MIDEAST MIRROR 08.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-End of the ‘Sultan’s’ dreams
2-Correcting an error is not enough
1-End of the ‘Sultan’s’ dreams
'Sultan' Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had to take off the mantle of 'Mehmet the Conqueror' after failing to secure a majority in parliament. Yesterday's [Turkish] elections have put paid to the dreams of 'the builder of a New Empire': No presidential regime; no constitutional amendments; and no monopoly over power. That is a result that may rein in Erdogan’s horse regarding numerous regional files, most importantly Syria, where his opponents have accused him of backing the terrorists and taking Turkey to the brink of the abyss. And the other major turning point has to do with the Kurds' broad entry into parliament as the main reason for the ruling [AKP-Justice and Development] party's setback--Elie Hanna in Lebanese al-Akhbar
Ataturk now breathes freely because his republic has been saved, and secularism escaped being slaughtered with Erdogan's [Muslim] Brotherhood knife. The new butcher rebelled and the image of his shadow on the wall led him to believe that he was a giant. This was before the Turkish people restrained him and restored him to his natural size. Now it is his duty to apologize to the 'cockroaches' that he falsely accused of forcing him to build his new palace and abandon his old one. He must frankly admit that he did this as a prelude to declaring the death of Ataturk's republic and the birth of the new Ottoman Sultanate, garbed in the mantle of a republican regime that replaces Ataturk's ideas with those of [Wahhabi founder] Mohammad bin 'Abdelwahhab and [Muslim Brotherhood founder] Hassan al-Banna, leading to crowning him as a sultan donning a suit and a necktie--Mundhir 'Eid in Syrian ath-Thawra
The results of yesterday's (Sunday's) Turkish parliamentary elections have put an end to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dreams of altering Turkey’s political system into a presidential regime, says a Lebanese commentator. But it will also undermine his party's interventionist policies in the region, since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will have to form a coalition with other parties, all of which are opposed to such intervention. Erdogan's defeat will end his dreams of overturning Ataturk's secular republic and declaring himself a new sultan wearing a suit and a necktie, maintains a commentator in a Syrian state-run daily. But he may call for early elections until then he will escalate his terrorist tactics against his enemies inside Turkey, and including Syria as well.
A DECISIVE DAY: "It was a decisive day in Turkish political life," writes Elie Hanna in Monday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
'Sultan' Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had to take off the mantle of 'Mehmet the Conqueror' after failing to secure a majority in parliament. Yesterday's elections have put paid to the dreams of 'the builder of a New Empire': No presidential regime; no constitutional amendments; and no monopoly over power.
That is a result that may rein in Erdogan’s horse regarding numerous regional files, most importantly Syria, where his opponents have accused him of backing the terrorists and taking Turkey to the brink of the abyss. And the other major turning point has to do with the Kurds' broad entry into parliament, as the main reason for the ruling party's setback.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spent a different sort of night than those he has been accustomed to. He undoubtedly woke up to find a wide-open arena in which a 'sole leader' used to move about, now full of other players romping and frolicking about. The AKP fell far short of the two-thirds of the vote it had hoped for; it even failed to secure 50%-plus-one of the votes (276 seats).
At Cankaya Presidential Palace, the 'Sultan' will sit together with his aides to study the dossiers of those with whom he will be forced to share power after shelving his dreams to amend the constitution directly via parliament, or a popular referendum. He faces a number of options, the sweetest of which is still very bitter; and what they have in common is that they will all restrain his regional aspirations.
The scenarios now facing the ruling party, such as a coalition with the People's Republican Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) or the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), are all difficult to contemplate. They all require a retreat inward after the Turkish 'octopus' has sought to stretch as far as Tunisia, starting from Syria.
