Understanding the egomaniacal Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regional ambitions needs no mind reader. For years, he has sought to meddle in Arab affairs, at times pretending to be a friend and, at others, openly hostile. His end game is now crystal clear.
President Erdogan hopes to recreate the Ottoman Empire founded during the 13th century or some version of it. In its heyday, the empire stretched across North Africa, the Middle East and major swathes of Europe until it was dismantled by the allied powers at the end of World War I. He understands that Turkey’s entrée into the European Union is a damp squib and now he is charting his country’s own course.
Erdogan is actively courting cohorts to participate in this treachery, countries in league with the Muslim Brotherhood and/or with the Iranian regime. He has taken a leaf out of the joke caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s book but in a far subtler fashion. He is lining up potential Arab vassal states as permanent fixtures under Ankara’s boot. Al-Baghdadi wanted a caliphate; Erdogan wants a sultanate.
This wannabe leader of the Arab world and Africa presents himself as a champion of the Palestinians to lure Arabs into his corner while still maintaining diplomatic, trade and intelligence ties with Tel Aviv. He is a good pupil; these are strategies straight out of the Iranian playbook aiming to con Arab public opinion.
I have suspected that the Turkish despot was working behind the curtain against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allies for some time despite his fawning visits to Riyadh. The truth was illuminated in flashing neon when he not only chose Doha’s side in its dispute with Saudi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain over its terrorist funding, but with the blessing of the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, he established a military base on Qatari soil capable of housing 5,000 Turkish soldiers and airmen.
Now that he has succeeded in placing the tiniest GCC member state in his pocket, he has turned his attention to Sudan bearing fistfuls of dollars in terms of direct investment pledges and trade deals.
He chose an opportunistic moment when relations between Egypt and Sudan are currently strained over the latter’s claim to sovereignty over the Hala’ib Triangle, an area of land on the Red Sea which falls within Egypt’s Red Sea governorate.
In return for Erdogan’s ‘generosity’ and to land a punch in the direction of Cairo, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir is handing Turkey the Sudanese island of Suakin, a former stopping-off point for Muslim pilgrims on route to Mecca and Medina.
Turkey will return the small deserted town to its former glory during the Ottoman era and will renovate the port complete with a new dock for civilian vessels and warships.
Sudan protests that the Turkish presence poses no threat to its neighbours even though reports indicate Turkey and Sudan have signed a military cooperation agreement. They can tell that to the birds. I am not buying it.
Why does Turkey need that island when it has access to the Mediterranean and numerous islands of its own unless he has plans to control Red Sea waters and beyond?
This move exposes KSA, Egypt, Jordan and other GCC states to grave danger. This ‘gift’ is nothing less than an open door for Turkey, Qatar and Iran to threaten our security and stability.
Permitting the Muslim Brotherhood’s godfather who is also an ally of Iran to have direct access to an island off the western Red Sea coast that’s a stone’s throw from Mecca is madness. If Turkey moves troops and weapons on to that island, we will be vulnerable to aggression from Turkey, Qatar, Iran and its proxies in Iraq not to mention Tehran’s Lebanese lackey Hezbollah.
Qatar’s emir has turned out to be a snake. We have always treated Qatar as a brotherly country until he and his father before him colluded with terrorists including the Brotherhood, the Taliban and the Houthis in the pay of Tehran. How dare he fund the criminals attacking our brave young soldiers risking their lives in order to restore the legitimate government to Yemen!
I would not be surprised to learn that Qatar is the paymaster and chief strategist behind Erdogan’s devilish deals. As the leader of an important Arab country, Al-Bashir should be ashamed to hitch himself to that unsavoury duo bandwagon purely for a few dollars more. We will not forget.
Which country will jump next, I wonder? Will it be Tunisia that has suspended Emirates flights and whose parliament’s largest party is the Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Nahda Party with links to Qatar? Tunis was the last leg on Erdogan’s recent Africa tour during which Erdogan promised to build Turkish embassies in every state on the African continent.
Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt should immediately place Turkey and its newfound best friends on their enemies list and spell out the consequences for their duplicity in no uncertain terms. Turkey, Iran and Qatar are hand-in-glove in a devious hegemonic experiment that must be thwarted immediately.
How many red flags need to fly in front of our eyes before Arab leaderships forcefully respond! The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash is one of few exceptions.
“The Arab world is at an impasse and the solution is to cooperate in the face of surrounding regional ambitions,” he tweeted, adding “The sectarian and partisan approach is not an acceptable alternative. The Arab world will not be led by Tehran and Ankara.”
Egypt stands on the geographical front line facing the effects of this Turkish-Sudanese conspiracy together with Saudi and Jordan. The Egyptian media’s calls to its government for action have so far elicited only silence. I cannot understand why. There needs to be transparency. Our peoples need to know what’s happening and what is being done to counter these threats.
This is one of the most dangerous times for us in recent history and I do not mind admitting that as an Arab and an Emirati I am extremely concerned.
In the face of Turkish-Qatari-Iranian plots we cannot afford to sit back hoping these devilish alliances are just a flash in the pan. We cannot afford to be patient which our enemies will interpret as weakness.
I therefore plead with our concerned Arab leaders to take this threat with the seriousness it deserves and, if necessary, to take appropriate joint action. Erdogan has proved his ruthlessness in his own country; let’s not allow him an open window to do the same anywhere close to ours.