In Multipolarity, Turkey / Türkiye

Commentary by Mehmet Y. Yilmaz, Hurriyet Daily News, Jan 5, 2016

The Middle East has gone even deeper into turmoil since “our ally” Saudi Arabia–with which we recently established a “high-level strategic council”–executed a prominent Shiite cleric. You will remember that Turkey and Qatar also signed a military deal a short while ago, and we will construct a military base in Qatar against the “common enemy”.

Turkish President Erdogan (R) is greeted by Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud during March 2015 visit (Kayhan Özer, Anadolu)

Turkish President Erdogan (R) is greeted by Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud during March 2015 visit (Kayhan Özer, Anadolu)

Considering the 3,600 km distance between Turkey and Qatar, I recently asked who could be this “common enemy.” It is not too difficult to find the answer. The only power that Qatar is afraid of is Iran.

Now, our “high-level strategic partner” Saudi Arabia is on the verge of war with Iran. They have cut diplomatic ties; harsh statements are flying in the air. It would not be surprising to see Qatar getting involved in this verbal fight. Indeed, Bahrain cut its relations with Tehran yesterday.

Turkey is now in the midst of a conflict that should be of no interest. Turkey is in no position to either intervene to decrease the tension or to stand aside. That is where we have ended up thanks to the Erdogan-Davutoglu duo’s foreign policy. We will all pay the price for them resorting to cheap campaign propaganda whenever critics warned “let’s not slide into Middle Eastern swamp”. What is the reason behind the silence?

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the cleric who was executed in Saudi Arabia, had nothing to do with violence. In fact, he condemned violence and he was against all dictators in the Islamic world – including Bashar al–Assad. In an interview with the BBC in 2011, he said he preferred “the roar of the word against authorities to weapons”.

“The weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because the authorities profit from a battle with weapons,” he said. Now, the execution of this cleric who preached peace could set off a period where only guns do the talking.

What I find strange is the fact that Turkey has remained silent up to now. It is silent about the killing of a cleric who has stood up to tyrants. There is no word from a government that says it stands with all the oppressed, regardless of their identity. The Foreign Ministry is silent.

Isn’t this silence of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which reacted so harshly against death sentences that were not even carried out in Egypt, perplexing? If a Muslim cleric was executed in a Buddhist country, would they have stayed silent like this?

Why this silence? Is it because the killers this time are the Saudis? Or is it because the cleric is Shiite?

Don’t block politics

The “process” started after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “party closures should never be an option, but deputies or mayors who commit crimes should pay the price. I believe the process that will start by stripping the co-chairs of their immunities would positively affect the mood in the fight against terror.”

Indeed, whatever Erdogan says is accepted as an instruction and put into force these days. That is the reason why journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül are today in jail.

All in all, this latest process is just one more nod in answer to the question, “Have we gone back to the 1990s?” How could the president think such a step could positively affect the mood in the fight against terror? Has this type of action even been proven beneficial?

If Turkey is to solve this issue, it can only do so within the framework of democratic politics.

Read also:

Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism alliance: a political message sketchy on details, The Guardian, Dec 15, 2015

… The alliance goes beyond the obvious candidates in the Gulf and Egypt to include Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia as well as Nigeria, Mali and other African countries. It conspicuously excludes Iran and Iraq – supporters of what the Saudis call “Shia terrorism” – and Syria, where Riyadh backs rebels fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. It also excludes Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, as well as Oman, the most independent state in the Gulf.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia to boost support for Syrian opposition, Middle East Monitor, March 2, 2015

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