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Erdogan has played his cards wrongly

The increasingly isolated former darling of the region needs to reassess his country’s relationships

Gulf News

Two years ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was considered a man with a vision. And Turkey was seen as a shining example, a country whose government managed to integrate democracy and conservative Islamic traditions. Experts used to urge regional states to emulate what was then called “the Turkish Model”. It was an attractive model that was meant to appease the religious sentiments of Muslims and at the same time their hopes for representative government. Turkey was also touted as a regional necessity to counter the increasingly aggressive drive by Iran to spread its unwelcome influence in the Arab world.

That is where Erdogan seems to have misread the signals. Instead of working with regional governments, he began to work against them in an attempt, many say, aimed at advancing his AK party’s — an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood — ideology in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Thus, Erdogan started, against the advice of many of Turkey’s friends, to interfere in Arab affairs.

In Egypt, he went against the popular sentiments of the people and supported a narrow-minded party, the Muslim Brotherhood. He does not make any secret of his animosity towards the current administration in Cairo, which came to power following the June 30 uprising against the Islamist government of currently-jailed former president Mohammad Mursi. Egypt recently cut diplomatic ties with Turkey and withdrew its ambassador, accusing the Erdogan government of trying to destabilise Egypt.

In Syria, Erdogan was cautioned about arming and giving refuge to jihadist groups fighting the Bashar Al Assad regime. He was urged to channel his support, which is vital considering the strategic position of his country, to the legitimate Syrian opposition. Today, the Syrian revolution is in trouble due to the rise of jihadists, who are turning their guns, not on the regime, but on other opposition factions in a chaotic state. Erdogan seems isolated in the region today. It is no surprise, then, that he looks increasingly isolated in his country as well as scandals hit his government and people take to the streets, calling for his resignation. He grossly misread the region. And he has only himself to blame.