This week, Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord(GNA) received a wonderful Christmas gift when Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced GNA’s military backing.
The president’s party will present a bill when parliament resumes between 8th and 9th January 2020 to send troops responding to Libya’s invitation, discussed with neighbors, Tunisia.
This invitation has been prompted by escalating war for capital between the UN-backed government and warlord Khalifa Haftar who wants to take over Tripoli, advancing from the east. So far Khalifa has replaced nine elected municipal councils with the military administration.
Since Erdogan’s governing party has a majority in parliament, this motion will most likely be passed and a regiment together with military ware sent to Libya. This proposition jeopardizes warlord Khalifa, which he vehemently opposes, even hitting oil refineries near Turkey and warning ships against the transportation of military equipment after the Turkish government announcement.
But let’s go back to the basics.
First, who is President Erdogan? He served as the Prime Minister of Turkey between 2003 and 2014 after being mayor of Istanbul for four years and an imprisonment stint in between. He was elected to the presidency in 2014 and has overseen the transformation of Turkey to the increasingly growing behemoth we know today.
He is credited with economic growth, infrastructure development and tacking perennial problems like air pollution, water shortage, and traffic chaos, not only in Istanbul but in the other cities. One of the towering projects is the Istanbul airport. Once completed, the airport will be the one largest in the world and home to a success story in the name of Turkish Airlines.
Erdogan is no stranger to controversy, especially while advancing his and Turkey’s ideals. The attempted coup in 2016 is a perfect example. This led to Erdogan administration rounding up politicians, teachers, doctors, journalists and other professionals associated with the coup.
He went ahead to accuse the US of harboring Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric linked with a coup faction within Turkish Armed Forces organizing themselves as Peace at Home Council. More than 7,400 public sector officials were dismissed for participating in the attempted coup. Such a purge can only be carried out by a courageous and determined leader. The murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, also brought out a brave and daring Erdogan, threatening to expose known and unknown details until Riyadh owned up to the assassination being carried out by agents connected to the Kingdom.
Such has been the leadership under Erdogan. And like the Ottoman empire founded by Osman in 1299, Turkey has not shied away from regional expansion and pursuit of undeviating foreign policy. Recently, Turkey moved in Syria to protect her borders, an incursion that forced ceasefire in the area but also attracted US intervention. Both the US and Turkey are significant signatories to NATO, a regional military pact meant to maintain peace in the region but seen at times to counter Russian and Chinese influence in Europe. Turkey hosts one of the largest US military bases in Europe and both countries have enjoyed working diplomatic relations in recent years, sometimes souring under the Trump administration.
Turkey does not fear isolation, especially in Europe despite the US and EU warning of possible escalations in Libya that could be fuelled by international involvement. Libya revolves around areas of interest that Erdogan is not willing to let go of. Here are three points that shape Ankara’s foreign policy in the region.
This Libya military overture succeeds an agreement signed by Libya and Turkey for Mediterranean Sea cooperation almost a month ago. The pact seemed to shape borders in favor of both countries cutting out Greece and Cyprus off the resource-rich eastern part of the sea. Essentially, it gives Turkey a great advantage in advancing her foreign policy.
The porous borders and weak administration in Libya have been a big source of concern in enhancing immigration across Europe. Thousands die while trying to cross the sea to economically safer havens from the biting situations in their African countries. The immigration issue has shaped political discourse in most Europe countries and parties seen to be cubing this issue have gained prominence in most sovereignties in the continent. Turkey presents a solution in ensuring proper administration of borders and effective screening to reduce this menace.
Libya has enormous oil reserves, an engine of development during Gaddafi’s leadership. One of the success factors of warlord Khalifa military incursion has been the focus on oil refineries. These oil resources are a great source of interest to any foreign country and Turkey is no exception. By providing solutions and control to GNA, Ankara stands a chance to allow her companies to participate in the oil business.
Like the Ottoman Empire, Turkish foreign policy is unstoppable.