“Erdogan wants once again to use Syria to achieve its national goals”

The Turkish President’s foreign policy is above all put at the service of his desire to preserve and concentrate power, estimates Gönül Tol, specialist in Turkey, in an interview with the “world”, a few months before the election Presidential organized in June.

words collected by Nicolas Bourcier (Istanbul, correspondent)

Gönül Tol is director and founder of the study program devoted to Turkey at the Middle East Institute (MEI), a Think Tank based in Washington. Specialist in international questions, defense and Islamist movements in Europe and in the Arab world, she has just finished her book The Erdogan war (Oxford University Press, 332 pages, 35 euros, not translated). The book carefully details the way in which Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has exploited the Syrian war for reasons of domestic policy and personal image, thereby overwhelming the diplomatic positioning of his country.

After the Istanbul attack on November 13, 2022, promptly attributed by the Turkish government to PKK members based in Syria, Erdogan once again threatened to intervene militarily on Syrian soil in the north of the country. What goal is it for?

The war in Syria has always been an integral part of Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate his personal power. Faced with critical elections this year, he once again wants to use this country to achieve its national goals. By a foray into Syria, he hopes to mobilize nationalists and dig a additional gap between the Prokurd party and the rest of the opposition. But above all, he means to the voters that he will solve the problem of Syrian refugees with another foray into Syria – a question that resonates strongly among the electorate. The question is whether Erdogan will get the green light from Russia. Until now, he has not been able to do it, but that does not mean that he will not. In the coming months, Putin, who relies on the Turkish head of state in the post-invasion era of Ukraine, could agree to lend a hand to his friend for the next elections.

Syria, Saudi Arabia, Greece … There are many reversals on the international scene of the Turkish president. After twenty years at the head of the country, what is his vision of the world?

I don’t know and no one knows. Why ? Well because the only thing that matters to him is to stay in power. He thinks, acts and sees the world only through this unique lens. It is absolutely central to understand it. There is nothing that he cannot sacrifice to achieve this goal, he has shown it to us from the start.

Above all, Erdogan is a populist in the sense that he precisely uses different ideologies in order to achieve his ends. Populism gives enough room for maneuver and flexibility to use a reflection or a proposal corresponding to the agenda of the moment. When he won his seat as a deputy who propels him to the post of Prime Minister in 2003, he knows, or understands, that winning the vote in the ballot boxes in a country like Turkey may not matter Because it is the secular establishment that ultimately makes real decisions.

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/Media reports cited above.