World
Melkulangara Bhadrakumar
November 28, 2012
© Photo: Public domain

Part I        Part II


Turkey, Iran in chatened mood

The eight-day conflict in Gaza brought to the fore the role of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood as the sole regional mediator between the Palestinians and Israel. Egypt cannot be easily dethroned from this enviable position in a near future. This has vast implications for the power dynamics in the Middle East.
 
Turkey and Iran are the two most affected regional powers in this shift in the regional dynamics. These two countries found themselves to be at a disadvantage. While Turkish leaders were reduced to alternating between spewing vitriolic rhetoric and shedding helpless tears, Iran was left to watch from the sidelines unsung and unnoticed.

 Turkey may have little to lose except its vanities as a Middle Eastern power but for Iran this is manifestly a high stakes game. Gaza conflict compels both countries to rethink their future strategies. Curiously, although they applauded the political catharsis of the Arab Spring and presupposed inherent advantages in it, TurKey and Iran are startled to find that their regional designs have been upset.

In the ascendancy of Islamism, Turkey visualized the inevitability of its leadership role in the New Middle East, while Iran relished mistakenly that Arab Spring spurred anti-Americanism. Both are in a chastened mood today.

Ankara hardly had any role to play in the diplomatic efforts to broker ceasefire. The negotiations put Egypt on the centre stage. Egypt not only reclaimed its pivotal role in the Arab-Israeli conflict but also combined it with the role of a mediator, which adds up to a measure of regional influence that is way past what Turkey can hope to match.

The sense of frustration must be deep in Ankara, considering that Prime Minister Recep Erdogan had patronizingly welcomed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt assuming his obligation to groom the new leaders in Cairo. The embarrassment showed in Erdogan’s vitriolic rhetoric calling Israel a “terrorist” state and accusing the Israeli leadership of pursuing a policy of “ethnic cleansing”.

Such rhetoric (and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davitoglu’s tear shedding while visiting Gaza) may have helped to some extent to divert the attention of the Turkish public and the Arab Street from the stark reality that Turkey was sidelined in the search for a resolution of the latest crisis of the Palestinian problem.

Two things emerged for Ankara to ponder over. First, as a perceptive Turkish commentator Semih Idiz noted, “Morsi’s advantage is that he maintains official ties with Israel, even if the level of diplomatic relations has been lowered due to Gaza, while at the same time being close to Hamas. Turkey, on the other hand, has burned its bridges with Israel and the prospects for building new ones currently appear nil.”

Second, no matter the present Turkish leadership’s ambitions to claim the Ottoman legacy in the Middle East, Turkey is an “outsider” as far as the Arab world is concerned. To quote Idiz, “Ankara’s current role in the Middle East is merely that of a ‘strong backer’ and ‘promoter’ of settlements agreed on by its regional and global allies. In other words, it is not involved in any key negotiations.”

In comparison with Turkey’s predicament, Iran may seem better off, but the stakes are actually much higher. The point is, Morsi’s ability to retain power depends on the government’s success on the economic front where it has raised high expectations among the vast impoverished sections of Egyptian society.

The aid from the IMF depends on American goodwill and the huge transfusion of funds from the pro-US regional states is useful and timely as budgetary support. Thus, Morsi’s counseling of the militant Palestinian groups not to further agitate the region with bouts of violence against Israel needs to be seen in perspective.

But Muslim Brotherhood cannot countenance Israeli violence against the Palestinians, either. Morsi’s government has come up for criticism that it is not tightening its border with Gaza and is passively acquiescing with the flow of weapons for Hamas arranged by the smugglers from Libya or Sudan.

On another plane, Morsi is deftly exploiting the Hamas’ need of Cairo. In the absence of Egypt, Hamas today has no other interlocutor to transact business with Israel. Yet, Muslim Brotherhood is also a faction-ridden movement, which needs to address different constituencies. The top leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie said in a statement even as Morsi was brokering the ceasefire: “The enemy knows nothing but the language of force. Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords.”

Suffice to say, Tehran views the recent happenings as a passing stage in the inexorable march of the Palestinian resistance. Tehran probably felt disappointed that Hamas leadership failed to acknowledge its crucial role in the latest “victory” over Israel. It was left to Iran to highlight that the technology for the Fajr-5 rockets it transferred to Hamas was the ultimate clincher in the conflict, penetrating Israel’s much-vaunted Iron Dome and hitting Tel Aviv and Herzliya.

