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Who is being targeted, Turkey or Erdogan?

President of Turkey and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech ahead of the AK Party's 6th ordinary provincial congress in Denizli, Turkey on April 7, 2018 [Sebahatdin Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]
President of Turkey and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech ahead of the AK Party's 6th ordinary provincial congress in Denizli, Turkey on 7 April, 2018 [Sebahatdin Zeyrek / Anadolu Agency]

Without warning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprised the whole world with his decision to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, sixteen months before they were scheduled to take place next year. This confused his opponents at home and his enemies abroad, as neither are prepared, and nor have they prepped the playing field to play against him and defeat him. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prepare candidates in two months to run against Erdogan given the man’s achievements, which are recognised by his opponents as well as his supporters. We cannot deny his charisma, which most of today’s politicians are lacking.

Furthermore, his enemies have not yet decided who will run against him, nor have they had the chance to pump billions of dollars into the would-be president’s campaign. This is in part due to the fact that the allied parties opposed to Erdogan, starting with the US and the Zionist UAE, have differing opinions over who should replace him.

It is worth noting that the UAE pumped billions of dollars into the failed Turkish coup attempt in July 2016 and it is willing to pay much more in order to overthrow Erdogan, who surprises them after every plot by gaining more popularity, not only amongst the Turkish people but also amongst the Arab nations. Erdogan’s enemies have tried to undermine him and besiege Turkey by forming the YPG Kurdish militias, which are armed by the US and provided with political, logistical and financial support by the UAE. The mission and role of the UAE in the region is financing all rebellions and counter-revolutions, which it does with enviable skill.

READ: Turkey announces snap elections in June

The goal behind support for the YPG is to destabilise Turkey and threaten its national security. Erdogan surprised them all with his army’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. Despite all previous analyses claiming that this was a trap set by the US for Erdogan, he still emerged victorious, and promised more military operations in other parts of Syria, such as Manbij, Ayn Al-Arab, Tal Al-Abyad and Al-Qashmali to purge them of terrorist elements which were also planted there specifically to pose a permanent threat to Turkey. This frightened the US and its anti-Erdogan allies.

There is no doubt that Turkey is a strategic goal in US eyes. Turkey under President Erdogan is not the same country as that under Kemal Ataturk and succeeding pro-US presidents from within the military establishment and run by Washington. The Turkey of the past — the NATO member tamed by the US in order to fall within its orbit — has removed itself from such circles. Hence, the US felt that it was time for Turkey to return to the roost and to break its spirit so that it would not repeat its rebellion. This will not happen without removing Erdogan from power and eliminating him from the Turkish scene. The coup attempt sponsored by the US did not succeed in doing this, causing Washington to redouble its efforts and try other means to achieve the same goal. Perhaps Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and the entry of Saudi forces working on US goals, serves this interest.

This makes sense if we take into consideration Saudi Arabia’s hostility towards Turkey, which has only intensified since young Mohammad Bin Salman became Crown Prince and the de facto leader of his country. This was apparent when he rather recklessly told Egyptian journalists that Turkey and the Ottomans are enemies of Saudi Arabia, just as Iran and the terrorist organisations are. The possibility of a military confrontation between the two countries in Syria is real, especially if we consider their geopolitical conflict of interests.

#OperationOliveBranch

Turkey, remember, supports the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar while Saudi Arabia supports the Salafist trend, thus pitting them against each other constantly and helping to keep the region unstable. If the two meet in a military confrontation, Syria will become the battlefield between the Arabs and Turks on one hand and the Arabs and Iranians on the other. Unfortunately, all of the conflicting parties are Muslims. If this happens, the US would achieve all of its future goals by dealing a blow to the Muslim nations, causing them to fight each other and preparing them for division without suffering any military or economic losses of its own; the cost of the US presence in the region will be relatively light.

This is what Trump wants. The goal is clear and is perhaps why Erdogan has taken the pre-emptive step to hold early elections. If victorious, he would be able to secure the domestic front in the face of any future confrontations with the military, as well as exercise his authority as president, as outlined by the new constitution. This has changed the government in Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system. The Turkish people agreed to this amendment via a referendum held a year ago, despite the blatant interference from America and come European countries, which are desperate to abort Turkey’s successful political experience and force the government in Ankara back into the US fold.

READ: Turkey criticises US over mixed messages on Syria

Washington has interfered openly in Turkey’s internal affairs and objected to holding the elections given the ongoing state of emergency, which has been in force since the failed coup attempt. However, we did not hear any objection from the US when Egypt held its presidential elections last month, also under a state of emergency. This is the sort of double standards that the US has become accustomed to applying when dealing with countries based solely on its own interests.

There is no leader in any country across the world willing to sacrifice even an hour of their rule, never mind 16 months, as Erdogan has done. This is a testament to his unwavering confidence and strength, as well as his confidence in what he has achieved, his popularity, and political power. He is not afraid of competition at any time and appreciates democracy and its procedures. The experience of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be studied as one of the most important political experiences of modern times that the West failed to abort. Who is being targeted? Erdogan for sure, and Turkey is the prize at stake.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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