‘Out on a Limb’: Erdogan ‘Trapped Between Major Powers Tired of His Game’

© AP Photo / Burhan OzbiliciTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses his ruling party legislators at the Parliament, in Ankara, Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses his ruling party legislators at the Parliament, in Ankara, Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019. - Sputnik International
Amid his attempts to salvage a collapsing situation in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has few friends to turn to, having alienated every major power by playing them against one another for so long, an expert tells Sputnik.

In northern Syria in the past few weeks, a shooting war has broken out between Turkish forces in support of their proxies occupying Idlib and the Russian forces fighting alongside the Syrian Arab Army to retake the province for Damascus. Erodgan has tried and failed to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter, which would have brought his European and American allies into the war on Ankara’s side, and on Thursday, he is traveling to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin directly.

Tom Luongo, independent politics, culture and market analyst at Gold Goats 'n Guns, told Radio Sputnik’s Political Misfits Tuesday the Moscow summit would be “the tale of the tape, as it were,” spelling out in no uncertain terms just how much - or how little - capability Erdogan has in this fight.

“I firmly believe that from the moment the Syrian operation began that Erdogan was promised most of Idlib and a 30-mile buffer zone between Turkey’s southern borders and Syria’s northern borders … in order to effectively break up the two Kurdish cantons, two Kurdish enclaves in Syria. That’s what Erdogan wants, and he also wants most of Idlib,” Luongo said.

“I think he’s been very - well, in his mind - skillfully managing both the United States and Russia to weasel them to get what he wants, playing both sides against each other at strategic times. He flip-flops constantly,” Luongo noted. “One week he’s hugging Putin for saving his life, and the next week he’s asking [US President Donald] Trump for Patriot missile batteries ... It goes back and forth, but Idlib has been kind of the thing that he’s bargained for in all of his negotiations with Putin.”

Luongo said that when Erdogan won the establishment of the de-escalation zone in September 2018 after the invasion of Idlib by Turkish forces earlier that year, that he firmly believed he had established a new southern border of Turkey by doing so.

“I think Erdogan has overplayed his hand. I think he’s now into desperation mode. Remember two or three years ago, certainly right after the [2016] coup attempt, his popularity was still very strong. But he’s lost two major regional elections in Turkey in the last 12 months - one in Istanbul and one in Ankara - and the latest poll that I’ve seen has his approval rating down in the low 40s. Salt that to taste, it’s one poll, but it’s been trending in that direction for a long time now.”

“Unemployment is rising again. He’s demanding the central bank get interest rates down into single digits while inflation is beginning to rise. None of this has anything to do with any kind of hybrid war pressure being placed on the lira because he’s buying S-400s from the Russians, like in 2018. He’s got real fiscal problems now. He’s got $168 billion in Turkish corporate debt, which has to be rolled over in the next 12 months, and they don’t have the money. And now he’s ticked off everyone who helped him get through the last funding crisis in 2018, which stabilized the lira,” Luongo said.

“So, he’s going to Moscow on Thursday to try and cut a deal with Putin to get some of Syria and say ‘Well, just give me something,’ so he can save face at home and stay in power,” he noted. “I don’t think Putin’s going to give him anything, because ultimately, at the end of the day, Putin doesn’t need Erdogan. He needs Turkey, but he doesn’t need him. I think at this point, everybody’s tired of this guy constantly playing everybody against each other, and he finds himself trapped between major powers who are tired of his game. I don’t think it’s going to work for him here.”

“I’m becoming convinced that, within a year, he’s going to be out of power, and this time no one’s going to save him,” Loungo told hosts Bob Schlehuber and Jamarl Thomas. “He’s out on a limb.”

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