Economic crisis, political challenges major factors for Erdoğan’s Syria offensive - analysis

Turkey’s economic crisis as well as political challenges to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at home are two overlooked factors that drove Turkey to launch an offensive into neighbouring Syria, wrote analysts Celal Cahit Agar and Steffen Böhm wrote for India-based news site the Wire.

Turkey’s  offensive, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”,which aims to displace Kurds and establish  a 20-mile “safe zone“ alongside the 400 km Turkey-Syria border, where Erdoğan plans to resettle million of Turkey’s Syrian refugees, has been condemned by most countries, the article said. 

Turkey’s economy has been suffering since limited U.S. sanctions and increased tariffs on metals sparked a currency crisis, sending the lira on a downward spiral last year. The lira still remains weak while unemployment remains high, around 20 percent. Many companies and banks are burdened with mounting debt. 

It is Turkey’s debt-driven economy, which has long been suffering from the structural pressures of currency exchange rate valuation risks and liquidity risks, that has been a driving force in the offensive, Agar and Böhm wrote. 

Turkey’s ‘safe zone’ plan promises a $26 billion worth new market for the country’s ailing industry, which could boost the Turkish economy’s recovery, the article said.

Erdoğan is also looking to manage political challenges at home through a new cross-border war against the Kurds, according to the pair, who said the offensive will work in  “reunifying right-wing nationalist civil society and political organisations under the flag of Turkish chauvinism.’’

Erdoğan’s ruling AKP suffered its greatest upset in its 17 years in power in the March local elections, where it lost five of Turkey’s most populous provinces, including capital Ankara and financial hub Istanbul, to the main opposition party.

The Turkish president’s approval ratings have taken a tumble, too. Erdoğan’s approval ratings were as low as 30 percent before the incursion, but have now risen to around 40 percent. 

A cross-border operation offers a wider political ground to establish an expanded consensus between conflicting parties, the article said, underlining that the offensive succeeded in uniting the ruling and opposition parties against Kurdish forces in Syria.

“The war is timely as it provides an answer to the economic and political woes at home. The geopolitical future of the whole Middle East is at stake, which vested interests in Turkey want to be part of,’’ Agar and Böhm said.