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The Lost Cause 29 décembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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BBC Monitoring Europe (UK) Monday, December 29, 2014                               Türkçe

by Fehim Tastekin, Text of report by Turkish newspaper Radikal website on 26 Dec.

With the basis of the partnership with Qatar beginning to wither away, it is becoming more difficult for Turkey to continue, in its current form, its Egypt policy, which it had virtually made sacred with the « Rabia » hand gesture [symbolizing the Rabi’ah al-Adawiyah Square in Cairo]. If parliamentary elections are held and a government formed, Turkey may see this as a step taken towards democracy and thus make peace with [Egyptian President Abd-al-Fattah] Sisi.

Doha Ambassador Ahmet Demirok reportedly described Qatar and Turkey, from the standpoint of their vision and political stances, as « the closest two countries in the world. » Gulp here, as much as you possibly can!

The vision was congruent with the Arab Spring. The partnership came about.

Partnership in Libya’s turning into a « failed state »!

Partnership in Syria’s being dragged into a civil war!

Partnership in the errors of the Muslim Brothers (Ikhwan [al-Muslimun]) in the process that took Egypt into a coup!

Partnership in HAMAS’s [Islamic Resistance Movement] being broken away from Syria and being left in the lurch!

While supporting HAMAS, partnership in engaging in cooperation, with Israel, either covertly or overtly! As is known, Turkey quadrupled its trade with Israel after the Mavi Marmara attack, and Qatar never allowed its economic and political relations with Israel to be interrupted. For instance, Qatari Emir Shaykh Tamim recently made a covert contribution of 3 million dollars by purchasing, at much over the market value, a residence in Paris that had been donated to the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZVDO), which is affiliated with the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

Let us concede that one of the partners is very agile, while the other is able to manoeuvre in some places but so obsessive as to insist on making errors in some places. And the obsessive areas are just the places where the partnership with Qatar has been established: Syria, Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, HAMAS, etc.

Following Behind Qatar!

While Qatar is drawing a line by telling the Muslim Brotherhood, under heavy pressure from its partners in the Gulf Coordination Council (GCC), that « you are our guests, but you cannot engage in politics here » and thus entering into a path of reconciliation with Egypt coup leader Abd-al-Fattah Sisi, the direction of its « pro-active » partner, which puffs itself up saying « we steer every development in the Middle East » but crashes into one wall after another, is a matter of curiosity. What is Ankara going to do now? Is it going to go to Cairo behind Qatar, or else is it going to turn into the new launching pad for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now being shooed out of Doha?

Two contradictory signals: The first is the effort by the Muslim Brotherhood to base themselves in Turkey. During days in which Qatar is opening a new page with Egypt, the establishment of a parliament in exile in Istanbul by a group of former Shura Council members is one signpost of the way in which things are headed. The second is the statement that « we need to repair our relations with Egypt » that came from Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. This is a signpost pointing in the opposite direction.

In the words of a journalist friend of mine from Cairo, « a positive wind has begun to blow in Egypt to the effect that Turkey is going to follow in Qatar’s footsteps. »

Confronted with the question « Qatar’s axis has shifted; what about Turkey? », Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared the condition for this in separate statements. Bilgic expressed the condition of « a return to democracy in the full sense of the word » in order for relations to normalize. As for Cavusoglu, he added a bit more bitter sauce to the condition: « If the Egyptian administration takes steps for democracy, and halts the human rights violations and the tyranny, we will repair our relations. »

Ground Shifting

With the basis of the partnership with Qatar beginning to wither away, it is becoming more difficult for Turkey to continue, in its current form, its Egypt policy, which it had virtually made sacred with the « Rabia » hand gesture. What is understood from the Foreign Ministry statement is, expressed broadly, that it is making a departure from the current line dependent upon the steps that will be taken in the direction of democracy. From this condition, the following conclusion emerges: The condition here clearly relates not to Sisi but rather to the parliamentary elections. Sisi became President in an election held following the coup. Just like [former Turkish coup leader and later President] Kenan Evren. There has been no parliament in Egypt since it was dissolved with the 2013 coup. Sisi presidential decrees function as « laws. » If parliamentary elections are held and a government formed, Turkey may see this as a step taken towards democracy and thus make peace with Sisi. Sisi, whom Ankara does not see as being legitimate, is in any event going to remain in his position, but the elections will offer Turkey a chance to backpedal. When will the elections take place? If Sisi keeps his word, at the end of March.

