria?’ are actually recommending we surrender to terrorist groups and to an enemy regime.” But Turkey has no business invading and occupying Syria.  It is an unwinnable   war for Erdogan. The greatest danger Turkey faces is to be pushed out of Syria; it will then be left with millions of refuges in its laps who the Europeans will not take in; these would constitute  a danger and dilemma to Turkey itself. 

Last week, about 140 intellectual workers signed a petition against Turkey’s  continued invasion of Syria and the increasing body bags saying: “We the signatories see our country pulled into a deadlock, our kids dying in a battle they are being made to fight in another country, our reputation damaged in front of the global community and our nation used as an imperialist pawn and a sponsor of religious terrorism.” This Wednesday, fighting reportedly broke out in the Turkish parliament  after Engin Ozkoc of the opposition Republican People’s Party called Erdogan a “dishonorable, ignoble, low and treacherous.”  person who is  sending the children of Turkey’s people to fight while his  own off-springs are dogging  long-term military service.

Turkey while wanting to be seen placating  Russia, is also reaching out  to the North Atlantic  Treaty Orgnisation (NATO) to join in the renewed invasion of Turkey. As a NATO member, it wants the activation of NATO Article 4 which states: “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”  This itself, dovetails  into Article 5 which provides that: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” But in this case, this seems a joke as Turkey is not under attack. Rather, it is Turkey that has invaded another country. Besides, NATO would not for the stake of unstable and duplicitous Erdogan, want to take on Russia in the battle fields of Syria where Turkey is also killing the Kurds, a people  NATO consider as allies in the war against terrorism. 

The other boiling pot on Turkey’s fire is another Erdogan gamble; to force Europe pay more money for his brutal services of keeping Syrian refugees under the heel and stopping  them from migrating  to Europe. He also hoped to get the European Union queue behind him in his attempts to pulverize  the Kurds and fight the Syrian army. To put pressure on the Europeans,  last week, he opened the Turkish borders with Greece to  over ten thousand hapless and desperate Syrian and Afghan refugees  with  a sprinkling of Iranians, Bangladeshis, Moroccans, Pakistanis, Palestinians and Africans. To mobilize the refugees across  Turkey, so called “hope convoys’ which were mainly buses, were organized  to move them  to the Greek border.  The gathering refugees   in waves, have  tried to breech the Greek borders. So Erdogan has deliberately created a  humanitarian crisis in which he hopes to reap financial  and political benefits.

In response, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday  said his country would  stop entertaining  new asylum requests for one  month, adding: “no illegal entries into Greece will be tolerated”. The United Nations next day responded that Greece, under international law cannot do so. As the Europeans scrambled to find  a solution to the unfolding human tragedy, Erdogan taunted them: “The period of single-sided sacrifice has come to an end…The number of people who are headed toward Europe since the moment we opened our borders has reached hundreds of thousands. This figure will soon reach millions.” 

Turkey had in 2016, in exchange for promises that its path to the EU membership would be smoothened,   and for a 6 billion euro fee,  had reached an agreement with the EU to take back some migrants from Europe and stop new migrations through Turkey to Europe.  Expectations have not been met, Erdogan is demanding an additional $3.5 billion from the EU, and with an invasion going badly,  desperate Erdogan has sought to put pressure on Europe by  opening its water  and land borders to Europe. Meanwhile, the Turkish invasion of Syria has in the last five  months  displaced over one million  people thereby vastly increasing the potential number of refugees.  Turkey under Erdogan is unpredictable, impulsive and unprincipled. It dangles like a  pendulum between  reasonability and irrationality. The Erdogan Presidency is not just   a danger  to world peace and development, but also to the wellbeing of the Turkish people.

Erdogan  is facing  a dilemma as the Syrians are pressing hard to liberate their entire country from terrorists and push out Turkish troops; Putin is irritated by him; the Americans  seem fed up with his pranks and the Europeans are exasperated by his antics.

-Owei Lakemfa, journalist, labour unionist and human rights activist, writes from Lagos


Join The Conversation


  • Craig says:

    Erdogan is a big jerk. He should try meditation.

    I enjoyed reading this article.

  • Fatai Raji says:

    This analyses is one sided Mr. journalist

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