- A coalition with the MHP requires a freeze if not a retreat from the path of 'internal peace' with the Kurds that the ruling party launched some years ago. The Turkish right wing is also opposed to a wide-ranging rapprochement with the Arab countries, preferring a return to the West instead. A week ago, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said that 'Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime and his government' were partners in the war on Syria 'via coordination and cooperation with the terrorist organizations.' At one electoral rally, he called for 'trying and holding all Turkish officials accountable for their role in this conspiracy.' And at another rally a few days ago and in reference to Erdogan, he said that 'those who brandish the Holy Qur'an at electoral rallies but do not refrain from spreading lies and fabrications will be held accountable for the corruption whose details emerged in 2014'.
- The second scenario, namely, that of a coalition with the AKP's main opponent, the CHP (which contributed to exposing the Turkish intelligence service's cooperation in allowing trucks filled with weapons to cross into Syria and reach the extremists there) is seen as the most hateful option for Erdogan. Two days ago, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu stressed that he looked forward to peace in Syria and the return of two million Syrian refugees in Turkey to their country.
Kilicdaroglu is well known to be among the most fervent supporters of secularism in Turkey. At the same time, he has supported friendly relations with President Bashar al-Assad's regime and [former Iraqi PM] Nuri al-Maliki's Iraq having visited Baghdad in 2013 – and strong relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- This leaves 'the most difficult' option, that of a Turkish/Kurdish coalition in parliament. After his victory yesterday, HDP leader Salah Demirtas said: 'We promised our people not to form a government with the AKP, and we shall not back away from it.' For his part, Erdogan has described Demirtas as 'a pretty boy who is only a front for the [terrorist PKK] Kurdistan's Workers' Party.' Despite this, a coalition with the HDP remains a possibility, even if a costly one. The price will have to be paid in regional and domestic preconditions whose realization will constitute the prelude to establishing a Kurdish state in the region.
The reason for this entire predicament stems from the fact that the HDP has crossed the 10% electoral threshold, which is enough to undermine all of Erdogan and his companions' dreams. At the same time, this has put an end to twelve-years of continuous rule based a single party. And this is a setback for Erdogan and his PM Ahmet Davutoglu who portrayed the elections as a choice between 'the new Turkey' and return to a history characterized by short-term coalition governments and economic instability.
In effect, and according to the unofficial results of yesterday's elections, over three million voters lost their confidence in the AKP, and their vote was distributed between the other parties. It is also noteworthy that the votes that Erdogan lost did not go to his traditional opponent and largest opposition party, the CHP, but to the 'extremists' – i.e., the Kurds and the MHP (which received additional million-and-a-half votes).
Yet many are still wagering on Erdogan. Some suggest that he will use his position to ensure that power is not handed over to any opposition party, since the constitution grants him such authority. They add that he will ask Ahmet Davutoglu to form a government since he is the leader of the largest political party. The constitution grants the PM-designate 45 days to form a government and pass a vote of confidence in parliament. If Davutoglu fails, Erdogan may not ask the next biggest party to form a government, but may order the cabinet that did not pass the vote of confidence to remain in power.
"He will then decide to disband parliament and announce a date for early elections within 90 days," concludes Hanna.
TOO NARROW ROOMS: "The 1150 rooms of his new presidential palace were too narrow for the dreaming Ottoman revivalist, shrinking to the same size as the ballot boxes that are the reason for what he now has to face,” writes Mundhir 'Eid in Monday's official Syrian daily ath-Thawra.
Did Recep Tayyip Erdogan's project fall, or did the Turks punish him for his wanton behavior both inside and outside Turkey? The result is one and the same. Ataturk now breathes freely because his republic has been saved, and secularism escaped being slaughtered with Erdogan's [Muslim] Brotherhood knife.
The new butcher rebelled and the image of his shadow on the wall led him to believe that he was a giant. This was before the Turkish people restrained him and restored him to his natural size. Now it is his duty to apologize to the 'cockroaches' that he falsely accused of forcing him to build his new palace and abandon his old one. He must frankly admit that he did this as a prelude to declaring the death of Ataturk's republic and the birth of the new Ottoman Sultanate, garbed in the mantle of a republican regime that replaces Ataturk's ideas with those of [Wahhabi founder] Mohammad bin 'Abdelwahhab and [Muslim Brotherhood founder] Hassan al-Banna, leading to crowning him as a sultan donning a suit and a necktie.
