Silvia Romano's liberation and Neo-Ottomanism to conquer Somalia

(To Filippo Del Monte)
20/05/20

The great emphasis that the Turkish media gave to the release of Silvia (Aisha) Romano and the small polemic aftermath generated by the photo released by the Anadolu news agency of the young Italian cooperator with a bulletproof vest garnished with the patch with the star and the crescent a small piece of Recep Tayyp Erdoğan's wider African policy based on the ability to dose the stick and carrot well or, better yet, hard e soft power.

Trade between Turkey and the black continent reaches 20 billion dollars a year, in the last few years the number of Turkish embassies and diplomatic offices in Africa has quadrupled and the "sultan" Erdoğan has visited the African States several times. to strengthen bilateral relations. During the last period, however, Ankara's attention has focused on the Horn of Africa and the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, an area controlled by many powers for its strategic position at the mouth of the Indian Ocean and as "door" to Suez.

Despite in the new scramble of Africa Turkey arrived last in the Black Continent and has fierce adversaries such as China, India and the Gulf monarchies, in fact in the Horn of Africa it enjoys a certain prestige and, as the Silvia Romano question has shown, of a dense network of relationships that are not always transparent but certainly advantageous for Ankara.

Somalia in this context plays a fundamental role for the strategy and doctrine of Yeni Osmanlıcılık (Neo-Ottomanism). In Mogadishu there are tangible signs of the increasingly widespread Turkish presence: the international airport inaugurated in 2015 in the presence of the Turkish president and local leaders was entirely financed and built by Ankara, the port is controlled by Turkish companies that manage maritime traffic entering and leaving the capital of the former Italian colony, the old Digfer hospital has been completely renovated and enlarged by the Turks thanks to an agreement signed in 2015 and inaugurated again under the name of "Erdoğan Hospital". From the military point of view in Mogadishu there is a Turkish military base with three residential complexes and schools capable of hosting up to 1500 soldiers; a structure dedicated to the training of the Somali army under the bilateral agreement for the reconstruction of public institutions after the state bankruptcy in 1991 and which according to the latest estimates has trained 10.000 Somali soldiers.

The political-economic (and ultimately military) Turkish penetration in the Horn of Africa continues hand in hand, even if not in the spotlight, with that in Libya and always along the red thread of exploitation of energy resources: it seems not it is a coincidence that a few days after the disputed bilateral Turkish-Libyan agreement for the extension of the respective Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean, the Turkish Parliament ratified on 25 January the Memorandum of understanding on energy resources signed in 2016 with Somalia. The Turkish state-owned oil company Turkish Petroleum Corporation he will thus be responsible for conducting explorations along fifteen blocks of the Somali coast where, according to studies by the "Somali Petroleum Authority", there could be the presence of oil fields with a weight equivalent to 30 billion barrels. Even if to date only on paper, the existence of such large-bodied deposits and the consequent exploitation could change the geopolitical balance in the Horn of Africa.

Director of the operation in addition to President Erdoğan was the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Donmez, another strongman of the neo-Ottoman circle and political sponsor of this Turkish "energy imperialism" that goes from the Black Sea to the Indian Ocean passing through the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

Any state that wishes to pursue an offensive (or revisionist) foreign policy needs to guarantee access to primary energy sources such as oil and gas; for others the process is exactly the opposite and an aggressive foreign policy is determined precisely by the needs of energy policy.

Regardless of academic abstractions, however, it is important to note that Erdoğan's Turkey has so far managed to make its way among its direct opponents - including Italy - in a region of the globe where to emerge it is also necessary to "know how to shoot" and above all be clear what you want.

The operation that led to the release of Silvia (Aisha) Romano, regardless of the more or less active role played by Italian intelligence, is precisely the emblem of this type of policy: the dialogue with radical Islam, even the openly terrorist-military one, is one of Ankara's strengths not only in Africa, Libya and Syria but throughout the "enlarged Mediterranean", the same area of ​​Italian projection (and existence).

Who in duty in Rome makes some notes on the matter.

Images: Hürriyet Gazetecilik ve Matbaacılık A.Ş / Twitter / Prime Minister's Office