Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has never stopped threatening northern Syria of a military operation, but these threats have recently intensified and increased when his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, identified the depth that the Turkish military operation will target inside Syria and the main place (Tel Rifaat).
There are many reasons that lie behind this escalation; most notably, the neglect that Erdogan has recently faced, both regionally and internationally, following a period in which Erdogan was the star the news bulletins and TV shows, and his statements topped all news agencies.
That golden period, however, has gone. The US President, Joe Biden, refused to meet with Erdogan in the UN, and the European Union rejected Turkey’s role at Kabul airport following US withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the most importantly is the failure of the Erdogan-Putin meeting last September in Sochi. Rather, Russia has recently turned a blind eye to the attacks launched by the armed opposition groups in northern Syria against the Turkish forces. Furthermore, some of those attacks launched directly from Russian forces-held areas.
Erdogan’s relation with lights and fame is just like the relation of fish with water. If he is no longer in the circle of attention, he feels dead, so he tries hard to keep himself within the center-stage. Therefore, his recent escalation and threats to invade northern Syria come in this framework to refocus the media on him and his behavior. Nonetheless, the international media yet continues to neglect him and pays no attention to what he says as if he was not even existed on the scene, that is simply because everyone knows that Erdogan will not dare to take any military action without a US consent and even a Russian green light.
Erdogan’s situation in the region is not better. Rather, his regional losses may be the worst that his policies have had since he came to power in Turkey, where lost his last important strongholds in Tunisia after the measures taken by Tunisian President Kais Saied to remove the Brotherhood (Erdogan’s most important allies) from leading the government, and the presidency of the parliament. He has even sought to permanently remove them from political action. This daring movement by Saied led to significant split in the body of the Tunisian Brotherhood movement represented by the Ennahda Movement.
The earliest steps of Erdogan’s failure started when the current Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, ousted the Muslim Brotherhoods movement from ruling Egypt, which was the cornerstone of Erdogan’s Brotherhood project which aims to spread the political Islam over the region. This way, Erdogan can achieve the dream of the Ottoman empire’s rebirth based in Turkey. Therefore, we see that Erdogan pays much more attention to Istanbul (the capital of Ottomans) than the official capital, Ankara, which is a clear indication that Erdogan wants to bring back the Turkish-Ottoman influence to the Arab world which the Turks had occupied for four centuries.
The same failure is repeated in Libya. Erdogan’s allies are convinced now that mercenaries, whom Erdogan brought to for fighting, should leave Libya and go back to where they came from (mainly north Syria). Erdogan also suffers regionally from a Saudi growing role against his dreams of controlling the Islamic world, a role that is supported by the UEA which in turn rejects the Turkish influence in the region.
Inside Turkey, Erdogan’s popularity continues to decline due to the economic difficulties Turkey is going through. Erdogan is trying to cover and obscure through a false media image that will be revealed soon. He also faces a strong opposition movement that has become a thorn in Erdogan’s flesh, so he used the case of Fethullah Gülen as an excuse to arrest all political opponents and even the journalists, in a clear dedication to the dictatorial steps he has taken since changing the constitution and limiting the powers to the President of the Republic.
What matters most to Erdogan is to be in center-stage, and the international neglect he is suffering from now may push him to a crazy adventure. There is no doubt that the most Erdogan can do is the war in north Syria, as it is the only chance that can bring him back to the center-stage.