This blog is intended to provide the reader with important world news with an emphasis on Middle East and North Africa. It will publish news, analyses, comments, and opinions concerning those two regions. However, We welcome any comments, news or opinions which are related to their countries. You can visit too www.asswak-alarab.com for more information.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Will Turkey Succeed Where Iran Failed?
By Huda al Husseini
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
regional leaders are seeking to win over the Arab street, for they can clearly
see that Arab public opinion is taken by their stances, and they are therefore
playing on their sentiments and frustrations. The Arab street is burnishing the
image of these non-Arab regional leaders abroad, and helping them to extend
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is following in the footsteps of Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The latter attempted to "hijack" the
Arab street prior to the "Arab revolutions", and when these
revolutions broke out he claimed that they were inspired by the Islamic
Revolution in Iran. As for Erdogan, he is trying to seize the opportunity and
"harvest" the enthusiasm of the Arab street at the height of the Arab
Spring, before the onset of the revolutions’ winter, particularly as nobody
knows how long the Arab Spring will bloom.
Arab street is bestowing power upon these leaders, who are playing on their
dreams and speaking about the region’s prosperous future. However the Arab
street is like mercury; it is impossible for any leader to grasp it firmly. The
Arab street is fickle, and so it turns its back on leaders as quickly as it
[previously] rushed to adore them. What happened to the power or influence that
Ahmadinejad believed the Arab street had granted him? He used this to quell the
demonstrations staged to protest the allegedly rigged presidential elections
that brought about his re-election. As a result of this, he lost the Iranian
street, whilst the Arab street turned its back on him.
power that Erdogan obtained from his recent tour [of the Middle East] prompted
him to threaten Greek Cyprus, and begin to proceed with exploring oil and
natural gas surveys in the waters off northern Cyprus. Erdogan continued
issuing threats, but at the same time he told the United Nations [UN] and the
[Greek] Cypriot leadership that his country is no longer prepared to accept the
concessions previously accepted by Ankara with regards to the reunification of
Cyprus, in accordance with the UN’s 2004 plan. Turkey has said that it will not
accept anything less than the recognition of two states in Cyprus. Turkey has
also warned the European Union that it will not accept any solutions after
[Greek] Cyprus takes over the EU presidency early next year.
mid-March last year, during the Al-Jazeera Forum, Turkish Foreign Minister
Ahmet Davutoglu stressed that we must protect “the territorial integrity” of
our countries and region, however he did not once mention Cyprus or the Kurds.
is now seeking to place Turkey as a leading supporter of the Palestinian cause,
and he wants the “Arab Spring” to view Ankara as a supporter and role model,
stressing the need for firm Turkish – Arab unity. He is also planning to establish
strategic cooperation between Turkey and Egypt.
preparation for such cooperation was clear in the size of the delegation that
accompanied Erdogan during his tour of the Middle East. The Turkish delegation
was made up of 6 ministers, and around 200 Turkish businessmen, which
represents a clear signal that Turkey is determined to investing heavily in the
region. In 2010, the Turkish trade with the Middle East and North Africa [MENA]
amounted to 30 billion dollars, and constituted 27 percent of Turkish exports,
whilst more than 250 Turkish companies have invested a figure totalling 1.5
billion dollars in Egypt.
must acknowledge that despite Ahmadinejad's attempts to win over the Egyptian
street by waging a war of words with Mubarak’s regime; he failed to tempt
Egyptian public opinion to support Iran. Despite this, Tehran did establish
strong relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Egyptian Islamists, and
there is an Iranian street named after Khaled Islambouli [the Islamist Egyptian
army officer who assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981]. As for Erdogan,
the Turkish state model has been extremely popular in Egypt, namely an Islamist
party in power (Erdogan’s Justice and Development party), under a secular
constitution. Although the army does enjoy a strong presence in Turkey, it has
returned to its barracks, and this is not to mention the economic boom being
witnessed by the country.
the problem with Erdogan is that he is not pursuing fixed foreign policies, and
a quick review of his recent policies casts doubts on his commitment to these.
warned of the consequences of invading Libya, insisting that if there was going
to be regime change; this must happen from within, not through foreign
intervention. Turkey had billions of dollars invested in Libya, whilst more
than 20,000 Turkish labourers were evacuated within days [following the
outbreak of protests]. Although Turkey is a member of NATO, it strongly
condemned UN resolution 1973 [which formed the legal basis for military intervention
in the Libyan civil war]. However after all of this, when the Gaddafi regime
was overthrown, Erdogan welcomed the rebels with open arms.
