Understanding the egomaniacal 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. 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 UAE and Bahrain over its terrorist funding, but with the blessing of the Amir 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 Makkah and Medinah.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor UAE Businessman