While Israel is still coping with fresh attacks on its northern border and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) remain on high alert, something else is threatening the security of the Jewish state: Erdogan’s Turkey.
The Turkish President is known for his bellicose rhetoric against Israel, but he now has vowed to “liberate” Jerusalem from its “invaders” after upsetting the Christian world by reconverting the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Istanbul into a mosque last week. (See: Islam’s Renewed Assault on the Christian World)
The Hagia Sophia was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 537 CE, and became a mosque in 1453 after the Turkish conquest of the city. In 1934, then Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk proposed to turn the iconic church into a museum to build bridges with the Christian world, but Erdogan has effectively ended this project by claiming the Church as Muslim property.
The “resurrection” of the Hagia Sophia was significant to the entire Muslim world, the Turkish dictator insisted during the first Friday prayers after deciding on July 10 that the Church was an important site for the entire Muslim community from “Bukhara to Andalusia” in Spain.
These were the outer borders of one of the first Muslim Caliphates that effectively ceased to exist in 1236 CE, when the Christian Kingdom of Castile re-conquered Andalusia, including Cordoba, the capital of the Spanish Caliphate.
Erdogan no longer hides his Ottoman aspirations and regards Israel as a foreign implant in the midst of the Ummah, the world community of Muslims.
The Turkish dictator runs several Muslim charity projects in Jerusalem that were set up to radicalize the Arab community in the Holy City.
Erdogan has also attempted to infiltrate the Waqf, the Palestinian and Jordanian custodian of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
If one takes a look at the wider picture of Turkey’s activities in the Middle East and beyond it becomes clear that Erdogan is actively pursuing his dream of resurrecting the Ottoman Empire.
Turkish military aggression
The Turkish strongman launched two incursions into Syria under the pretense of “fighting terrorists,” meaning the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the Kurdish YPG militia, which hasn’t attempted to attack Turkey or conducted any terrorist activity in the country.
Erdogan also let his forces bomb parts of northern Iraq, where the Kurds enjoy limited autonomy, and the remaining Yazidi minority in the area of Mount Sinjar, again under the pretext that he was fighting terrorists.
Intervention in Libya
At the beginning of 2020, the Turkish president blackmailed Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who has connections to Islamist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
In exchange for weapons, drones and the deployment of Syrian mercenaries, Turkey received energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea from the besieged government in Tripoli.
The agreement between Erdogan and the GNA drew international condemnations and lead to increasing tensions between Turkey and its Greek neighbors, as well as with Israel, which has agreements with Greece and Cyprus regarding deep sea drilling and the construction of a gas pipeline to Europe via Italy.
Experts say there are now almost 4,000 Syrian mercenaries fighting alongside the forces of the GNA, and the odd coalition is now preparing for an assault on the coastal city of Sirte in Libya.
Confrontation with Egypt
The preparations for the assault on Sirte served as a wake-up call for an Egyptian government that never showed much interest in the messy civil war in Libya.
Last month, the Egyptian Parliament rubber-stamped a plan presented by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi that would bring the Egyptian army into the Libyan fray.
El-Sisi insisted that attacking Sirte would be to cross a red line, and
warned he would send in the Egyptian army to foil the plans of Erdogan and el-Sarraj.
The coastal city houses much of Libya’s oil industry and has been the scene of fierce fighting when ISIS tried to set up camp in the North African country.
Egypt is also concerned about Turkey’s plans to conduct a seismic survey in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and has warned Erdogan to back down because this plan would infringe on “Egypt’s sovereign rights.”
Turning a blind eye to Turkish meddling
Then there is Yemen, where Erdogan is serving as a patron for Islamist fighters who need medical treatment or furlough from the battlefield.
Turkey also seeks to expand its influence over countries such as Somalia, where the Turkish army has set up a base, and Qatar, where the Turkish army also has a presence.
This all is possible thanks to both the United States under President Donald J. Trump and the European Union effectively turning a blind eye and letting Erdogan off the hook on numerous occasions when he undertook belligerent operations to advance his Ottoman agenda.
Israel prepares to confront Turkey
Israel, on the other hand, recognizes the danger Erdogan poses and has included Turkey in its new defense plans for the first time ever.
The Israeli government knows about Erdogan’s plans for Jerusalem and also about Turkey’s ties to Hamas and the other Palestinian terror movements.
Some have argued that Erdogan’s military adventurism in the Arab world is part of an effort to bolster domestic support amid an economic meltdown in the country. But they are wrong.
Restoring Ottoman glory
The Turkish hot-head may not be the greatest strategic thinker in the contemporary Middle East, but he has a clear vision regarding Turkey’s role in the region and the world, and that vision centers on restoring the Ottoman Caliphate.
It was for this reason that Erdogan very conspicuously chose the date of July 24 to inaugurate Hagia Sophia as a mosque and provoke the Christian world. (See: Islam’s Renewed Assault on the Christian World)
That was the day that the Lausanne Treaty was signed one hundred years ago. Erdogan has repeatedly made clear he thinks the Treaty that put an end to the Ottoman Empire and created Ataturk’s secular and modern Turkey is no longer valid.
He has said the same about the Sykes-Picot agreement that divided the Middle East after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.
In short, he’s acting upon his words.