Today’s Turkey is the remnant of what was known before the First World War as the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans fought on the side of the Germans in that war, and for seven hundred years before that were the scourge of Christendom and much of the Muslim world. More than once Ottoman armies threatened to capture Vienna.
Along the way they obliterated what remained of the once great Roman Empire and captured Islamic holy sites in what is now Saudi Arabia.
We are heading back in that direction now, and whoever sits in the Oval Office next year will have to reckon with that new reality. Modern Turkey has been an ally for many decades. Those days are over. Our relationship with Turkey and its new "Sultan," Recip Erdogan, has fundamentally changed and that change is irreversible.
When Mehmet the Conqueror captured the city of Constantinople in 1453 he rode his horse into Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in the medieval world. Immediately thereafter Mehmet converted the church into a mosque.
It was a hugely symbolic move intended to telegraph to the entire world the military supremacy of the Ottomans and the militant, Islamic nature of their empire.
In the modern Turkish state that emerged in 1918, Hagia Sophia was designated as a historic site and was no longer used as a mosque.
Again, that change was hugely important. It told the world that the Ottoman empire no longer existed and that what had replaced it was a nation molded on a secular European model.
Under Erdogan, Hagia Sophia has once again become a mosque.
That change is every bit as powerful and symbolic as Mehmet riding his horse through the doors of sanctuary. It signals that the old secular Turkey is dead and that what has replaced it is a new Ottoman Empire seeking to reclaim its position as the leader of the Islamic world and the adversary of the West and Christendom.
For years Turkey has enjoyed close relations with Israel and the Israeli military.
The New Ottomans are increasingly hostile to the Jewish state. Erdogan has claimed that Jerusalem "is our city" and said that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was the first step in "liberating" the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest city.
Just as Mehmet conquered Constantinople, Erdogan intends to conquer Jerusalem.
The old Ottomans were always contemptuous of their Arab neighbors who they regarded as slave races fit only to be ruled.
That same tone has been adopted by the new Ottomans who have developed a close relationship with the radical regime in Qatar in speaking harshly of Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf states. And Erdogan is becoming dependent on Qatari cash and investment to keep his floundering "empire" afloat.
The New Ottomans are also aggressively seeking to seize control of energy deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Both Greece and Cyprus have been threatened with military action, and the possibility of a war as a result of Turkey’s bellicose behavior remains very real. "In our civilization, conquest is not occupation or looting. It is establishing the dominance of the justice that Allah commanded in the [conquered] region. . . . This is why our civilization is one of conquest."
So said Erdogan in August of this year, adding that "Turkey will take what is its right in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Aegean Sea, and in the Black Sea. . . We invite our interlocutors to put themselves in order and stay away from mistakes that will open the way for them to be destroyed."
Erdogan, the new Sultan, has been only too eager to throw Turkey’s weight around in other areas outside its borders, mirroring the expansionist behavior of the original Ottomans. Turkey has invaded Syria to attack the Kurds. Turkey has intervened in the ongoing Libyan civil war. Turkey has even pushed its way into the recent hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, asserting itself as the protector of fellow Muslims in Azerbaijan against Armenian, Christian "aggression."
The New Ottomans provide military and diplomatic support for the Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria, named a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and many others in the international community.
The New Ottomans have close relations with Hamas. Erdoğan has personally met Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri. Reports indicate that at least 12 senior Hamas members are located in Turkey and have ben granted Turkish citizenship. Intelligence reports also indicate that Hamas operates at least two bases inside Turkey with the knowledge and approval of the Turkish government.
The New Ottomans have made clear their intention to upgrade their military capabilities and to change their longstanding dependence on the United States for equipment and support. When Washington objected to Turkey buying Russian S-400 missile-defense systems, Erdogan ignored American concerns and plunged ahead with the deal.
What has happened in Turkey is a fundamental shift in orientation and ideology. The secular Turkey we knew in 1918 and that endured until the coming of Erdogan is a thing of the past. We are now face to face with an increasingly radical Islamic entity which seeks to return to the aggressive role it played for centuries in Europe and the Middle East.
In that role, Turkey is not simply charting a course independent of the United States and Europe, it is increasingly taking positions in direct opposition to those nations. After a series of Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe this fall French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out condemning the attacks.
He then announced stricter oversight of schooling and better control over foreign funding of mosques.
In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remarked, "What's the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?... Macron needs mental treatment." Erdogan then called on the Turkish people to boycott all French products.
That was not the first time Erdogan attacked European governments.
In 2017 he promised that if European nations continued to criticize his actions,
"No European and no Westerner will be able to walk safely and peacefully in the streets."
Erdogan has also attacked Austria in a similar vein.
In June 2018, after Vienna announced it would close radical mosques and expel foreign imams, Erdogan said, "The Austrian PM . . . is making calculations over closing our mosques in Europe. Where is this going? I'm afraid towards a crusade-crescent war."
In 2016, Erdogan opened a new bridge over the Bosphorus in Istanbul and named it the Vavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. Selim was the Ottoman Sultan under whom the empire’s borders expanded to their greatest extent. There is perhaps no clearer expression of his intent. Erdogan seeks not to coexist but to rule, and our policy toward him must be governed accordingly.
Charles "Sam" Faddis is a Veteran, retired CIA operations officer, senior partner with Artemis, LLC and published author. With degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Law School, he is a contributor to sofrep.com, Newsmax, and The Hill among others. He regularly appears on many networks and radio programs as a national security and counter-terrorism expert. Sam is the author of "Beyond Repair: The Decline And Fall Of The CIA" and "Willful Neglect: The Dangerous Illusion Of Homeland Security." To read more of his reports, Click Here Now.
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