The moment of harmony in the Middle East will not last

The American magazine “Foreign Policy” said that the moments of friendship and harmony in the Middle East, between countries whose relations had been strained for years, would not last.

In a report by Stephen Cook, the magazine indicated that the region is witnessing remarkable and unprecedented rapprochement between countries that have pursued hostility towards each other in recent years.

Hence the translationArabies21The complete report:

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia, where he met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Iranian media confirmed in late April that senior security officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran had met in a fifth round of normalization talks organized under the auspices of the Iraqi and Omani governments. And in March, Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey – the first visit by a senior Israeli official to the country in 14 years. In the same month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a guest of Expo 2020 in Dubai, where he met with Emirati leaders. Erdogan also visited the United Arab Emirates in February after the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi traveled to Turkey last November. During the winter, the Emirates and the Iranians exchanged trade and investment delegations.

All of these diplomatic activities have forced certain corners of Washington to be optimistic that a state of “de-escalation” as well as “realignment” prevails in the region. This is a data point for proponents of US repositioning from the Middle East, where the logic is as follows: If the actors in the region act responsibly and resolve their differences, the United States can alleviate the burden of its immediate presence and only return if a crisis arises.

It sounds great to the eye, but it does not convince me. I do not mean the arguments in favor of repositioning and foreign balancing, it makes sense (although mostly only in newspaper reports – when the US tried it in the 1970s, it did not work, leading to a long-term US commitment to Golf Security). What does not convince me is the view that this latest activity of diplomacy ushers in a new era of peace, love and understanding in the Middle East. On the contrary, the multiple openings currently taking place in the region are merely another way for leaders to engage in the same competition and conflicts that have been going on over the past decade.

Even for some deep suspects, like me, it’s good news to find regional powers talking to each other. According to the usual wisdom scenario, money is behind the new regional climate, where the bets are placed on investment and economic cooperation instead of proxy wars and mercenary armies.

Since Ankara is behind most of this regional movement, it seems logical. Erdogan’s poor management of the economy left the Turkish lira in crisis for more than a year, and with inflation reaching nearly 70 percent, the Turkish leader promised that the development of the economy would come from its own disaster. That is why he abandons the hostile narrative that Emirati – among a multitude of ugly traits – are pirates, ignorant losers and losers. Erdogan has ordered that a trial (which took place in absentia) of the suspects charged with the Jamal Khashoggi assassination be transferred to Saudi Arabia, eliminating any chance of punishing them for what they committed. It’s the geopolitical version of going there and begging to get an investment from the Gulf states’ big sovereign wealth funds, doing business, exchanging currencies and maybe selling drones.

Also read: FP: The Gulf states now follow the Qatari model of neutrality

But in fairness, the Turkish government’s approach to Israel is not related to money – not even to Israel – as many people may believe. Officials in Ankara believe that understanding with the Israeli government can relieve them of the pressure that Washington is putting on they exercised. There is, of course, a good reason behind this; There is a three-pronged logic underlying Egypt’s relations with the United States, in which Israel plays a role. As a result, the Turks apparently believe that Jewish organizations and pro-Israel entities in the United States will defend themselves if Erdogan welcomes his Israeli counterpart and exchanges phone calls with him.

If we set aside the naive view on the influence of these groups, there is no evidence that groups representing American interests or supporting Israel really want to help Erdogan, either to break free from the US sanctions imposed on Ankara because of the purchase thereof. of the Russian missile defense system S-400 or to stop the US Department of Justice’s investigation into allegations that Turkey’s government – controlled Halkbank is engaging in activities to evade sanctions against the country.

Regarding de-escalation with Iran, it is said that the Emirates has expressed interest in looking for investment opportunities there, especially in the renewable energy project. The Saudis and the Iranians have not yet reached that level of understanding, and the best that can be said about those meetings is that it is still happening.

Despite the smiles and talk of collaboration, however, it’s hard not to believe that something else is going on behind the scenes. After a decade of battling terrorism and accusing each other of being the source of instability in the region and arming each other’s opponents, the announcements that are now underway about the beginning of a new era of fraternal relations have something to do with it. to do.

After proving that they are not capable of forcing their will on their enemies by force, the leaders of the region are now trying another path. Take the Emiratis, for example. They did not suddenly fall in love with Erdogan. The arrogant and grumpy features of the Saudi crown prince, as shown in one of the photos taken of him during the last visit of the Turkish president, indicate that the Saudis, like the Emirati, are well aware of the miserable situation in which Erdogan is due to the economic failure and his declining popularity in opinion polls.

It provides an opportunity for these Gulf states to gain some leverage over Ankara through their financial power – something they could not develop, for example through their support for Khalifa Haftar in Libya, who sought Turkey’s ally, the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli.

In turn, the Israelis are careful in dealing with the Turks, they do not trust Erdogan, but they seem to be in the game, especially if they can get something thanks to the Turkish leader’s need to improve his position in Washington. For example, it could be seen as a gain for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to persuade Erdogan to reduce the activities of Hamas terrorists operating from within Turkey.

At the same time, the Israelis will not be willing to give up their national economic and security ties with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus – Turkey’s arch – enemies – in order to improve their relations with Ankara. This is similar to Egypt’s stance on Turkey’s punitive but so far unsuccessful attempts to defeat Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on his side.

Meditate on it for a moment. The Turkish government wants to rearrange relations with both Israel and Egypt. Why this change in mood? In two words: Greece and Cyprus. Israel, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus have strengthened their relations with each other in response to Turkey’s unnecessarily aggressive positioning in the eastern Mediterranean. Given that he has lost all current talk of de-escalation and repositioning, it seems clear that Turkey is trying to snatch two countries that may be his friends from the alliance with Athens and Nicosia. Indeed, amid everyone’s preoccupation with the repercussions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, few have noticed the increasing Turkish penetration of Greek airspace over the Aegean Sea. It appears that Turkey wants to reduce the escalation in one place and increase it in other places.

Then there is the Iranian dialogue with the United Arab Emirates and with Saudi Arabia. And when the Emirati and Saudis sit down to talk to the Iranians, their weaknesses and exposure to Tehran – in terms of its missiles and proxy groups – become very clear. Therefore, they have good reasons to reduce tensions with it, especially because they believe that they can no longer rely on the United States as a source of security and stability in the region.

But let’s be clear: this de-escalation is meant to buy Saudi Arabia and the UAE time to think about how best to counter the Iranian threat – either by getting closer to Israel, along with the Chinese and Russian governments to work, or to develop nuclear technology. Sharing the region with Iran is not something its neighbors want in the western half of the Gulf – with the possible exception of Qatar.

Over the past two decades, the United States has pursued policies based on erroneous assumptions about the Middle East. Thus, to conclude an opinion that does not see that the present moment of what appears to be an approximation is nothing more than competition by another path would be another false assumption on which the decision to reposition is based. . This moment of harmony will not last long.

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