Suffering from megalomania, and assuming the role of his spiritual forefather [proverbially cruel pre-WWI Ottoman general] ‘Jamal Pasha the butcher’ in the region, Erdogan is well aware that by failing to secure a majority and cross the two-thirds threshold in parliament, he will be hostage in his presidential palace, dreaming of days that are gone forever, and heading towards days when the justice system will play with the cockroaches that will appear in his rooms and offices. For he cannot now build a third palace, even if he were to be eaten alive by cockroaches in his new one.
Erdogan's realization of his future and the prediction of the AKP's loss have driven him to take a preemptive step, especially after his hysterical fit after the results became known. This may take the form of early elections and a series of terrorist attacks against his enemies inside Turkey, and foreign attacks by providing unlimited support for his mercenaries in Syria.
Erdogan's pain is really that of two pains wrapped in one: A loss inside Turkey and a defeat that will be inflicted on his terrorist mercenaries in Syria. This defeat will stretch from al-Qalamoun to al-Hasaka in the north to Der'a and al-Qunaitra in the south.
This same pain has touched his ally in conspiracies, 'His Majesty' who claims to be a descendent of the Hashemite line [Jordanian King Abdullah] but whose views and crimes are Western through and through. This pain has pushed 'His Majesty' to summon his 'boy' Zahran 'Alloush [commander of the opposition Jayshul Islam] on the pretext of fighting ISIS and the Nusra Front, ignoring the fact that one dog will not bite another.
"The mercenary terrorist 'Alloush spent a week moving between Al-Hayat and Crown Plaza Hotels [in Amman] coordinating and receiving orders from the American, Jordanian, and Saudi intelligences, regarding their plans of terrorist action in Syria," concludes 'Eid.
2-Correcting an error is not enough
It is not enough for a Cairo court to correct the egregious error of brandishing Hamas as a terrorist organization, Egypt’s siege on Gaza must also end, says Fahmi Houeidi in today’s Egyptian Ashurouq
Egypt’s Court of Appeal’s decision to rescind a verdict by another Egyptian court classifying Hamas as a terrorist organization is good news; but it is sad to note the situation has descended to such a point as to leave the leading Arab resistance movement a victim of domestic Egyptian polarization, says a leading moderate Egyptian Islamist.
BOTH HEARTENING AND SAD: "It is both heartening and sad news at the same time," writes Fahmi Houeidi in Monday's Egyptian daily Ashurouq.
We are certainly heartened by the Cairo Court of Appeal's decision to cancel the sentence issued in February that brands Hamas a terrorist organization. But this satisfaction cannot disguise a profound sadness that stems from how far we seem to have gone in judging the most important resistance movement in the Arab world, so much so that we now are ready to question whether it is a terrorist organization or not.
I am sure that it was just a coincidence that the Egyptian court's decision was issued on the anniversary of June 6th that evokes the painful and shameful memory of the Arab dream that received a lethal blow in the 1967 defeat and the subsequent earthquake that resounded around the entire Arab world.
I do not know how far this verdict of 'innocence' may affect Cairo's relations with Hamas, but I am sure that the court's decision has turned the leaf on a chapter that did Egypt great damage and unjustifiably distorted its image. It harmed Egypt politically and greatly undermined the judiciary's standing because some court had found momentary justification to describe Hamas a terrorist organization, when another refrained from doing the same to Israel on the grounds that this matter does not fall within its jurisdiction.
