“We are in Libya, we are in Azerbaijan, we are in Syria, we are in the eastern Mediterranean, and we will continue to be.”
That brusque assertion was made on July 2 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a factory that manufactures howitzers and ammunition carrier vehicles.
He added: “Whatever our rights are, we will get them. We will continue our oil exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus.”
Left off his list was Iraq, where his armed forces regularly wage open warfare and maintain military bases despite the opposition of the central government. Left off is his government providing Ukraine with combat drones for its war in the Donbass and upgrading its navy for confrontation with Russia around Crimea and the Kerch Strait. And reports of Ankara shipping armored vehicles to anti-Houthi armed groups in Yemen.
Even the U.S. is withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and may do so soon in Syria. But the Turkish military, as reflected in the comment above, is in those three countries to stay. As it has been in Cyprus since 1974, with up to 30,000 troops there currently.
There is no other national leader at the moment who remotely approaches Erdoğan’s aggressive posturing – and who matches it with military actions as he consistently does.
Yet no nation or combination of nations dares challenge him, dares bell the cat. NATO supports him, the U.S. and China tolerate him, Russia embraces him. France, which withdrew from NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian a year ago after Turkish ships targeted one of its own off the coast of Libya, is also submissive.
Cyprus, Egypt and Greece, which are threatened by Ankara’s imperial expansion in the Mediterranean in the form of its Blue Homeland doctrine (elaborated by Turkish admirals), occasionally criticize Turkey but to no effect.
President Erdoğan will visit the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey, on July 20, the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of the island. On that date the Turkish military seized a small part of the north after a coup in Cyprus threatened to result in the island being absorbed into Greece by the military junta ruling in Athens at the time. After the Greek junta collapsed Turkey launched a larger invasion of northern Cyprus with a force of 40,000 troops, capturing over a third of the total island and ethnically cleansing Greeks. Over 150,000 people, a quarter of the total population of Cyprus, were expelled from the north.
The pseudo-government in the north will provide Erdoğan with full honors when he arrives in its territory.
The Greek Kathimerini reports that the Turkish leader will announce the opening of a Turkish drone base there. Turkey claims to be the fourth-largest producer of drones in the world. His announcing such a base would parallel his comments after visiting conquered Nagorno-Karabakh the day after last month’s NATO summit that Turkey could open a military base in Azerbaijan.
Turkey has bases in both Iraq and Syria, without authorization from the governments of the countries. It will continue to expand its bases in Libya as well.
Erdoğan’s visit will also coincide with Eid al-Adha, thereby providing him with, as the above-mentioned newspaper states, an opportunity to simultaneously promote his imperial and religious agendas.
Ankara is aggressively demanding a two-state policy in Cyprus, a division of the island nation, one in which the Turkish military enclave in the north is given the full rights of a sovereign nation. No nation or international organization recognizes or supports that diktat. But as seen above, nothing the rest of the world thinks will in any manner impede Turkey’s ever-expanding political, economic and military – especially military – expansionism.
Cyprus should join Armenia in being extremely alarmed at the moment. A repeat of 1974 is not out of the question.