By now it has become clear that Turkey is on the way to becoming a rogue state under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After invading Syria twice to thwart the Kurdish independence dream and bombing northern Iraq including Mount Sinjar, which is home to what is left of the Yazidi minority in Iraq - under the pretext that the Turks were fighting “terrorists” of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party - Turkey is now on a crash course with Egypt.
In addition, Erdogan keeps repeating that he will ‘liberate’ the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and has just converted Turkey’s largest church into a mosque while broadening intervention in Libya, a country that has seen civil war since 2011.
“Turkey is an irredentist, bellicose country right now. While before the political Islam takeover the national motto was “Peace at home, peace abroad,” today it is the exact opposite: 'War at home, war abroad,'” says Cengiz Aktar, professor of Turkish and Modern Asian Studies at The University of Athens.
Aktar claims that the inauguration of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as a mosque on July 24 was done deliberately as thumb in the nose to Christians, who have become a persecuted minority in Turkey and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
July 24, marks the day that the so-called Lausanne Treaty, which officially put an end to the Ottoman Empire, was signed, creating modern Turkey that used to be a secular state until Erdogan’s AKP party took over the country eighteen years ago.
My mentor, the late Professor Barry Rubin z”l a Middle East expert, predicted back in 2009 that Turkey would become an Islamist country under Erdogan and that the hot-headed leader would stir-up a lot of trouble in the Middle East. Rubin used to call what Erdogan was doing with Turkey a “stealth revolution.”
Now, 11 years later, Erdogan increasingly seems to be trying to export this ‘stealth’ revolution which has turned into an aggressive drive for domination in The Middle East and the Muslim world.
According to Associated Press (AP) Erdogan blackmailed the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj who has connections to Islamist organizations.
In exchange for weapons, drones and the deployment of disgruntled Syrian Sunni Islamists to Libya, Turkey would get energy rights off the Libyan coast.
The deployment of Syrian mercenaries was a blatant violation of UN sanctions, as was the delivery of weapons and attack- drones which is forbidden under UN resolutions that dealt with the Libyan war.
AP says that Turkey has already sent close to 4.000 Syrians to Libya where they fight along-side al-Sarraij’s forces and now are besieging the coastal city of Sirte, situated in the vicinity of Libya’s oil fields.
“They (the Turks) took advantage of our weakness at the time,” unnamed Libyan officials told AP.
The Turkish intervention has escalated the Libyan civil war and turned it into an international conflict in which Russia has deployed its own mercenaries and delivers drones and other weapons to the Libyan army which is led by General Khalifa Haftar.
Egypt has never showed much interest in what is happening in neighboring Libya, but that has now changed as well. Last month, the Egyptian parliament rubber-stamped a plan presented by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi that would bring the Egyptian army into the Libyan fray.
El-Sisi called any attempt to take over Sirte the crossing of a “red line” and warned he would send in the Egyptian army to foil Erdogan’s and el-Sarraj’s plan to attack Sirte.
Egypt would “defend Egyptian national security in the strategic western direction against the actions of armed criminal militias and foreign terrorists," the Egyptian House of Representatives said in a referral to the ‘Turkish’ troops and Erdogan’s plan to obtain control over Libya’s oil fields near Sirte.
“Egypt will spare no efforts to support the sister Libya ... to overcome the current critical crisis,” President el-Sisi said in a statement after the vote by the House of Representatives.
Last week, tensions between Egypt and Turkey reached boiling-point when Cairo made clear that any Turkish attempt to conduct a seismic survey in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea would be regarded as “a violation and an attack on Egypt’s sovereign rights”.
In other words, the two countries could reach a point of no return after which war could become an option.
The same issue of offshore hydrocarbon exploration rights in the Mediterranean Sea has sharply increased tensions between Turkey and Greece, with Cyprus as well as Israel on the other side.
On the other end of the Middle East, Turkey is working to expand its influence over Qatar and in Somalia where the Turks built a military base. Erdogan is also meddling in the Yemenite war by offering a safe haven to Islamists who fought on the side of the exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Economist recently published an article about Turkey’s hegemonic drive in the Middle East and claimed that Erdogan doesn’t appear to have a clear vision for the region.
This is far from the truth. The Turkish dictator may not be the region’s best strategic mind, but his plans for the Middle East and the larger Muslim world are crystal clear.
Erdogan has made many statements about the Lausanne treaty in which he made clear he views the agreement as a piece of paper that has no relevance today.
The same counts for the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that de-facto ended the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish strongman has made many statements in which he recalled the Ottoman age as an example of his vision for Turkey’s future.
As for the Muslim world, Erdogan is trying to become the leader of the Ummah, the entire Islamic nation, and that’s why he dared to convert the Haga Sophia church into a mosque. That is also why he is vowing to launch a holy war on Israel under the pretext that the al-Aqsa mosque must be ‘liberated’
Yochanan Visser is Middle East correspondent for Arutz Sheva. HIs articles also appear in Israel Today, Christians for Israel and Aktueel Netherlands.