SAUDI CROWN PRINCE’S MOVES AND THE TRIPARTITE MID­DLE EAST

THE po­lar­iza­tion be­tween Iran and the Gulf and Is­rael is not the only force in the Mid­dle East, as there is a third bloc rep­re­sented by Turkey that brings to­gether play­ers for co­op­er­a­tion

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - BURHANETTiN DU­RAN

The storm of po­lar­iza­tion in the Mid­dle East looks far from an end. At this point, the var­i­ous play­ers are not even try­ing to hide their true in­ten­tions, which used to be kept to them­selves or in pri­vate cir­cles. At a time when Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) stopped air­ing Turk­ish tele­vi­sion se­ries, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man al-Saud re­port­edly made anti-Turkey state­ments to a group of jour­nal­ists in Egypt. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, bin Sal­man de­scribed Turkey, Iran and Qatar as a “triangle of evil” and iden­ti­fied Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan’s sup­posed plan to bring back the Ot­toman caliphate, along with Iran’s push to ex­port the Is­lamic rev­o­lu­tion and ter­ror­ist groups as the main threats fac­ing the Arab people. To be clear, those state­ments are per­fectly ca­pa­ble of fur­ther strain­ing Turk­ishSaudi re­la­tions. There­fore, the Saudi Em­bassy in Ankara im­me­di­ately is­sued a state­ment re­ject­ing the claims. The crown prince, that state­ment said, had re­ferred to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and rad­i­cal groups as op­posed to Turkey.

It would ap­pear that the Saudi crown prince lost con­trol dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in Cairo amid mount­ing anti-Turkey sen­ti­ments. The diplo­matic im­pli­ca­tions of bin Sal­man’s words aside, it is no se­cret that the two greedy crown princes of the Gulf, bin Sal­man and the UAE’s Muham­mad bin Zayed, are un­happy with Turkey’s re­gional poli­cies. The most re­cent me­dia re­ports merely re­vealed the ide­o­log­i­cally charged lan­guage that is be­ing used in Arab diplo­matic cir­cles to ex­press that frus­tra­tion.

Bin Sal­man seeks to im­pose a new blue­print on the Mid­dle East and has been tak­ing a se­ries of steps. His main goal is to form a united front against Iran. Hav­ing se­cured the sup­port of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and dis­ci­plined a large num­ber of Saudi princes, the crown prince seeks to unite all Gulf states around the Saudi-Emi­rati-Is­raeli-Egyp­tian axis. Need­less to say, the Qatar block­ade was di­rectly caused by Doha’s dis­agree­ment with that pro­ject.

At the same time, the two greedy crown princes have been blessed with a vast amount of sup­port from Jewish lob­by­ists in Is­rael and the United States. As a mat­ter of fact, the Amer­i­can Is­raeli Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee (AIPAC), Amer­ica’s largest pro-Is­rael lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, came out in sup­port of bin Sal­man and bin Zayed at its an­nual con­fer­ence on March 4. The crown princes be­lieve that Turkey, a key re­gional power, op­poses their plans. For a while, they hoped that Turkey would just jump onto the anti-Iran band­wagon. But the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment’s op­po­si­tion to grow­ing po­lar­iza­tion in the Mid­dle East and ef­forts to dis­ci­pline coun­tries like Qatar took a heavy toll on the crown princes’ agenda. Er­doğan’s vo­cal crit­i­cism of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Jerusalem move and suc­cess­ful ef­forts to lobby the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion and the United Na­tions to pass crit­i­cal res­o­lu­tions put the gov­ern­ments of Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Egypt in a bad po­si­tion con­cern­ing Arabs. More­over, Ankara is not just ex­ert­ing soft power in the Mid­dle East due to Er­doğan’s strong lead­er­ship and tele­vi­sion se­ries. The coun­try has been re­sort­ing to hard power in­stru­ments by launch­ing op­er­a­tions in Syria, es­tab­lish­ing a mil­i­tary base in Qatar and in­creas­ing its foot­print on Suakin Is­land in Su­dan. Those moves, cou­pled with Turkey’s re­fusal to fuel po­lar­iza­tion and will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate with Iran if and when nec­es­sary, drives the crown princes mad. As such, they view Ankara as a se­ri­ous ob­sta­cle to their re­gional de­sign. In ad­di­tion to eas­ing ten­sions be­tween Iran and the Gulf, Turkey has been weak­en­ing ten­sions among Gulf coun­tries. Fur­ther­more, Ankara has been dele­git­imiz­ing ef­forts by cer­tain gov­ern­ments to side with Is­rael in re­gional af­fairs.

It is no se­cret that those coun­tries have been se­cretly sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ) and PKKaf­fil­i­ated Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD) in an ef­fort to un­der­mine Turkey’s re­gional in­flu­ence. To be clear, charg­ing Er­doğan with try­ing to bring back the Ot­toman caliphate is noth­ing but an at­tempt to iso­late Ankara. The Saudi crown prince’s moves, how­ever, are un­likely to pro­duce the de­sired re­sults. Crip­pled by do­mes­tic chaos, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion can­not form an ef­fec­tive anti-Iran bloc to con­tain Tehran. To make mat­ters worse, the Gulf lacks the ide­o­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary cap­i­tal to carry out that task. Mean­while, the Gulf ’s rap­proche­ment with Is­rael will ac­com­plish noth­ing ex­cept to serve Is­raeli in­ter­ests in Pales­tine, Le­banon and Syria. Nor will bash­ing Turkey be­hind closed doors help the crown princes get a grip on the re­al­i­ties of the Mid­dle East.

The po­lar­iza­tion be­tween Iran and the Gulf and Is­rael is not the only force in the Mid­dle East. There is a third bloc rep­re­sented by Turkey that brings to­gether play­ers for co­op­er­a­tion. Fail­ing to ac­knowl­edge that re­al­ity will not only strengthen Iran, but also re­sult in the Gulf ’s frag­men­ta­tion.

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