Comrades Falling Away

If Turkey does not pursue this path but rather continues its stance of « we will not shake Sisi’s hand » as has been done in the case of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad, what will happen? For one thing, along this path, Turkey’s comrades do not promise a stable partnership over time. Qatar, having been unable to withstand the pressures within the GCC from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has sat down in its old seat at the classical Arab table, to which Egypt has once again returned. Of course Qatar is going to continue its relations with Turkey, by calling them a strategic partnership, but it will conduct its regional summit meetings with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. There is no guarantee as to how long the new partnership, which is going to develop on a Doha-Riyadh-Cairo axis, will continue. In the meantime, let me point out at this juncture that it was [former Libyan leader] Muammar Qadhafi who first invited President Tayyip Erdogan to be the guest of honour at the Arab League summit, in 2010, that is, a bit before the Arab uprisings. In the newly forming Arab club, Turkey will probably be a guest that is now referred to with question marks.

Isolation of Muslim Brotherhood

The second development pertaining to the basis of the partnership with Qatar involves the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only did the Muslim Brotherhood, when in power, put the players of the « revolution » against [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak out of action and open the ground to the military, but because it also continued its community reflexes in the coalition formed against the coup following Sisi’s intervention, it remained isolated. According to a commentary on Al-Jazeera by Abdullah Aydogan, the Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup that was formed by the Muslim Brotherhood and some other oppositionists following the ouster of President Muhammad Mursi has been completely dissolved. Of the prominent components of the coalition, which consisted of 40 political movements and groups, the Wasat Party left the Muslim Brotherhood on 28 August, the Watan Party on 17 September, the Salafi Front, which had taken part in the bloodily-suppressed demonstrations in the Rabia and Nahda Squares, on 30 November, and the Istiqlal Party on 4 December. The most important political force of the Salafis, the Nur Party, had already sided with Sisi. The justifications for leaving were the Muslim Brotherhood’s not taking the views of the other parties into account, and their no longer having any belief that they would bring down the administration. The Muslim Brotherhood, which in this way became isolated in its own country, and which made a call for a million-person rally but was unable to draw the crowd it wanted, then entered into a different political effort. Former Shura Council members from the Freedom and Justice Party, which is affiliated with the organization, gathered in a hotel in Istanbul on 3 July and issued a seven-point declaration that called for all the decisions made after the coup to be considered as invalid. It will be very difficult for the parliament in exile that has been established to have any political impact. And they have no chance of going beyond being a topic of jokes within Egypt itself. The Shura Council, which had a consultative rather than a legislative function, and which was dissolved in the aftermath of the coup, will in any event not exist, based on a change in the constitution. In other words, the bicameral legislative order has been ended. These efforts no longer inspire confidence in anyone.

HAMAS Again at Door of Iran

As for HAMAS, which has been the most-discussed aspect of the partnership between Turkey and Qatar, the story on this front is also quite dramatic. When HAMAS, which in the process of the uprising in Syria took a stance favouring the opposition and moved its political office in Damascus to Doha, that is, which left the Iran-Syrian axis, ended up in the lurch and was unable to see any other country apart from Iran that provided it arms assistance in the conflict with Israel, it once again turned to Tehran. On 14 December, the anniversary of the founding of HAMAS in Gaza, Abu Ubayda, the spokesman of the Iz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which are the organization’s armed wing, thanked Iran for its financial and weapons support. A week before this, HAMAS, which sent a five-person delegation to Tehran, asked for a continuation of the assistance. Now, in order to return to the old days, a visit to Iran by HAMAS leader Khalid Mishal, and meetings with the Religious Leader and the President, are on the agenda.

As is seen, the ground is shifting. But if anyone should insist on claims that, despite this, Turkey is pursuing a principled foreign policy, and will continue this even if it remains alone, I have this to say: Since there has been no principled continuity such as could be defended in the foreign policy record of recent years, this has no meaning beyond a PR [public relations] effort or a perception operation.

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