according to the Davutoglu policy, can say that it has "zero
problems", because economy and trade take priority. However, this policy
collapsed and led to conflict with Israel, whilst the Arab revolutions have
caused Ankara to amend this policy. This method (of amending the “zero
problems” foreign policy) may be repeated with regards to Turkey’s new “open”
this amended policy did not succeed with Syria, as relations between the two
countries were undermined after Syria neglected Turkey's call for it to cease
the military campaign against civil demonstrators, something that stripped
Ankara of its position as a “mediator”. Syria is the second country, after
Israel, which has stripped Turkey of its mediation position.
the framework of the "zero problems" policy with its neighbouring
countries, Ankara acted to consolidate its political and trade ties with Syria.
Erdogan developed friendship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and
established political and economic ties with once hostile neighbouring states,
however these neighbouring countries have returned to a state of hostility with
Ankara after Erdogan ran out of patience and despaired of al-Assad taking his
advice, ending the brutal campaign against unarmed Syrian protesters, and
implementing the required reform. However it may not be Erdogan's fault that
Turkey’s "zero problems" policy towards Syria has failed,
particularly as keeping promises has never been the Syrian president’s
strong-suit. Indeed when Bashar al-Assad approved the political pluralism law
requested by the Syrian opposition, he declined to sign this into law until the
term “participation in rule and government” was removed.
Sunday, in an interview with CNN, Davutoglu stressed that Turkey’s "zero
problems" foreign policy had only failed in Syria, meaning that relations
with Iran are good.
his book "Strategic Depth” Davutoglu stressed that Turkey is now a key
player in the Middle East, saying that “this is our homeland.” To put this into
context, Davutoglu drew up a new equation, namely that neo-Ottomanism plus
Turkish nationalism plus Islam equals the New Turkey.
neo-Ottomanism has brought Turkish influence into the Arab world and the
Balkans, whilst Turkish nationalist ties extend to Central Asia. As for
Turkey’s Islamic links, this extends from Morocco to Indonesia. Therefore, and
this is more significant for Davutoglu, he sees the partnership between Turkey
and Iran as something equal to that between France and Germany [in Europe]. In
light of Davutoglu's conception of this alliance [with Iran], we can understand
the relationship between Turkey and Brazil, and the position that Brazil
adopted in the UN Security Council last year against Washington, London and
Paris with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.
has close relations with Iran, a situation that placed Ankara in an awkward
position, and this may explain the reason why Erdogan ran out of patience with
al-Assad. Turkey views Iran as the golden gate to Central Asia, and perhaps to
the Gulf region as well, not to mention the implementation of Davutoglu’s
Turkey’s long-term ambitions end up meeting the same fate of Iran’s long-term
ambitions? Turkey is now exploiting the [Arab] feelings of hostility towards
Israel with the aim of gaining credibility (Erdogan may have downgraded
diplomatic relations with Israel but he did not sever them entirely). Indeed
Turkey wants its crisis with Israel to continue in order to reap even greater
political capital in the Middle East. Turkey believes that America will require
it to play a greater role in the Middle East, particularly with regards to
managing conflicts in the region, from Syria to Egypt to Iran. In addition to
this, after the weakening of the Syrian regime in the region, Turkey is seeking
to play a role in Iraq, and perhaps take up the mediation role between
Washington and Tehran. Turkey took the initiative on 4 September when it
officially approved the installation of an early-warning radar on its territory
as part of a US-led NATO strategic missile defence system. This may complicate
Turkish-Russian relations, yet at the same time, it is a Turkish signal to the
US that Washington needs Ankara. This also serves as a signal to Tehran that
Ankara is ready to play a mediation role between Tehran and Washington. This
may also serve as a signal to Israel, particularly as Iran, saw the approval of
this early-warning radar system as a defence of Israel.
this Turkish measure hit the mark? So far, Erdogan has lost two battles, the
first when Syria declined to listen to his advice, and the second when Israel
declined to offer Turkey an apology [for the deaths of Turkish citizens killed
by Israeli forces on the Freedom Flotilla].
are those in Turkey who have begun to warn [against Turkey’s new policies],
noting that there are more Azerbaijani expatriates in Turkey than there are
Azerbaijani’s at home, as is the case with Turkey’s Armenian Albanian, Bosnian,
and Kurdish communities. These all represent potential powder-kegs.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 24/09/2011-Huda al Husseini is a Lebanese journalist and commentator