Turkey’s Islamist leader using NATO to get free hand and punish US allies

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Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the authoritarian Islamist leader of Turkey, is increasingly using NATO to leverage his own national interests at the expense of the organization. In recent weeks he has sharpened his saber-rattling by blocking Sweden and Finland from joining the organization, and is now poised to invade northern Syria where the Kurds, a U.S., partner in the fight against ISIS are in his crosshairs.Professor Ofra Bengio, an expert on Turkey and a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University, told Fox News Digital, “The time is good for him [Erdogan] “to create a buffer zone” in Syria because “Russia is involved in Ukraine and it [Moscow] needs Turkey because it might veto the entrance of Finland and Sweden into NATO.” She added that the timing is good for Erdogan to carve up Syria because the “U.S. is not engaged in the region.” In 2019, Sweden and Finland banned arms sales to Turkey after Erdogan launched an offensive into Syria to fight the People’s Defense Units better known as the YPG. NATO member Turkey can block the applications of the two Nordic countries because the alliance requires unanimity among its 30 members for the admission of new countries.  
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14, 2021.
(Reuters/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo)TURKEY’S ERDOGAN: SWEDEN, FINLAND JOINING NATO POSES ‘RISKS’ FOR ‘ORGANIZATION’S FUTURE’U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, highlighted the urgency of securing membership for Finland and Sweden during a meeting with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. Blinken telling reporters that he was in close contact with Erdogan on the issue.Critics say Turkey’s disruption of a NATO enlargement plays into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy to weaken the military alliance that seeks to counter his invasion of Ukraine and further bellicosity across Europe. 
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – MARCH 05:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their talks at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020 in Moscow, Russia. Erdogan is having a one day visit to Russia to discuss the war conflcit in Syria. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)TURKEY’S ERDOGAN ACCUSES SWEDEN AND FINLAND OF SUPPORTING TERRORISM POTENTIALLY THWARTING NATO ASPIRATIONSErdogan recently spoke with the Russian leader and proposed Turkey play a role in an “observation mechanism” to end the war with Ukraine. Russia’s foreign minister is reportedly traveling to Ankara, Wednesday, to meet with his Turkish counterpart for talksAnd it’s not just Finland and Sweden, as if to prove a point Erdogan opened up a second new front with NATO last week when he pulled the plug on talks with NATO member Greece over Ankara’s complaint of alleged airspace violations. His latest fight with NATO has spilled onto Syria, and is affecting vital U.S. interests. Erdogan has long expressed a desire to eliminate the stronghold of the US-allied Kurds in northern Syria and establish a largely Arab-populated region.   “We are going into the new phase of our determination to form a 30-km [18.6-mile] deep safe zone along our southern border. We will clear Tel Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists, and we will do the same to other regions step-by-step,” the Turkish president recently declared.Erdogan’s latest round of jingoism has raised alarm bells in Washington because the YPG—a military force composed mainly of Syrian Kurds—played a pivotal role in helping the U.S. military to defeat ISIS.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, greets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he arrives for a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 14. 
(AP/Kenzo Tribouillard)SWEDEN, FINLAND NATO BID: OFFICIALS TRAVEL TO TURKEY IN PUSH TO OVERCOME THEIR OBJECTIONSBlinken recently made clear the administration’s thinking on such an escalation in northern Syria and said the U.S. was against any Turkish incursion, and warned that it could undermine regional stability and give an opportunity to terror groups.”We continue, effectively, to take the fight through partners to Daesh, to ISIS within Syria, and we don’t want to see anything that jeopardizes the efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put it in,” said Blinken.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party lawmakers at the parliament, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Erdogan threatened Wednesday to launch a new military operation in northern Syria if Kurdish militants are not cleared from areas along its border with Syria. He also said a Russian airstrike that targeted Turkey-backed Syrian rebels in Idlib earlier this week was an indication that Moscow was not looking for a lasting peace in the region. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)TURKISH LEADER CLAIMS US BASES IN GREECE POSE DIRECT ‘THREAT’ AMID SPAT WITH ATHENS OVER NATO EXPANSIONIn a response to a Fox News Digital question on whether there have been any attacks by Syrian Kurds on its territory, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman noted in an email that, “The PKK/YPG terrorist organization has long and indiscriminately targeted civilians in Northern Syria and Turkey alike,” and had committed 1750 terror attacks since the beginning of 2020, against Syrian and Turkish citizens alike.Turkey has been accused of having shown great leniency toward the Islamic State in Syria. The eviction of the YPG could mean a revival of the Islamic State and other jihadi terrorist entities in the region, military officials familiar with the landscape argue. Syrian Kurds are very concerned about Erdogan’s announcement of an impending invasion, Fox News Digital has learned.    The strongman in Ankara views the organized Kurdish community as a threat because of its desire to establish an independent state on part of Turkish soil.   LAWMAKERS WARY THAT TURKEY IS ‘PLAYING DOUBLE GAME’ IN NATO, ARMS NEGOTIATIONSErdogan laid out his blueprint for Turkish expansionism in crystal clear terms back in 2016.  Erdogan, according to the Istanbul-based newspaper Hurriyet, said, “Concerning ourselves with Iraq, Syria, Libya, Crimea, Karabakh, Bosnia and other brother regions is both a duty and a right of Turkey. Turkey is not just Turkey. The day we give up on these is the day we give up on our independence and our future.”  
FILE – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a welcoming ceremony for his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Ankara, Turkey, on May 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)
(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)ERDOGAN DISRUPTS NATO UNIT AMID PUTIN’S THREAT TO EUROPEAN SECURITYThe vast Ottoman Empire long controlled the territory in Syria that Erdogan aims to conquer.  CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPUzay Bulut, a Turkish analyst and journalist who was formerly based in Ankara, told Fox News Digital, “Turkey will celebrate 100 years of its existence [as a republic] in 2023. In pursuit of his dream of a restored Ottoman Empire, Erdogan has publicly claimed parts of northern Syria and Iraq as part of Turkey.”  Erdogan’s aim is “neo-Ottoman expansionism,” Bulut said, adding that “Turkey is the bully of the region.”   Benjamin Weinthal reports on Middle East affairs. You can follow Benjamin Weinthal on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Mojtaba Sadira

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