Celebrating correcting the court’s mistake does not mean that a breakthrough has occurred in Cairo's relations with Hamas. In addition to eliminating a black mark that damaged Egypt's reputation, the court's decision only altered one element of a thorny record that is haunted by numerous sensitivities and complexes. For no one can deny that many developments have marred the course of relations between Cairo and Hamas. These relations not only reached the point of total estrangement; some have gone so far as to accept the idea that Egypt may engage in some military action against Hamas in Gaza. And this is not an inference on my part; my information indicates that the ambassador of a great power in Cairo raised a question as to such a possibility, and that he received a response to the effect that this was no longer out of the question.
It is now known that toppling the Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt marked the beginning of the deterioration of relations with Hamas, and that certain terrorist attacks in Sinai and some Egyptian cities were so effective as to convince the security agencies that a foreign hand had played a role. In this regard, mention was made of tunnels and the expertise of Hamas's military wing, the Qassam Brigades.
The tensions that occurred at the beginning were a valuable gift to the Egyptian security forces that were accused of killing and sniping at the [anti-Mubarak] January 2011 Revolution's youths, as well as being responsible for the prevailing anarchy at the time (opening the prison gates, for example). The security forces rushed to accuse Hamas, not only because the political climate was appropriate, but also in an attempt to wash their hands clean of the revolutionary youths' blood.
These accusations were made even though the official investigation into what happened during that phase revealed no role for Hamas, and despite the fact that the military commanders in charge in Sinai had not witnessed any unusual activity on Hamas's part via the tunnels at that time. This was backed by Israeli intelligence, which monitors everything that takes place along the borders.
And it is no longer any secret that other parallel efforts were exerted to distance Cairo from Hamas. The Ramallah PA's intelligence services contributed to such efforts because the PA had not overcome its hostility to Hamas and could not overlook the fact that the movement has been monopolizing power and decision-making in the Gaza Strip since 2007.
There are many elements of this dossier that Egypt’s security agencies insist upon and that Hamas denies. In the current tense climate, it has become difficult to uncover the truth about what really happened. But those who have paid the highest price and have been the victims of this polarization are the Gaza Strip's people. Close to two million inhabitants are suffering from an extremely harsh siege because of the closure of the Rafah crossing, the Palestinians' sole exit that does not pass via Israel. And if Israel was happy at the destruction of the tunnels that served the Strip's inhabitants' needs because its goods represent the sole alternative that have come to monopolize Gaza’s markets, the movement of the Strip's inhabitants, whether students or ill people receiving treatment or workers, has been paralyzed.
Gaza’s suffocation in this manner has obstructed reconstruction, destroyed people's lives, and spread despair among the infirm and businessmen alike. That, in turn, has bred a state of frustration and rebellion, which has flung open the doors to the growth of extremism as embodied by the salafi jihadi elements and ISIS's supporters. This is the problem that Hamas is now facing, especially after it has clashed with members of these groups on more than one occasion this year. In fact, it is ironic that Israel, which is hostile to Hamas, has noted the growth of the phenomenon, whereby the youth join jihadi salafi groups and is now fearful that this may lead to an explosion in the Strip that would be in these groups' interest – a possibility that I do not believe Egypt’s security agencies are unaware of.
The closure of Rafah crossing has faced us with a sad irony whereby we have been adopting political positions that run counter to our own fixed principles. For political considerations have led to the humiliation and the destruction of the lives of two-million citizens in Palestine, even though defending Palestine and the Palestinians are among Egypt's most cherished principles.
The judiciary has corrected the error of deeming Hamas a terrorist group. What remains, is for politics to correct the error of closing down Rafah crossing and imposing a siege on the Palestinians.
"For that is not only an insult to the Palestinians; it is also an insult to Egypt’s fixed beliefs,' concludes Houeidi.
Despite the diplomatic sweet talk, there are real and troublesome differences between Cairo and Riyadh, says Khalid ad-Dakhil in pan-Arab al-Hayat
Despite all talk of a common Egyptian/Saudi vision of the region's crises (primarily Syria and Yemen) and Iran's role in them, Egypt is clearly concerned about Saudi Arabia’s recent choice of alliances, argues a leading Saudi commentator. But Egypt's adamant opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood offers no workable alternative.
