Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Turkey and the Egyptian Revolt

Turkey is anticipating a greater role in the Middle East after the fall of Mubarak, eager for another Islamist-friendly regime that can stand up to the West and in need of new friends. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Addressing lawmakers in Ankara as hundreds of thousands of Egyptian oppositon activists gathered in Cairo’s Freedom Square, Mr. Erdogan called on Mr. Mubarak to heed the demands of his people and instigate change.
“For the sake of Egypt Mr. Mubarak must take the first step. He must do something to instigate change,” Mr. Erdogan said, in a speech to Parliament, which was met with frequent outbreaks of applause from lawkmakers here.
Turkey potentially has much to gain from regime change in Egypt -– but Mr. Erdogan was careful not to be seen wielding a knife, stopping short of calling for Mr. Mubarak to step down...
The antiregime protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have drawn attention to Turkey’s relative success at wedding democratic freedoms with religion. It could emerge as the alternative model for countries that might soon have to choose between a democratic or Islamic administration.
This would deepen Turkey’s growing sway in the Middle East. The process began with the election of the Islamist-leaning AK party, led by Mr. Erdogan, in 2003, and accelerated as the party won a second election. It is poised to win a third this summer.

Ironically, Turkey's stance of standing with the Egyptian people, for democracy and against Mubarak but without asking him to step down, is a mirror image of Obama's. Do I smell collusion?

According to Professor David Passig, author of the Israeli bestseller '2048', between 2010-2020 the U.S. will begin to invest in Turkey, mostly in secret, in the interest of Turkey containing Russia in the Southeast Europe and Islamism in Iraq and Iran. Yet as Turkey gains power, it will split from the U.S. and become self-sufficient as a regional power and as a support for Arab states in the region.

Erdogan's cautious support of Egypt reflects its current subjugation to U.S. rhetoric on the one hand, and its anticipation of becoming a regional player as regimes turn away from U.S. and towards Islamism. While the WSJ sees Turkey as an 'alternative' between democracy and Islamism, there are undercurrents of Turkey siding with Islamism, in the garb of democracy.

In mid-January, Erdogan told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite television network that Hamas is not a terrorist movement. “We stand by Hamas when they are right, because the Hamas movement is a resistance movement. I do not see Hamas as 'terrorist.' They are people who defend the land, and it is a political group that entered the elections and won the elections.”

As Passig also points out, Turkey's anti-Israel rhetoric is a tool for it to gain further standing among populations of the Arab world, as exhibited through its new anti-Israel movie on the Maramara debacle.

David Makovsky from the Washington Institute also forsees an Islamist-Israeli confrontation as one of his two scenarios for the post-Mubarak Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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