Two different silences in Iran and Turkiye

Two different silences in Iran and Turkiye

As Israel’s genocidal war of displacement intensifies, the war in Gaza is likely to spread on a wider scale in the region (AFP)
As Israel’s genocidal war of displacement intensifies, the war in Gaza is likely to spread on a wider scale in the region (AFP)
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Turkish voters headed to the polls on Sunday as Turkiye’s political parties competed in local elections. This political test in Turkiye, which is one of the three powers competing for regional dominance in the Middle East, with the permission of the US, comes at a time when all eyes are on the two other powers, Israel and Iran, and what they are doing to the fragile entities of the region.

The tragedy in Gaza, with all its ugliness and horror, is likely to spread to the rest of the Occupied Territories, as well as large parts of Lebanon and Syria and potentially Jordan, as Israel’s genocidal war of displacement intensifies.

Despite the idle chatter about mediation efforts to end the genocide and of disagreements between Tel Aviv and Washington regarding the scenario for the next few hours and days, the persistence of US arms and ammunition supplies affirms that there are no disagreements whatsoever between these two capitals regarding the broad strategy for the Middle East.

The truth is that plans for displacement and the redrawing of maps are moving forward.

In several areas of Iraq, the displacement is clear. In fact, Iraq had been on the brink of partition since 2003. It would have already been split into several different entities if it were not for Turkiye’s refusal to allow the Kurds to unilaterally decide the fate of the Turkmen minority, specifically in Kirkuk and its surroundings.

Any change in Iran’s role in the region will inevitably reflect, in one way or another, on Turkiye’s role

Eyad Abu Shakra

In Syria, too, it would be absurd to ignore the de facto fragmentation of the country, which has been split into no less than five entities, each controlled by different local authorities supported by a regional or international ally. There is the coastal region, including the Alawite Mountains and the Valley of Christians, where most of the Alawite minority resides and Russian naval facilities are located; the region north of Aleppo, where Turkiye dominates; the region east of the Euphrates, where the Kurds and the Americans have come to an “understanding;” the central strip that extends from Al-Bukamal to Lebanon, which is known as the “Iranian corridor” and includes what remains of the regime-controlled areas, from which most residents have been displaced; and the south, from the eastern Badiya desert to the occupied Golan Heights in the West, whose fate is expected to be decided in the near future, against the backdrop of the armed bargaining between Israel and Iran.

Then there is Lebanon. Lebanon has entered an unprecedentedly tense phase as it grapples with a political vacuum and gridlock, which have been aggravated since the Israeli war machine brought down the so-called rules of engagement that set predetermined restrictions on attacks between the two sides.

The collapse of the rules of engagement is being affirmed by the expansion of Israel’s targets. It has bombarded and conducted assassinations across Lebanon. In contrast, Hezbollah is attempting to cool the situation and avoid escalation, as the visit of Hajj Wafiq Safa, the party’s senior security official, to the Gulf indicates. In addition, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah postponed his discussion of political matters to Quds Day (Friday), instead of addressing them in the speech broadcast last week.

On another note, leaks suggesting that — contrary to the previous threats by its secretary-general — Hezbollah is reluctant to escalate have emerged over the past few days. It seems that the party’s hesitance comes against the backdrop of a message from Tehran, in which it was made clear that Iran would not play a role in any upcoming confrontation in the region. That means the “unity of the front” strategy has collapsed, at least in the Lebanese arena.

The question now is whether Iran has decided to deal with Lebanon and Hezbollah in the same way it has dealt with Gaza and Hamas. If a deal has been concluded, what are its limits? And what are its costs?

The CHP’s Imamoglu on Sunday retained his Istanbul mayoralty and even increased his margin of victory

Eyad Abu Shakra

Any change in Iran’s role in the region will inevitably reflect, in one way or another, on Turkiye’s role. While Tehran’s regional strategy explicitly leverages Shiite communities politically and demographically, Turkiye has sought to do the same with the Sunnis quietly during the Recep Tayyip Erdogan era, portraying itself as the Sunnis’ protector and the defender of their interests in Syria and Iraq.

However, Erdogan's Ankara has not replicated Tehran’s success in imposing its influence over four Arab states. Indeed, while Washington refused to halt the Iranian expansion — turning a blind eye to it and pushing back with words alone — it refused to support Ankara when the latter needed it, despite Turkiye being a NATO member.

After that, US policy further undermined Ankara’s credibility when it forced Turkiye to walk back on its public support of the Syrian revolution as soon as Ankara was threatened by Russia, which declared its full backing of the Assad regime.

The Turkish leader thus agreed to cooperate with the Iranians and Russians and engage in the Astana process aimed at quelling the Syrian revolution. He then found justifications for his retreat in the positions of his domestic rivals, led by the Republican People’s Party, known as the CHP, which is extremely hostile to Syrian refugees and launched a spiteful and racist campaign against them.

Sunday’s elections in Turkiye were local elections. That is true. At the same time, however, they served as a test of credibility and popularity for the country’s two largest political forces, namely the Justice and Development Party led by Erdogan and the CHP, which considers itself the true historical heir to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular legacy.

Before the vote, Erdogan’s AKP controlled 39 municipalities, while the CHP controlled 21. The other municipalities were shared by three other parties. On Sunday, however, the CHP won 35 provincial capitals and claimed the most votes nationwide.

Control over the urban political centers of gravity is more consequential than the number of municipalities each party controls. Istanbul, the country’s largest city, is the most prominent of these urban centers, followed by the capital, Ankara, and then Izmir. The CHP has maintained control of all three.

The two largest political parties consider Istanbul the ultimate battleground. The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu on Sunday retained his mayoralty and even increased his margin of victory, solidifying his position as the opposition’s most prominent candidate for the next presidential elections.

And so, both Iran and Turkiye have gone quiet, while the Israelis beat the drums of war. This silence, though it suggests that the positions of Tehran and Ankara have weakened, is down to different reasons and carries different costs in each country in light of Washington’s monopoly over global decisions.

  • Eyad Abu Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. X: @eyad1949
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