Why the Arab world should beware of Erdogan, bearing gifts


Why the Arab world should beware of Erdogan, bearing gifts

Understanding the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’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.
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 swaths of Europe until it was dismantled by the allied powers at the end of the World War I. He understands that Turkey’s entry 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 plan, countries in league with the Muslim Brotherhood and 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 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 for some time that Erdogan was working behind the curtain against Saudi Arabia and its allies, despite his visits to Riyadh. The truth was illuminated in flashing neon when he not only chose Doha’s side in its dispute with Saudi Arabia, the 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 direct investment pledges and trade deals.
He chose an opportune 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 that 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 Makkah and Madinah. 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 neighbors, 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 Erdogan has plans to control Red Sea waters and beyond?
This move exposes Saudi Arabia, 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.

Turkey’s leader aims to recreate the Ottoman Empire, and his alliances with Qatar and Iran must be thwarted.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor

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 Makkah, 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 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 deals.
Which country will jump next, I wonder? Will it be Tunisia, which has suspended Emirates flights and whose parliament’s largest party is the Brotherhood-affiliated Ennahda Party with links to Qatar? Tunis was the last leg on Erdogan’s recent Africa tour, during which he promised to build Turkish embassies in every state on the African continent.
Saudi Arabia, 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 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 said. “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 Arabia 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 they 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.
• Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor
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