America’s Carrot and Stick Policy Behind Erdogan’s Rapprochement with Egypt and the UAE

The Turkish regime’s openness towards the Gulf States following the steps of rapprochement with Egypt and the Emirates, the formidable adversary of Erdogan’s “Islamist” regime, warrants a review of the aims behind it since Turkey has gone to extremes in distancing her foreign policies from the international willpower, except in coercive or expedient situations, whereby she has opted to condition the policies of this rapprochement in line with her national interests that provide the jostling Turkish political forces with electoral resources that nurture their popularity credentials.

As for the Emirati-Turkish rapprochement, it falls within reviewing the Emirati aims in light of the US policy towards Turkey at this stage which necessitates containing her, besieging Russia within her lebensraum and isolating China, subjecting her to American willpower and regulating her according to the world order.

In this regard, the Emirates acts as America’s tool in polarising the countries of the world and influencing their domestic and foreign policies through the power of money to serve the American projects such as bankrolling Khalifah Haftar and supporting the energy and water projects expected to be built for Jordan.

Similar to this trend is what Emirati investment in Turkish defence industries means in preventing their independence and keeping foreign loans and investments as the source for their infrastructures. Such loans need to be repaid in foreign currency, thus keeping Turkey caged within the global financial system that controls her economy. The UAE’s functional role that penetrates countries and impacts them with cash and through the state-owned firms could be read through the comment of Emirati minister Sultan al-Jabir on the Emirati-Turkish rapprochement; he said “you ought to know that the art of partnership is part and parcel of the UAE’s approach. This partnership was the key factor behind the numerous successes we have achieved over the past years.” It is well known that the Turkish economy has not been targeted as fiercely as this since the years that followed America’s decision to abandon the “Islamic model” option in the region, target Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and since Erdoğan decided to impede some of the American agendas in Syria and Iraq.

This Emirati-Turkish rapprochement and the visit of Mohammed bin Zayed, as well as the establishing of a ten-billion dollar fund to support investment in Turkey, have come amidst Erdoğan’s efforts to fend off the speculation attacks on the Turkish lira and the impact of its depreciation on Turkey’s energy imports as well as its impact on the masses’ purchasing power, notwithstanding its positive impact on export competitiveness. Moreover, the Turkish-Emirati rapprochement, in light of Erdoğan’s endeavour to open up to Saudi, Bahrain and Egypt, and his readiness to remedy the relationship with Israel, has come to nullify the pretences of the opposition who have been calling for addressing the issues of foreign relations, and to ease the intensity of the confrontation with the states backing his opponents in the elections, especially the UAE. It has also come in light of Erdoğan’s need to ease the pressure on the Turkish economy and its fallouts on the political future of the AKP, especially as his foreign policy is mainly built on achieving interests, boosting the Turkish economy and filling the gaps in the issues undermining Turkish national security such as the issue of the Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq which is viewed as a trump card in the bid to win the elections.

Although this rapprochement has been blessed by America despite Erdoğan’s persistence in acting independently in his foreign policy, it is however viewed as an attempt to attract and contain Erdoğan through the gates of economic benefits. The visit of Bahraini foreign minister and Saudi trade minister coincided with the visit of Mohammed bin Zayed and was seconded by the steps Erdoğan took to seek a rapprochement with Egypt, while stressing during his visit to Qatar that the “significant steps” his country took towards Abu Dhabi “would soon be matched with steps towards Cairo and Tel Aviv.”

This rapprochement between Turkey and the UAE has also come amidst the campaigns of the Turkish opposition who are seeking to topple the AKP and bring Turkey back to her functional role as NATO’s bridgehead to the Middle East and Central Asia in line with US strategy. In an attempt to weaken Erdoğan’s relationship with Russia and warn her against banking on him, and exhort her to snub him, Erdoğan’s arch rival, Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, told Russian magazine Kommersant “I want to recall the words of the current Turkish president who once said that losing power in Istanbul meant losing power in the whole country. They have realised they are losing their authority and they have little time left; and we have enough patience to wait for the departure of this government.” He also accused Erdoğan’s foreign policy of “bloody adventures that have become a threat to the security and stability of Turkey, and to her entire future.” Erdoğan was also slammed by the secularist opposition, former Turkish president Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmed Davutoglu concerning the expulsion of the Canadian, French, Finnish, Danish, German, Dutch, New Zealand, Norwegian, Swedish and US ambassadors. They accused him of reckless behaviour and of causing Turkey “several problems in her international relations” and linked the deteriorating domestic conditions in Turkey to Erdoğan’s standpoints in foreign policy. This was a clear indication of the context and the aims behind the domestic and foreign problems Erdoğan has been facing.

Hence, the US has been pursuing the carrot and stick policy in dealing with Erdoğan through political and economic tools. She has been behind the Turkish opposition’s campaigns, the dismantling of the AKP and the speculation weakening the Turkish lira, and terrifying Erdoğan and impacting on his popularity while offering him the carrot of economic benefits with the Gulf States in order to contain him. At the same time, America has been attempting to drive a wedge between Russo-Turkish relations and Turkey’s relations with France and Europe through the files of the Middle East, Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Despite the mutual positive steps between America and Turkey via the facilities that the Gulf States have offered Erdoğan, the relationship between Erdoğan and America will remain tinged with extreme caution as the former has been distrustful of the latter since the failed coup attempt, and because of America’s blatant support of his opponents in the Turkish opposition.US-Turkish relations will remain lukewarm and controlled by intersected interests as America continues to strongly back the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurds, and due to the relationship of President Putin with Erdoğan who is harnessing this situation to balance his relationships with Russia and America.

While Russia is benefitting from the relationship with Erdoğan in widening the wedge between NATO member states and undermining the alliance’s geopolitical platforms in Central Asia and southeast Russia, the US continues to deal with Turkey as a strategic asset in the American areas of influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Russian lebensraum, as long as Turkey continues to be a focal player according to the rules of the American political game and within its common limits between America and Turkey without necessarily affecting her wariness of Turkey’s growing power and regional role which she has been working to curtail in all directions by aggravating the situation in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, to corroborate her military presence and deterrent force such as her recent decision to bolster her military troops in Greece.

Meanwhile, Europe, particularly France, is dealing with Turkey as a political challenge and a security and demographic threat on the one hand, and as a vital and significant economic space for European states on the other hand. Hence, America will continue to attend to containing Erdoğan’s behaviour through the carrot and stick, and to work towards recapturing Turkey from the AKP via the Turkish opposition, considering that Turkey’s geostrategic position remains important to Western projects.

Copyright © LCIR 2021

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