Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reportedly calling for an “army of Islam” to attack Israel. Recently, the semi-official Yeni Şafak daily ran an article for Erdogan that was titled “A call for urgent action,” while the newspaper’s website headlined “What if an army of Islam formed against Israel?” The paper, which serves as the mouthpiece for Erdogan’s party, called on the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to attack Israel simultaneously from all sides. The article stated, “If the member states of the OIC unite militarily, they will form the world’s largest and most comprehensive army. The number of active soldiers would be at least 5,206,100, while the defense budget would reach approximately $175 billion.”
The newspaper gave more details, noting, “It is expected that 250,000 soldiers will participate in the first of a possible operation. Land, air and naval bases of member states located in the most critical regions will be used. Joint bases will be constructed in a short period of time… It is possible for 500 tanks and armoured vehicles, 100 planes and 500 attack helicopters and 50 ships to mobilise quickly.”
In the Yeni Safak report, Turkey was identified as serving as headquarters for an attack on Israel. “The Turkish army, which carried out ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ [in Syria in 2017] with great success, is now ranked the world’s seventh strongest army, and the second largest army among the NATO powers. Turkey has approximately 4,000 tanks and 1,000 war planes and other aircraft. Its navy made significant progress during the last years, with 194 vessels at its disposal,” said the report. The report identified Pakistan as an important player because of its nuclear arsenal. Also, it noted that Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described President Donald Trump’s Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a blow to Muslims: “The Malaysian armed forces are ready to fulfill their duty regarding Jerusalem.”
For his part, Erdogan has not denied his support for the contents of the article even while he has repeatedly said that he wants to revive the Ottoman Empire, which once encompassed the Balkans, much of the Mideast, and parts of Eastern Europe. According to Bloomberg News, Erdogan recent said, "Too many Turks, misled by the West, have cut the country off from its Ottoman roots." He added, “History isn’t just a nation’s past, it’s the compass for its future.” Turkey is a member of NATO, and an ostensible ally of the United States.
MP Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu, a member of Erdogan's ruling AKP and the head of the parliament’s Security and Intelligence Commission, recently stated, "The Muslim population will outnumber the Christian population in Europe. This… has increased the nationalistic, xenophobic and anti-Islam rhetoric there. Hence, marginal, small parties have started to get large numbers of votes… But there is no remedy for it. Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that."
As part of Turkey’s advancing geopolitical aims, Erdogan has established military bases in Somalia and Qatar, while it has agreed with Sudan to use a Sudanese island in the Red Sea as a military base. Erdogan has also threatened to invade Mediterranean islands that belong to Greece, while he has joined with elements of ISIS to fight against Kurdish forces in Iraq.
In December, following Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Erdogan told the Turkish congress, “Jerusalem, Mr. Trump, is a red line for Muslims.” He went on to say, “Any steps against Jerusalem’s historic status and holiness are unacceptable,” Erdogan said, adding that his country will work toward international recognition of the Palestinian state and seek the European Union’s support.
In an apparent effort to placate the bellicose Erdogan, the European Union is calling on member states to approve a further $4.6 billion (€3.7billion) to assist Turkey with the 3.5 million Syrian refugees it has received. The EU will call on the national governments also to cough up $3.36 billion (€2.7 billion).
On Monday, Erdogan had tough words at a summit meeting with leaders of the EU. He told them that the EU would be committing a "grave mistake" to eliminate Turkey from consideration as a new member state. "It would be a grave mistake for Europe, which claims to be a global force, to push Turkey out of its expansion policy," Erdogan said during a joint news conference of the Turkey-EU summit in Bulgaria. "Our operations against terrorism not only to contribute to the security of ourselves and the Syrians, but also to the security of Europe," he said. “We now expect strong support [from Europe] on sensitive issues such as the fight against terrorism instead of rambling and unjust criticism,” he added.
The summit was hosted by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who serves as chairman of the EU Council. Representing the EU were European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.