Illustration: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Public Domain CC0] via pxfuel
Disputed claims to the control of oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly those around the Republic of Cyprus, have led many observers to expect a military confrontation between Turkey and Greece in the waters just to the north-west of Israel.
The ongoing dispute among the parties over the demarcation of sovereign rights to airspace and territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, has been sharply exacerbated at the present time due to the new factor of discovered gas and oil. Additionally, world recognition of the rights of the Republic of Cyprus to enter production and transport contracts with Israel, Lebanon, and Egypt, has left Turkey out of the equation.
Military confrontations in the Aegean Sea have been long and extended between Greece and Turkey, dating from at least the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus following the Cypriot coup d’etat. This history must be kept in mind when viewing today’s gas exploration skirmishes and the verbal war and hostilities in the Mediterranean waters.
President Erdogan of Turkey manipulates religious sentiments around the world to produce a religious discourse that he can employ to serve his expansion project and political agendas. Erdogan will likely pass off his anticipated war with Greece as a Holy War between infidelity and Islam in order to mobilize and exploit the religious sentiments and feelings of the Islamic street, and in particluar, of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our Arab societies and homelands, especially those of moderate Arab countries, are facing Erdogan's expansionist ambitions and his eagerness to restore Turkey to its lost hegemony and prestige. Turkey has practiced double standards in its ‘embrace’ of Islam. Political and sectarian immorality — which contradict the claims of virtue — flourish in the prostitution and body trade in Turkey. This exists side by side with cries of outrage over ‘Palestine,’ any revival of trade or cooperation with Israel, and lamentations over Syrian losses while bartering over their political demands.
Any observer of political developments in the Arab region over the last few decades will recognize Erdogan’s historical ambitions as he opens fronts in Arab countries. Turkey is present in Iraq, Syria, and Libya in addition to its military presence in Qatar. Using a soft power approach, Turkey is making inroads into Yemen, purportedly shipping arms via the Lebanese Hezbollah who have trained Yemen’s Houthi and the Dahm Al-Hamra'a tribes. All of this is in fact dangerous to the stability of the region. In addition to military approaches, Turkish soft power has penetrated our Arab and Gulf societies in particular in the past few years, whether with tourism, soap operas, or its commercial exports flooding our markets with Turkish goods.
Today, Erdogan believes that he is carrying out a sacred historical and ideological mission that will create Turkey into an imperial guardian of Islamic peoples and states. His dreams will not stop until he leads the Arab and Islamic region; this dream is part of his grand project built by trading on the emotions of religious peoples and exploiting current circumstances to ignite a reckless war. He will appeal to religious sentiments to fuel a war that he will claim to be a war of "infidelity and Islam" — but which is actually built on stupidities, geopolitical conflicts, ambitions towards oil and gas, expansion and dreams of hegemony.
Rami Dabbas is a Jordanian freelance writer and analyst based in Amman, who stands for peace in the Middle East and is a pro-Israel advocate.
Click here to read more of this writer's work in The Jerusalem Herald.