NOTEWORTHY HAPPENINGS: "Something noteworthy happened in Saudi/Egyptian relations last Sunday," writes Khalid ad-Dakhil in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
On that day, Saudi and Egyptian newspapers published similar reports stressing the same thing, namely, that there was no disagreement between Riyadh and Cairo over Yemen and Syria. On the contrary, the two countries' views and positions regarding the region's issues are in total agreement. This is what appeared in al-Hayat, [Egyptian] al-Masri al-Youm, and [Saudi-owned pan-Arab] Asharq al-Awsat. Egypt’s al-Ahram waited till the next day (Monday) to publish a similar report.
Despite the differences between one paper and another regarding how the report was formulated, the source appeared to be one and the same – the joint press conference held in Cairo by Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel al-Jubeir and his Egyptian counterpart and host Samih Shukri. So far, there was nothing extraordinary about this. But on the same day, the Egyptian Ashurouq deviated from the norm and published a report that was totally different from what had been published in the abovementioned papers. Its headline read: 'Growing hidden tension between Riyadh and Cairo because of the Yemeni and Syrian Brotherhood.' In a subtitle, the report wrote: 'Saudi Arabia has opened the door wide for the Brotherhood to come to power in Yemen … and Egypt views this as a violation of a red line.'
Ashurouq’s report quoted official Egyptian sources as saying that Cairo had communicated to Riyadh its fear of what it views as the 'excessive' openness to the Muslim Brotherhood various branches. The report added that Egypt views 'the attempt to rely on the Brotherhood to end the crisis' in Yemen or contain the situation in Syria as certain to have dire consequences for regional stability because, 'if the Brotherhood reaches power in some Arab countries with Saudi backing, they will not be satisfied with this and will try to take control of all Arab capitals.'
So, who was closer to the truth, the papers that reported what the Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers had said in their joint conference, or what Ashurouq quoted official Egyptian sources as saying?
A scrutiny of what was said at the press conference reveals an inescapable gap between what al-Jubeir said and what Shukri said regarding the same issue. On Saudi Arabia and Egypt's similar points of view regarding the Syrian situation, for example, al-Hayat quotes the Saudi foreign minister's reference to 'the two countries' efforts to exclude Bashar al-Assad after he has lost his legitimacy.' According to the paper, he added that 'the Saudi/Russian contacts are consistent with Egyptian/Russian contacts insofar as both are seeking to convince Moscow to abandon Assad.' These are clear and direct references. Their importance stems from the fact that they were made immediately after the two ministers' talks and at a joint press conference.
By contrast, the Egyptian minister did not mention the Syrian president's situation or future. When talking of contacts with Russia, he said not more than that Egypt wants Moscow to convince the Syrian regime to join a political process with the opposition. At the same time, the Egyptian minister did not comment on what his Saudi counterpart had said on this issue.
Riyadh and Cairo's assessments may be in agreement in that the situation on the ground has put an end to the Syrian president's future, and that this is no longer possible to avoid. But they differ over the manner in which they are driving developments, and the political alternatives for the post-Assad period. Riyadh is clear and direct in its position, namely, that Assad's fall is the first step towards ending the Syrian tragedy. Cairo, on the other hand, seems hesitant and has not yet made up its mind. This is why its diplomatic language tends to be general, unclear, and indirect.
And the question here is this: Does this lack of clarity disguise a view that is different to the Saudi vision? And is this ambiguity simply an attempt to accommodate Saudi Arabia because Egypt needs it?
But the fact is that, much as Egypt needs Saudi Arabia, the latter needs Egypt as well. If so, why then is the language used direct in the one case, while it is less so in the other? Does this express a deeply hidden Egyptian fear that Saudi Arabia may secure its interest? Or is this an expression of a chronic malaise, namely, that Arab states cannot agree with each other or form alliances in which they secure their common interests?
