Or, “lack thereof…” perhaps. Caution is in short supply nowadays. What I see as vain foolhardiness is applauded as valiant audacity by others. Those others include the policy makers. They are convinced that the pandemic offers a unique opportunity for Turkey to carry the day. Across the border in Idlib and Iraqi Kurdistan, overseas in Tripoli, “full speed ahead” is the name of the game. Not only that, but also the predominant expectation is Turkey regionally replacing part of China’s global supply chain share once the pandemic subsides.
Ergo, from the Libyan skies Turkish combat drones strike at LNA targets with an increasing tempo. In Idlib, the size of the TAF military presence exceeded 20.000 troops. More political pressure is piled on the KRG in order to close once and for all the dormant Makhmour “camp” –which is more of a Erbil suburb with its 14.000 civilian population. Briefly, it looks as if the Covid-19 took its heavy toll on Asad supporting Russia and Iran as well as those European hiding behind UAE in their support to Hafter but simply left Turkey unabated. Quite to the contrary, the pandemic almost whipped Turkey into action.
Turkey reiterates its resolve in all the abovementioned theaters. It challenges other interested parties into betting all of their chips or else. The presidential communication line is always the same on all these fronts: These are existential issues for the country. The adversaries, and they are a plenty, may reshuffle their cards, reset their priorities, but not Ankara. For Ankara, the pandemic is a godsent window of opportunity. The Eastern Mediterranean is wide open, LNA is alone, Assad is drained of blood, PKK is cornered in the mountains. Even the ever “seriously concerned” EU is busy trying to get its act together.
Add the rock-bottom oil prices to the mix and the picture appears even brighter from Ankara. Yet there is a blind spot in this otherwise pristine political landscape: Transparency. We do not know whether the books are cooked or not. The decision making process is fully centralized and watertight when it comes to communication. The military expenses were already straining the already burdened economy. There is no exit strategy and no clear definition of a mission to accomplish in any of these fronts. Instead there is a narrative, one size fits all, that Turkey is reclaiming its long lost grandeur.
The opposition stutters when it comes to foreign policy issues. To wit, CHP leader Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu stated in his speech commemorating the centenary of the Turkish parliament that “the internal and external security of our country should be formulated with an indisputably national understanding.” Even on the 2.5 billions of USD worth S-400 missile defence systems issue, the opposition chooses to dare the government to fully activate them in defiance of the U.S. and NATO warnings not to do so. The media, the civil society and the academia are since long steamrollered and do not constitute a source of worry the least bit.
Therefore, we will have to wait and see when and if the bitter realities will catch up with this combative narrative. External forces to stop or to slow this plunge ahead are absent. The capacity and the capability of the Turkish Armed Forces is overwhelming compared to its regional peers. The resolve of the leader and the public support are formidable. The pandemic keeps the global powers at bay. The worm in the apple is the economic engine. If the vital gauges in a car such as the thermometer do not function properly, the driver may not realize in time that motor is overheating. If one accelerates instead of slowing down, the pistons will inevitably hit the floor.