During six centuries, the Ottomans were at the head of a huge Empire which included a large part of Europe, Asia, and Africa. In 1923, after two centuries of deliquesce, the sultanat was abolished by Mustafa Kemal(1). The new leader wanted to help Turkey to evolve. Military forces had an essential role in this new state. This forces always protected the legacy of Mustafa Kémal, the secular politic system of the coup(2).
From the end of the 20th century and to the begining of the 21th a new islamic-conservative party (AKP) rose and wanted to be the spiritual heir of the Ottoman Empire. A struggle between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the AKP, and the army began. In 2009, Erdogan used the Ergenekon conspiracy (3) to arrest the army leaders and at the same time took advantage of the situation to arrest journalists and akp-opposants. Since this time Erdogan used the state to reinforce his dominance and eliminate his enemies. When the Syrian conflict began, Erdogan saw it as an opportunity to reclaim sunnite territories near the Turkish border. During the first years, Ankara did not prevent ISIS from attacking the Kurds and the Bashar al-Assad regime.
In August 2016, the Turkish government sent troops in Syria with the Kremlin’s support. The operation was called “shield of Euphrate”(4). This significant move showed the diplomatic U-turn in Ankara. There was little point in trying to understand this decision without being aware of Turkey’s past. Erdogan used the shadow of the Ottoman Empire to justify his aggressive political position. Everything he was doing was done to rebuild past glories. Erdogan wanted to build a powerful State, and for this purpose the country needed a new leader, like Osman, the first Sultan. This assaut would stop the Kurdish army from intervening and give the territory the Sultan wanted. In Manbij, the Peshmerga took over the city, but now have to give it back to Turkey(5). According to the Turkish position, Raqqa should remain under their control. This situation is also beneficial to Russia as well. With the Turkish intervention, the U.S. focused on Raqqa and lost its interests for Aleppo(6). Furthermore, because of this intervention, the Turkish army is now stuck and needs the support of Russia.
In Iraq, the situation is less complex than in Syria. The Kurdish people have an autonomous state and the Iraq army is well trained and benefits from advanced military devices. The Sultan plan is different here: Turkey built an operation base near Mossoul against the will of Bagdad. They do not want to conquer Mossoul. They are more willing to wait for mistake from Iraqi army. In fact, this military force is constituted by a majority of Chiite muslim, which slaughtered civilians(7) when they took Fallouja away from ISIS. If such a thing happens again, Erdogan would claim this city to protect the people. The Kurdish projet to create an independant state needs the approval of Turkey. These two powers obviously want to use the weakness of the Iraqi state for themselves.
The Sultan strategy is dangerous, it could have make them lose the country like during the putsh of july 2016(8). It poisoned the relationship of the Sultan with Russia when Erdogan stroke their airplane(9). European leaders were running out of patience concerning the refugee’s cause and the repression against Turkish civilians(10). If the political guideline of Ankara is wrong, the price to pay will be hudge. This country could loose credibility, the war , or worst. These territories owns a lot of ressources, but is it really worth it ?
*Pictures left to right : President Erdogan, Turkish troops in Syria, Bosphore bridge occupation during the coup in july 2016, and the Presidential Palace.
(6) Russian and Syrian regime increased the pressure onto the rebel area of Aleppo to take over the city before Trump’s nomination, on january 20th 2017. Moreover, the end of Obama’s era weakens the influence of American international politic . The Bachar loyal forces want to take advantage of this situation.