Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won over many hearts in the Arab region. Arabs saw him as an honest and successful political figure and someone who was sympathizing with their causes. However, their love for Erdogan did not remain as it is. Erdogan’s loss of Arab support can mainly be attributed to his failure to stop the massacres in Syria at the hands of Assad regime, and his failure to carry out revenge on Israel over the killings of Turkish innocent citizens. Instead, he accepted the blood money.
His former pro-Qaddafi stance in the Libyan revolution alienated many in the region, especially that Qaddafi was despised in the Arab world. His loss of Arab support can also be attributed to his description of events in Bahrain as a “second Karbala” and his support for extremist protesters. Despite all this, many in the Arab world still view Erdogan with respect and some do not blame him, realizing that the situation in Syria is difficult to be addressed by Turkey.
Now he has involvement himself on the Egyptian front, adopting a position that could be described as biased to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). He may be one of the few in the world who have adopted this stance. We won’t argue about his legitimacy and relations with ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi because it is an egg and chicken situation. Egyptians say that they have toppled Mursi because of his bad performance as president, the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the state and the president’s lack of respect for the democracy that brought him to power.
Erdogan the mediator
When Erdogan supports Mursi and the MB, he is in fact antagonizing most Egyptian and Arab forces who disagree with him. If the Turkish PM thinks that it was unjust to oust Mursi, and it is his right to believe so, then his best role should be as a mediator, rather than taking sides. First, he knows that he can’t change anything in Egypt, and doesn’t have the tools to ensure Mursi’s return as Turkey failed to bring down Assad’s regime despite being a regional power, although Syria is a quarter of the size of Egypt. So what can he do for Egypt, the most populous Arab country?
Erdogan should intervene and mediate between different sides rather than taking a rigid and biased stance. This might have been the best thing he can do and give his friends, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a lecture in governance.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood is exploiting Turkey and wants to exploit Erdogan to play a damaging role. Erdogan will be disappointed later on when the Brotherhood negotiate with the military to protect some of their interests. The Muslim Brotherhood knows very well that Mursi will not return, that the other political forces will not allow the MB to form another government, and nobody believes Mursi will be victorious after a year of failure.
The involvement of Erdogan in the region’s politics will only cost him his popularity, which is already dwindling, among Arabs. He could have actually played a more objective role for the Egyptians in general and not just the Brotherood. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that Egypt and Turkey resemble two sides of one apple, and it is in the interest of Turkey to support Egypt in this regional status as one of its allies, without being subjected to intervention.
Erdogan should intervene and mediate between different sides rather than taking a rigid and biased stance. This might have been the best thing he can do and give his friends, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a lecture in governance, related to the Turkish model of tolerance which Erdogan mastered through his economic and political policies. What Mursi did in a year has nothing to do with the democracy that brought him to power. We all knew that his presidency would come to an end because Mursi failed to retain his allies, including the Salafists, who abandoned even before he was toppled.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 20, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.