(October 7, 2020 / JNS) Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Muslim Brotherhood is the enemy of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Cyprus, Greece, the E.U., the Kurds (who comprise a third of the country’s population), the U.S. and Israel.
Erdoğan’s Turkey is the exact opposite of the country founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost 100 years ago, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Atatürk led the country toward modernization and integration with the world and introduced gradual democratic norms in a region that has long been described as plagued by the lack of such governance.
The current Turkey has chipped away at its democratic foundations, primarily due to Erdoğan’s personality, the Muslim Brotherhood and the worldview of a very big portion of the Turkish people. Erdoğan is a ruthless megalomaniac; the Muslim Brotherhood is the most dangerous movement in the region; Turkish society has by and large refused to embrace the values Atatürk wanted to spread, and has been drawn instead to religious fanaticism and megalomaniacal visions.
The Brotherhood has been successful in casting itself as a moderate entity, hiding its radical values as long as they are not in power. This charade is what made the Obama administration fall for Egypt’s then-President Mohamed Morsi’s claim that he was moving Egypt toward greater democratization. Had the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, not saved Egypt from the control of the Brotherhood, the region’s tragedies would have been even worse.
Trump understands the danger well. Anyone who still thinks the Muslim Brotherhood can be trusted should look at the barbarism and destruction that it has wrought in the only territory it currently controls—the Gaza Strip. It should come as no surprise that Erdoğan has supported the riots there, or that Gazans wave Turkish flags in those riots.
Erdoğan’s megalomania has entangled Turkey in a whole host of regional flashpoints. In Egypt and Jordan, he has backed the Brotherhood’s efforts to challenge the regimes; in the Eastern Mediterranean, he has tried to undermine Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel by striving to become a regional hegemon that can take over its economic spoils; and he has managed to antagonize Egypt by supporting one of the rival factions fighting over Libya next door.
He has also been unabashed in his provocations against his NATO allies, exploiting the E.U.’s feeble response (with the exception of France), and has continued occupying the northern part of Cyprus, all the while clamping down on any elites at home, throwing tens of thousands behind bars.
On top of that, he has managed to handpick loyalists to run the school system and the judiciary, as well as public services, rigged the elections and all but appointed himself sultan. He has also brutally oppressed the Kurdish minority and made military incursions into Kurdish territory in northern Syria.
Erdoğan’s regime threatens NATO, the socioeconomic stability in Europe, U.S. strategic interests and Israel’s overall posture. But what makes it so hard for his rivals to counter him is the fact that they have yet to fully come to terms with the danger.
That said, his unrestrained ambition, his brutality and his intoxication with power could make it easier to fight him, since he has now embarked on a path that led to the downfall of other regional strongmen, including Saddam Hussein and Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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