The Islamic Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East for a good five hundred years and though they dropped the ball for the last century and made a secular detour, it makes sense that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s steady re-Islamisation of Turkey’s institutions during the past decade would rekindle the ambition for regional leadership and domination.
Perhaps it was the recent election upset that reduced Erdogan’s AKP to a minority that has induced this or maybe he just feels like it’s time to reassert their old claim. Either way, a plan for Turkey to invade Syria stands as a wake up call to anyone who is still sleeping with regard to Turkey’s rise.
Turkey has sent shock waves through the Middle East by preparing plans to send troops into Syria for the first time, turning the civil war into an international conflict on Europe’s borders.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorised a change in the rules of engagement agreed by the Turkish parliament to allow the army to strike at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), as well as the Assad regime, according to local newspapers.
The aim is to establish a buffer zone for refugees and against Isil, but Mr Erdogan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it goes ahead, will be to prevent the emergence of a Kurdish state on Turkey’s doorstep.
• Kurdish forces drive Isil fighters out of Syrian border town
The Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, has established dominance in a border strip across the north of the country in recent months.
“We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south,” Mr Erdogan said at the weekend. “We will continue our fight in this regard no matter what it costs.”
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan (seated) heads the National Security Council meeting
Turkey has urged the creation of a buffer zone protected by international forces in the north of Syria ever since the civil war sent hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border.
That figure is approaching two million, making Turkey the single largest host of refugees of any country.
• Turkey stumbles in the dark: Where next for its democracy?
But until now it has refused to countenance “going it alone” in intervention in Syria. The plans were discussed in a meeting of the national security council last night. Following Mr Erdogan’s speech, Turkish media were briefed on new orders being given to the military to prepare to send an 18,000-strong force across the border, with some reports saying the move could take place as early as Friday.
The troops would seize a stretch of territory 60 miles long by 20 deep, including the border crossings of Jarablus, currently in Isil hands, and Aazaz, currently controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but under attack from Isil.
The buffer zone would kill several birds with one stone. As well has allowing Turkey to establish refugee camps not on its soil but under its protection, it would prevent the two current zones of Kurdish control — from Kobane to the Iraq border in the east, and Afrin in the west — from joining up.
The Turkish establishment is hostile to the YPG, as an offshoot of the PKK guerrilla group which has fought for autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for four decades.
The zone would also allow Turkey more easily to control the flow of weapons and fighters into Syria, something that critics say it has not done well enough, encouraging the rise of Isil.
Changing the rules of engagement would give Turkey a pretext for intervention. The Assad regime has been driven back and has been careful to present no threat that would justify an attack, but Isil is attacking FSA forces supported by Turkey on the border.
“Isil, along with other armed groups that have the potential to jeopardise Turkey’s security, will be included as threats to Turkey in the amended rules and the Turkish armed forces could launch an operation against Isil once it approaches its borders,” the pro-Erdogan Sabah newspaper reported.
Turkish army soldier guards the border area with Syria as in the background Syrian refugees wait in order to cross into Turkey
It remains unclear whether the threat to intervene will be followed up by action. The military is said to be unhappy to involve ground troops in the civil war. They are said to be offering to join the international bombing campaign against Isil instead. “It may be the government wants to do this but there are numerous institutional reservations,” said Sinan Ulgen, head of the Edam think tank in Istanbul.
In particular, there is a question mark over whether the intervention would be legal under Turkish law without a vote in parliament, or in international law without a UN Security Council resolution.
• Turkey accused of allowing Islamic State fighters to cross its border in Kobane attack
There would also be intense opposition to the operation being approved by the prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who is only still in place because of difficulties forming a coalition after his party, the Islamist AKP failed to win a majority in this month’s election.
The intervention would also be opposed by the rival Republican People’s Party (CHP), which blames Mr Erdogan for making the Syrian war worse by supporting Islamist rebels rather than using his influence to negotiate peace.
“There is not sufficient reason to send Turkish troops to Syria,” said Faruk Logoglu, who until the election was head of the CHP’s foreign affairs committee. “Once you do that there is no way out.”
The Financial Times reported on Monday that Jordan was drawing up similar plans for a safe zone in southern Syria, following concerns that Isil could take over territory close to its border if the Assad regime was to withdraw from the city of Deraa.
Importantly, this significant move lines up with and is anticipated by several important eschatological theories including the Islamic End Times theory and the Signpost theory.
The Islamic End Times theory, of which Joel Richardson is likely the most well known proponent, argues that the biblical scriptures are Israel- and Middle Eastern-centric, with the many books that constitute the bible telling the same story from different angles about Yahweh’s covenant with Israel and the attempts of the surrounding kingdoms to destroy Israel, culminating in a Middle Eastern antichrist figure and empire.
The Signpost theory is proposed by Mark Davidson who argues a futurist (to be fulfilled in the as yet future) interpretation of key visions and prophecies in the Book of Daniel. He furthermore suggests that the first four seal judgments in the Book of The Revelation are connected to four signposts signalling the end of the age and the rise of a Middle Eastern antichrist and Kingdom.
Both theories allow for and even strongly suggest an antichrist Kingdom located in present day Turkey, though both clarify that the Middle East is likely to be subject to shifting border and new national boundaries based on both scripture and historic events before the emergence of the antichrist kingdom.
Needless to say, I believe that these two theories carry significant weight and even if they are or contain incorrect or partially correct ideas, every Christian should have a basic understanding of the scriptures themselves and these two interpretations.
Both theories and their respective spokesmen anticipated Turkey’s return to Islam from secularism and with this most recent development, there is good reason to suspect that Turkey not only wants to be the regional power but will fight to become it. This reality is made all the more disturbing because they face genuine competition from persistently dangerous Iran as well as Suadi Arabia, the Islamic State, and a host of other unstable factions.
Simply, that necessitates regional war and perhaps even a Third World War, given the Sunni-Shia division that IS is stirring up.
So eyes open Christians!
For anyone else who wants to understand what we are seeing in the Middle East these days, know that the bible has long predicted the reformation of Israel as nation but much more than that, the establishment of the last terrible human controlled empire that would seek to destroy Israel and rule the nations.
Most important is knowing God and understanding his plans to save Israel and humanity – we can all know God through Jesus Christ alone and we can have his peace even as peace is taken from the earth.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:23-27 ESV)