We are also dealing with the same Egyptian ambiguity regarding another issue that the two ministers addressed at their joint conference – that of foreign intervention in the Arab world. Al-Jubeir mentioned Iran by name as the sole country engaged in such intervention. For his part, Minister Shukri stressed 'Egypt's rejection of any foreign intervention from outside the region in Arab affairs or Arab security, and any attempt to infiltrate the Arab nation or impose influence and suzerainty over it should be firmly confronted within the framework of defense of pan-Arab national security.' But he avoided any mention of Iran and what it is doing in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, particularly, its use of [Shiite] militias as a proxy war tool in the Arab world.
By adopting this position, Egypt may be trying to distinguish itself from Saudi Arabia, allowing itself some margin of maneuver for reaching some form of understanding with Iran. This is both a common and an acceptable aim. But it is also clear that in light of the scale of its intervention, Iran has made it impossible to reach such a desirable understanding. It is trying to turn its intervention into a fait accompli that everyone should accept and cohabit with, with the aim of transforming its achievements so far into permanent gains, and a part of new and different regional arrangements that bear no relation to the fact that some country or another is an Arab land.
As far as Iran is concerned, its supreme leader [Ayatollah Khamene’i] is also the Muslims' supreme leader; and the Arab states effectively represent an Islamic arena that is open to it and its interests. Moreover, Iran has not made all these vast financial, military, and political investments in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon only to reach an understanding whereby it would relinquish them in favor of some Arab state's interests. The odd thing is that, under 'Abdul Nasser, Egypt viewed the Shah's Iran as an enemy, next to only Israel in terms of its threat, even though Iran's intervention and hostility towards the Arabs did not reach their current level until after it turned into an 'Islamic Republic' and severed its relations with Israel.
So what has changed?
This question takes us back to the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, which according to Ashurouq’s report is the main sticking point between Riyadh and Cairo. The most remarkable element in what the official Egyptian sources told that newspaper is the claim that 'excessive' openness to the Muslim Brotherhood will lead them to control all Arab capitals. And this manner of addressing the issue suggests that the way in which Egypt has dealt with the domestic Brotherhood problem has not led to its resolution; on the contrary, it has transformed it into a worrisome Egyptian predicament that shackles the country’s regional strategic options, at least at this difficult Arab juncture.
The strategic option is a Saudi/Egyptian coalition that fights extremism, restores life and credibility to the notion of the state in confronting the proliferation of all sorts of militias across the Arab world, which is threatening each and every pillar of the state. And, since it is Iran that is feeding this phenomenon, there is no alternative but to adopt a common Arab position against this destructive role.
Does this require preventing the Brotherhood from political participation or reaching power in one Arab state or another? If such participation is based on an agreed- vision – namely, upholding the notion of the state – and if it takes place within a constitutional political process that has room for all, and puts an end to destructive crises such as in Syria or Yemen, what would be wrong with that? In such a case, participation becomes a local or domestic issue, and not a Saudi or Egyptian one, as is in Morocco and Tunisia, for example.
On the other hand, how can be it right to exclude the Brotherhood in Yemen when there is a consensus that the solution there should not exclude anyone? And if Saudi Arabia has no objection to the Houthis as an unarmed political party, why should it object to the Islah Party [the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood]? And the same logic applies even more clearly in the Syrian case. For it is impossible to fight the many extremist militias operating there (Sunni and Shiite alike) without a strong alliance that embodies moderation and commits to the state vision without the Brotherhood. The sole alternative is the establishment of a regional coalition similar to that waged Operation Decisive Storm. Would that be acceptable to Cairo?
It seems that what Ashurouq published was closer to the truth than what the other newspapers reported. There is some Egyptian concern about Saudi Arabia's choices, but this lacks vision and provides no alternatives. It is the sort of concern that is itself a cause for worry. In the past, Saudi Arabia was worried about Egypt's choices. Now, the two countries are exchanging positions, which reflects the fact that they do not have a common vision.
"And this is a gap that Iran, the militias, and terrorism can use to infiltrate the region," concludes Dakhil.
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