BY SAEED NAQVI As I settled down to write on Libya, the news ticker opened up the whole West Asian vista. IAF pilots flying the first batch of Rafales from the Dassault Aviation Facility in France had barely settled down to relax at the UAE’s Al Dhafra air base, where they were breaking journey, when... Continue Reading →
After his mishandling of Syria, misreading of Europe, the US and Russia, his popularity in serious question, Erdogan has fallen back on the oldest trick in the politician’s book – religious extremism. “Look”, he will address Islamists, “like Mehmet, the conqueror, I have restored for your supplications a great mosque.”
What Erdogan has been offered is a poisoned chalice. This is clear as daylight in Trump’s own words. The tone is of malicious glee: “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.”
A new pirouette has begun in Syria. Only after the US elections will it become clear who is on the dance floor and who is sinking in a quagmire.
Writings in the New York Times, other Western and Saudi publications have been talking of a “divided city of Aleppo”. This is ominous.
A Turk who supports an Arab cause is welcome from a distance. But a Turk casting himself in a regional role, scares the Arab as a potential Ottoman. That is where Erdogan is stuck at the moment.
Saudi Arabia has in the last few days seen its hold on the GCC countries loosen. To keep himself and his Kingdom in play, Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal, addressing the GCC, suggested that the Kuwait Foreign Minister lead the group to Washington protesting against the deal. Kuwait refused as did the UAE Foreign Minister who, instead, travelled to Moscow to sign different another affidavit.
There are two different appraisals of Saudi vulnerability in the context of the deal. First is the power struggle behind the curtains, a fierce war of succession. A regime so divided and debilitated is more likely to acquiesce in the new arrangement of power in the Middle East. But the opposite can also happen. A regime weakened internally is unlikely to be able to resist the ultra conservative clergy.
The decision making systems in Washington must be saturated with memos, position papers, backgrounders, by dove-nosed hawks and hawk-nosed doves, both in and outside the administration, on the atmospherics required for the initial moves with Iran after the recent signs of a thaw.
President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, must also be casting a glance on the internal dynamics in Iran. That a casual meeting with President Obama on the margins of the UN General Assembly did “not” take place is, by the admission of Iranian diplomats, a “good outcome” because a “casual” meeting at such a delicate juncture would give out misleading signals.
If there is one group the Saudis fear and suspect more than Iran and Shiaism, it is the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is an outside power. Brothers are available even within Saudi society and they despise monarchies just as the Prophet of Islam despised monarchies.
So, the coffers of the House of Saud have been opened for Gen. Abdel Fattah el Sisi to break the back of the Brothers in Egypt. Al Jazeera, which became a mouthpiece for the Brothers during the year that Morsi was in power, is in the process of packing up its bags in Egypt.