Iran claimed that it was Hamas’ “stunning retaliation” with the Fajr-5 that forced Israel to tone down rhetoric about impending ground offensive into Gaza and sue for peace. Iran for the first time disclosed that it rendered financial and military assistance to Palestinian groups.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, “The attitude of Arab and Islamic countries to the events in Gaza was not proper, because some of them felt it is enough to make words, while some others even didn’t condemn the Zionists in words… The Muslim countries and especially the Arab governments should help the oppressed people in Gaza and endeavor to remove the (long-term) siege from that region.”

Unsurprisingly, Iranian rhetoric put the accent on the “reliance on resistance as the only way to liberate Palestine” – to borrow the words of the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili. The speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani also said on Friday, “The defeat of the Zionist regime in the eight-day war proved that resistance is the only way to stop the Zionists’ aggression… Today, the regional powers decide on the regional issues; resistance movement’s victory will continue under a united position among all Palestinian groups, stemming from their faith in God’s support and their jihadi efforts.”

Again, in a significant gesture, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad telephoned Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday and praised the resistance and perseverance of the people of Gaza and pointed out that resistance led to the “path to dignity and prosperity and freedom of all Palestinians.”

Clearly, Iran pins hopes on Haniyeh’s leadership role. In February Haniyeh visited Iran in a diplomatic drive aimed at realigning Hamas in terms of the upheaval in the Middle East. Addressing a rally in Tehran marking the 33rd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Haniyeh pledged, “They [West] want from us to stop resistance and acknowledge Israel but I herewith announce that this will never happen. Our message and the message of all those who lost their blood in the Palestinian lands is that all occupied lands will eventually be liberated from Israeli occupation.”
Iran and Syria used to be the principal backers of Hamas but much has changed in the past year or so and Hamas has been forced to adjust its strategies. Tehran has been unhappy with Hamas for its refusal to support the Syrian regime, while Hamas got caught between the crosscurrents of its allegiance to the Syrian government dominated by the Alawite (whose roots lie in Shi’ite Islam) and its allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood (which faces crackdown by the Syrian regime.)

Khaled Mashal wants Hamas to reassess its alliances, adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the West and work with the pro-West Arab League states. Of course, Hamas denies any internal dissent over the movement’s future course but the divergences in its collective leadership are too apparent to be ignored.

Quite obviously, how these divergences pan out will be of crucial concern to Iran. Last week, while the conflict in Gaza entered its final phase, Larijani undertook a visit to Beirut where he underscored Iran’s priorities. He said, “The power of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements is essential for the durable peace and security of the region.”

 

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
The Gaza conundrum (III)

Part I        Part II


Turkey, Iran in chatened mood

The eight-day conflict in Gaza brought to the fore the role of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood as the sole regional mediator between the Palestinians and Israel. Egypt cannot be easily dethroned from this enviable position in a near future. This has vast implications for the power dynamics in the Middle East.
 
Turkey and Iran are the two most affected regional powers in this shift in the regional dynamics. These two countries found themselves to be at a disadvantage. While Turkish leaders were reduced to alternating between spewing vitriolic rhetoric and shedding helpless tears, Iran was left to watch from the sidelines unsung and unnoticed.

 Turkey may have little to lose except its vanities as a Middle Eastern power but for Iran this is manifestly a high stakes game. Gaza conflict compels both countries to rethink their future strategies. Curiously, although they applauded the political catharsis of the Arab Spring and presupposed inherent advantages in it, TurKey and Iran are startled to find that their regional designs have been upset.

In the ascendancy of Islamism, Turkey visualized the inevitability of its leadership role in the New Middle East, while Iran relished mistakenly that Arab Spring spurred anti-Americanism. Both are in a chastened mood today.

Ankara hardly had any role to play in the diplomatic efforts to broker ceasefire. The negotiations put Egypt on the centre stage. Egypt not only reclaimed its pivotal role in the Arab-Israeli conflict but also combined it with the role of a mediator, which adds up to a measure of regional influence that is way past what Turkey can hope to match.

The sense of frustration must be deep in Ankara, considering that Prime Minister Recep Erdogan had patronizingly welcomed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt assuming his obligation to groom the new leaders in Cairo. The embarrassment showed in Erdogan’s vitriolic rhetoric calling Israel a “terrorist” state and accusing the Israeli leadership of pursuing a policy of “ethnic cleansing”.

Such rhetoric (and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davitoglu’s tear shedding while visiting Gaza) may have helped to some extent to divert the attention of the Turkish public and the Arab Street from the stark reality that Turkey was sidelined in the search for a resolution of the latest crisis of the Palestinian problem.

Two things emerged for Ankara to ponder over. First, as a perceptive Turkish commentator Semih Idiz noted, “Morsi’s advantage is that he maintains official ties with Israel, even if the level of diplomatic relations has been lowered due to Gaza, while at the same time being close to Hamas. Turkey, on the other hand, has burned its bridges with Israel and the prospects for building new ones currently appear nil.”

Second, no matter the present Turkish leadership’s ambitions to claim the Ottoman legacy in the Middle East, Turkey is an “outsider” as far as the Arab world is concerned. To quote Idiz, “Ankara’s current role in the Middle East is merely that of a ‘strong backer’ and ‘promoter’ of settlements agreed on by its regional and global allies. In other words, it is not involved in any key negotiations.”

In comparison with Turkey’s predicament, Iran may seem better off, but the stakes are actually much higher. The point is, Morsi’s ability to retain power depends on the government’s success on the economic front where it has raised high expectations among the vast impoverished sections of Egyptian society.

The aid from the IMF depends on American goodwill and the huge transfusion of funds from the pro-US regional states is useful and timely as budgetary support. Thus, Morsi’s counseling of the militant Palestinian groups not to further agitate the region with bouts of violence against Israel needs to be seen in perspective.

But Muslim Brotherhood cannot countenance Israeli violence against the Palestinians, either. Morsi’s government has come up for criticism that it is not tightening its border with Gaza and is passively acquiescing with the flow of weapons for Hamas arranged by the smugglers from Libya or Sudan.

On another plane, Morsi is deftly exploiting the Hamas’ need of Cairo. In the absence of Egypt, Hamas today has no other interlocutor to transact business with Israel. Yet, Muslim Brotherhood is also a faction-ridden movement, which needs to address different constituencies. The top leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie said in a statement even as Morsi was brokering the ceasefire: “The enemy knows nothing but the language of force. Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords.”

Suffice to say, Tehran views the recent happenings as a passing stage in the inexorable march of the Palestinian resistance. Tehran probably felt disappointed that Hamas leadership failed to acknowledge its crucial role in the latest “victory” over Israel. It was left to Iran to highlight that the technology for the Fajr-5 rockets it transferred to Hamas was the ultimate clincher in the conflict, penetrating Israel’s much-vaunted Iron Dome and hitting Tel Aviv and Herzliya.

Iran claimed that it was Hamas’ “stunning retaliation” with the Fajr-5 that forced Israel to tone down rhetoric about impending ground offensive into Gaza and sue for peace. Iran for the first time disclosed that it rendered financial and military assistance to Palestinian groups.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, “The attitude of Arab and Islamic countries to the events in Gaza was not proper, because some of them felt it is enough to make words, while some others even didn’t condemn the Zionists in words… The Muslim countries and especially the Arab governments should help the oppressed people in Gaza and endeavor to remove the (long-term) siege from that region.”

Unsurprisingly, Iranian rhetoric put the accent on the “reliance on resistance as the only way to liberate Palestine” – to borrow the words of the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili. The speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani also said on Friday, “The defeat of the Zionist regime in the eight-day war proved that resistance is the only way to stop the Zionists’ aggression… Today, the regional powers decide on the regional issues; resistance movement’s victory will continue under a united position among all Palestinian groups, stemming from their faith in God’s support and their jihadi efforts.”

Again, in a significant gesture, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad telephoned Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday and praised the resistance and perseverance of the people of Gaza and pointed out that resistance led to the “path to dignity and prosperity and freedom of all Palestinians.”

Clearly, Iran pins hopes on Haniyeh’s leadership role. In February Haniyeh visited Iran in a diplomatic drive aimed at realigning Hamas in terms of the upheaval in the Middle East. Addressing a rally in Tehran marking the 33rd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Haniyeh pledged, “They [West] want from us to stop resistance and acknowledge Israel but I herewith announce that this will never happen. Our message and the message of all those who lost their blood in the Palestinian lands is that all occupied lands will eventually be liberated from Israeli occupation.”
Iran and Syria used to be the principal backers of Hamas but much has changed in the past year or so and Hamas has been forced to adjust its strategies. Tehran has been unhappy with Hamas for its refusal to support the Syrian regime, while Hamas got caught between the crosscurrents of its allegiance to the Syrian government dominated by the Alawite (whose roots lie in Shi’ite Islam) and its allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood (which faces crackdown by the Syrian regime.)

Khaled Mashal wants Hamas to reassess its alliances, adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the West and work with the pro-West Arab League states. Of course, Hamas denies any internal dissent over the movement’s future course but the divergences in its collective leadership are too apparent to be ignored.

Quite obviously, how these divergences pan out will be of crucial concern to Iran. Last week, while the conflict in Gaza entered its final phase, Larijani undertook a visit to Beirut where he underscored Iran’s priorities. He said, “The power of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements is essential for the durable peace and security of the region.”