Turkey Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar and President Erdogan
“Prejudice is the biggest human flaw. Prejudice makes people blind and deaf. When you look at an issue with prejudice, you cannot see the truth, or hear the facts." These are the wise words of the Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, commenting on Greece position in the Mediterranean conflict, during an interview with Anadolu Agency, on August 27. One can hardly argue against the acumen in Hulusi Akar’s words. Yet, the decision maker, who really needs to hear this, is not the Greeks, but Akar’s own boss; the Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan.
It is Erdogan’s imperialist, Islamist, ultranationalist prejudices that initiated the most recent episode of the conflict in the Mediterranean. They were also the fuel for the conflicts that have been corroding the Middle East, for over a decade. The sufferings of the Kurds on the southern borders of Turkey; the tragedy of the Palestinian people in Gaza on the hands of Hamas; the never-ending civil war and the empowerment of ISIS in Syria; and the recent escalation of the conflict in Libya between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord (GNA), are caused by Erdogan’s Islamist imperialist pursuits.
The damaging effect of Erdogan’s prejudices did not stop at Turkey’s borders. They have backfired on him and his own people. Erdogan’s prejudices turned Turkey into an unwanted headache, rather than a reliable partner, to the West and the East. Today, Turkey’s closest allies are countries notorious for supporting and sponsoring terrorism, like Qatar and Iran. Erdogan’s prejudices have turned former Arab allies of Turkey, like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), into non-resilient opponents, determined to deter Erdogan’s threat to their national and regional security, at any cost.
On August 28, UAE sent its F-16 fighter jets to participate in the pre-scheduled aeronautical exercise with Greece’s navy in eastern Mediterranean, a few kilometers away from Turkish ships and borders. This move by UAE came after one month of an offensive statement by Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV; wherein he vowed to “punish Abu Dhabi.” Apparently, Bakan Akar was trying to cheer up his hosts at the Qatari TV station, due to the current tensions between UAE and Qatar. Unfortunately, he failed to pick the right words for the occasion, and thus opened another warfront on his already over-stretched army.
Meanwhile, Egypt signed an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement with Greece, in July, and it got ratified by the Egyptian and Hellenic parliaments, in August. Despite the compromises on agreement terms, Egypt had no option but to sign it. The undeclared goal of being involved in this agreement, at least for Egypt, is to counter the national security threat arising from Turkey’s unjustified military intervention in Libya. This EEZ agreement have been bouncing back and forth between Greece and Egypt, since 2005. In the past, the Egyptians declined lots of Greek requests to demarcation in the Mediterranean, out of respect for Turkey, and the long history of cultural and religious commonalities between the two nations.
But, in 2013, after the Egyptian people and military united to remove the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, Erdogan decided to take revenge for his Islamist fellows by severing ties with Egypt. Blinded by his Islamist prejudices, Erdogan opened Istanbul for the fleeing Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood and gave them access to media to attack the Egyptian state. Erdogan masks his hatred to the new secular regime in Egypt by calling it a “regime of putschists.” In the main time, Erdogan does not hesitate to ally with the Islamic extremists in the Iranian regime, for example.
If Turkey really wants to get out of this deep hole it dug for itself, Erdogan must give up on his Islamist and ultranationalist prejudices. Then, the wise people in the Turkish regime, like Minister Hulusi Akar, should work on a plan to restore broken diplomatic relations with neighbors, former friends, and allies. Only then, Turkey will be able to fight diplomatically, on a strong ground, for realizing the Mavi Vatan.