Erdogan has made his foreign policy intentions crystal clear in recent years, and the international community would do well to heed the warning.
The raging conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has given Turkey another opportunity to expand its violent, imperialist tendencies under the iron fist of President Recep Erdogan.
In fact, the sudden outbreak of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan is more than likely orchestrated in part by Turkey, given the current Turkish regime’s increasingly aggressive international policies. From Libya to Syria to Greece to Iraq to Azerbaijan, and yes, even to Israel, Turkey’s actions are far beyond acceptable by any standards of international law – or morality.
As if the bloody civil war in Syria wasn’t complicated enough, Turkey took advantage of the chaos in Syria and took aggressive military action beginning as early as 2016, and continues until today, occupying parts of Syria in order to oppress the local Kurdish populations, claiming they were clearing “terrorist zones.”
Multiple independent organizations reported that Turkey carried out ethnic cleansing and other war crimes against local minority populations. Despite this, international bodies and the United States did nothing to hold Turkey accountable. As frequently happens with human rights violators when they aren’t held accountable, Turkey’s aggression and war crimes haven’t stopped with Syria.
Turkey has also begun to recruit local populations in Syria to fight foreign wars in Libya, another brewing violent conflict in which Turkey is meddling, and there also reports of Ankara recruiting Syrians to fight against Armenia as well. Most recently, Turkish involvement expanded to Azerbaijan, as Turkey is backing the violence against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey has repeatedly bombed Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, and is regularly threatening Greece over maritime access to gas exploration. Its military invasion in Libya and enhanced ties with the war-torn nation have also led to increased tensions with Cyprus and Israel over the EastMed energy deal. Turkey has been on the literal warpath, and no one seems to be paying attention.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s interests are expanding to Israel. Erdogan is a longtime supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has routinely aligned himself with Muslim Brotherhood-supporting nations such as Qatar. He has provided support to Hamas terrorists repeatedly, including welcoming them to Turkey and even granting them citizenship. Within Turkey as well, Erdogan has brutally oppressed political dissidents and aided in the Islamization of historic sites, such as turning the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Unsurprisingly, in response to the United Arab Emirates and Bahraini peace deals, Turkey sided against the Arab world and publicly condemned peace, siding with some the world’s worst human-rights abusers: Iran, Qatar and Palestinian leaders. Despite being allies of Hamas, earlier this month, Erdogan shared a bizarre tweet glorifying Ottoman control over the city of Jerusalem that stated, “Jerusalem is ours,” and claiming the Ottomans “lived with the Palestinian people for centuries.” Ironic, considering the bloody history of the Ottomans in fighting against the local Arab population in order to control the city of Jerusalem.
Erdogan has made his foreign policy intentions crystal clear in recent years, and the international community would do well to heed the warning. Turkey is a bad-faith actor that has committed, and is committing, gross human rights violations – not only against its own population with censorship and oppression of journalists and dissidents, but in Syria, Libya and potentially Azerbaijan.
While Israel’s position is extremely complex in dealing with Azerbaijan and Armenia, due to alliances against Iran, Israel too should be very careful in aligning itself with Azerbaijan (and as such, Turkey) in this conflict. We should not ignore Erdogan’s aggression. We must hold Turkey accountable and put an end to its meddling in the region.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC.