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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Don’t insult our intelligence Abdullah Gul!

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Shutterstock
© AP Images: Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (R) and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rovhani in Ankara in June, 2014

Turkey, which is currently out of favour with several of its traditional Arab allies, is now apparently cosying-up with Iran, despite differences over the Syrian conflict, as evidenced by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent state visit to Ankara, marking the first by an Iranian head of state in 18 years. Frankly, if they’ve decided to kiss and make up, that’s their own business, but what really rankles with me is their leaders’ sheer hypocrisy vis-à-vis Gulf States, disguising plots with sweet words. I think I speak for almost all Gulf nationals with this message: ‘Sorry, but we’re not falling for your flowery rhetoric because the facts speak for themselves.’

A senior advisor to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan disclosed to the London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat that during his talks with Rouhani the Turkish President stressed upon the importance Ankara places on Gulf security, saying Turkey is “committed to the security, welfare and aspirations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, without any country’s interference in their internal affairs.”

How reassuring! Now, we in the Gulf can all sleep better at night knowing Turkey has our back. But unfortunately for Turkey’s spin doctors, we are just not that gullible. Aware how negatively Rouhani’s red carpet welcome would be perceived in our part of the world, President Gul disingenuously went out of his way to show the GCC how much his country cares in order to preserve bilateral trade and goodwill. Relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in particular, have been dented over Erdogan’s persistent cuddling of the Muslim Brotherhood and a slew of insults he’s thrown at Egypt’s government and military, including announcing that as far as he’s concerned, former President Morsi is still the president of Egypt. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has made it clear that attempts by foreign nations to undermine Egypt’s progress is, for him, a red line.

But let’s suppose for a moment, let’s stretch our imaginations to assume Prime Minister’s Gul’s sentiments are, in fact, genuine. In answer to that admittedly far-fetched hypothetical scenario, I would respectfully tell him that we can look after ourselves, thank you very much. We are not anyone’s responsibility except our own and our leaders are more than capable of protecting our people, our land, our borders and coastlines. For a leader of a foreign country - and especially one outside our region who has no Arab antecedents - such pronouncements are disrespectful of our independence and territorial sovereignty.

Instead of worrying about our security - or pretending to do so - Turkey should quit protecting terrorists and conspiring with the international Muslim Brotherhood to bring down Egypt. Surely Erdogan and Gul have enough on their plate at a time of increasing civil unrest at home due to alleged high level corruption, human rights abuses and a crackdown on freedom of expression.

Not so long ago, Erdogan was admired for being at the forefront of a system of political Islam that brought stability and prosperity. But now we understand that all along he was an extremist in sheep’s clothing and a man who will swipe down anyone who dares challenge his chair. Now we see that his self-control mechanisms have broken-down as evidenced by his slapping of a bystander during the minors’ protests, while his aides brutally kicked another.

The idea of such a loose-cannon setting himself up as the chaperone of Gulf States is, for me, abhorrent and totally unacceptable - and, likewise, his new best friend Hassan Rouhani, for all his personal charm, is also a person who should be viewed with a huge dollop of distrust. He’s billed as “a moderate cleric” whereas the man who’s actually in charge, the heir to the Ayatollah Khomenei, is sitting in Qom. Who knows what plots they were hatching against Arabs behind closed doors!

Like Turkey, the Islamic Republic of Iran is another country, whose leaders talk from both sides of their mouths. The moderate picture they’re currently attempting to draw for an international audience has one aim - to get crippling UN, US and EU sanctions lifted.

Even as Rouhani is courting the P5+1 countries during negotiations over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, just days ago, Ali Khamenei spoke to a gathering of political and military officials, some holding banners with the words “America can’t do a damn thing”. Khamenei used the occasion to imply that President Obama is a coward without the guts to take on a fight, adding, “The Great Satan’s” efforts to bring “Iran to its knees” have failed. This is the country with which the US and other world powers are working towards détente? What will they do next? Give the murdering Syrian president a medal of honour?

Khameinei has lately been pushing for closer ties with Gulf States or rather to repair relationships made frosty by a laundry list of Iranian meddling in Arab affairs from its support of Shiite insurgents in Bahrain out to overthrow the monarchy to its backing of Shiite Houthis in Yemen, its domination over Lebanon via its proxy Hezbollah and the presence of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary guards fighting alongside Assad’s troops in Syria. Less publicized is Iran’s continued persecution of Ahwazi Arabs who’ve been treated as third class citizens, stripped of rights since the days of the Shah; and subject to the eradication of their Arab culture, including being banned from giving their children Arab names. Instead of shaking hands with Iranian envoys, GCC leaders should stand up for those abandoned people.

Iran’s hostility to the Arab nation is an historical fact and if more proof was needed then the failure of Hassan Rouhani to attend the inauguration of Egypt’s new president Abdel-Fatah el- Sisi but merrily shows up days later in Ankara, speaks volumes. Whatever the Turks and the Iranians may be cooking is not my concern but whatever it is, then please leave us out of it!

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