December 9, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9078

Anti-Turkish Statements In Iran – Part II: Iranian Daily On 'Sultan Recep [Tayyip Erdogan],' Who 'Fantasizes That He Is The Equal Of The Ottoman Sultans And Can Tell The World What To Do'

December 9, 2020
Iran, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9078

In the recent months, there has been tension in Iran-Turkey relations, which has also been evident in the Iranian press. As part of this, on March 1, 2020 the Iranian daily Entekhab published an article that came out against the expansionist ambitions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, it said, wishes to restore the political and territorial glory of the Ottoman Empire. Titled "When Sultan Recep [Tayyip Erdogan] Fantasizes that He Is the Equal of the Ottoman Sultans And Can Tell the Word What to Do - How Erdogan Thinks and Analyzes the World," the article stated that, in 2016, Erdogan consolidated his one-man rule in Turkey and turned to implement the neo-Ottoman doctrine by military means. It contended that Erdogan dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire in the Levant - in Syria and the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq - with himself as the sultan, and is confronting Russia, the West and even the Iran-led resistance axis in order to accomplish this.

Illustration accompanying the Entekhab article: Erdogan as an Ottoman Sultan

The following are excerpts from the article:[1]   

"The February 27, 2020 Russian airstrike on a convoy of Turkish and Turkey-backed forces in Idlib, [Syria], has become a key factor in the territorial calculations in Syria and the Middle East. These days, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is mentioned in the media more than any other political figure. On one occasion he threatened the Syrian government with dire revenge, and then said that NATO and America must help Turkey to delay the crisis in Idlib. In any case, Erdogan's main statements are part of a two-pronged approach that must be analyzed in order understand Ankara's policy in the region. One the one hand, Erdogan calls on the political leaders in Moscow to keep out of Turkey's way in Syria and leave [the arena to] Ankara and to [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad alone. One the other hand, Erdogan wants to announce the opening of Turkey's border with Greece to migrants trying to reach Europe.

"These two approaches of Erdogan's are the main key to analyzing Ankara's current policy in the Middle East and in the international arena. In essence, our claim is that neo-Ottomanism, the ideology [which underpins] Turkey's foreign policy mechanisms, is now being translated [from theory] into action, and that Erdogan himself is the main figure who is carrying out this transition.    

"From the establishment of the new Turkish regime, with the founding [in 1922] of the Republic of Turkey, which was all that remained of the Ottoman Empire, the Young Turk [movement] always yearned to regain control of the Mosul district, [as it was defined] in the era of the Ottoman Empire, namely, the of the Mosul, Kirkuk, Irbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates in northern Iraq.

When [former] Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the chief strategist of this ministry, came to Mosul in 2009, he declared: "Our forefathers once came here on horseback, and one day we will return here with modern gear." In the nationalist Turkish ideology, also called 'neo-Ottomanism,' controlling the oil-rich parts of Iraq is clearly a genuine goal of particular [importance]. 

"In addition to Mosul, Syria - the main remnant of the Levant, which has 822 km of land border with modern Turkey -  has in recent years become a target for Turkish politicians seeking to restore the glory of the Ottoman Empire. In the current situation, Erdogan clearly dreams of ruling the Levant and the Mosul governorate…

"Ahmet Davutoğlu's resignation from the position of prime minister on May 5, 2016 can be regarded as the starting point of Erdogan's one-man rule in Turkey and of the unbalanced implementation of neo-Ottomanism there. In the years after 2003, Davutoğlu's strategic-depth doctrine and his [other] ideas informed Turkey's domestic and foreign policy. But in his power struggle with the academic elite and with the professor of International Relations [Davutoğlu],  Erdogan grew impatient and could no longer tolerate their growing power. Although Davutoğlu's ideas were often described as the neo-Ottoman road-map, his approach was never based on extremism and military aggression. After deposing the ideologue of [Turkey's ruling] Justice and Development Party [namely Davutoğlu], Erdogan, operating on a belligerent rationale, adopted the strategy of development by the force of the sword. Three months after Davutoğlu's ouster as prime minister, Binali Yildirim was appointed in his stead, and on August 24, 2016, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in the Aleppo governorate against ISIS and the Kurds, and, after capturing Jarabulus, managed to capture Al-Bab, A'zaz and parts of 'Afrin as well.

"After expanding in the Levant, Erdogan did not confine himself to the northern parts of the Aleppo governorate, but took control of the [entire] area by joining forces with extremist groups in the Idlib governorate. Furthermore, on January 20, 2018, the Turkish military and militias under its command launched an attack on the Kurdish-controlled 'Afrin governorate, as part of Operation Olive Branch, and 58 days later, on March 18, they managed to gain control the area. But Erdogan's expansion in northern Syria did not end there. On October 9, 2019, despite widespread international opposition, he launched an offensive on the Kurds and Syrians east of the Euphrates and managed to take over several [additional] areas.   

"In the new situation, with the armies of Syria and Russia determined to regain Idlib, Erdogan realizes that his dream of territorial [expansion] and control of the Levant is in danger, and we [therefore] see him knocking on every door in order to take control of these areas. Although he claims that he is not after land or oil, his array of troops and his attacks on his rivals in the Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqah governorates [indicate that he regards these areas] as part of the Ottoman Empire that was torn from it and has [now] been regained under the rule of Sultan Recep.

"Erdogan declares explicitly that he entered [Syria] at the invitation of the Syrian people and sent troops to Libya at the behest of its government in order to confront the forces of Khalifa Haftar. His deputy likewise says that 'our strategic depth is in Libya,' for that's the way it was in the days of the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan also calls on America to deploy patriot missiles to defend [his forces] in Idlib, tells Russia to get out of his way in Idlib, and threatens the countries of Europe that he will open his borders [and drown them in] waves of refugees. Furthermore, due to [his] latest move, the positions of the resistance - for instance of Hizbullah in Syria - have become targets. 

"Examining Erdogan's tone and actions, it becomes clear that, on the one hand, his interactions with the world leaders have given him [an appetite] for the glory and might of the 'Ottoman sultans. On the other hand, he sees himself as the leader of the Islamic world, or, more precisely, of the world's Sunni [Muslims]. Today, in addition to considering himself the equal of Ottoman sultans Mehmed [the Conqueror] and Suleiman [the Magnificent], who can tell the Russians what to do and what not to do, Sultan Recep apparently fails to realize that the old days, in which the Ottomans ruled over half of Europe or forced the Russian Tzar to withdraw, are long gone. Sultan Recep seems to be in the eye of a big storm that will sweep him from office in 2023, in Turkey's [next] presidential elections."    


[1] Entekhab (Iran), March 1, 2020.

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