Erdogan capitulates to MBS

The Turkish president will do anything to improve his chances of retaining power

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally gave in to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler Muhammad Bin-Salman and submitted to his terms. He got his justice minister to halt legal proceedings against the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and transfer the case to the Saudi judiciary in exchange for improved relations between the two countries and the lifting of the unofficial Saudi embargo on Turkish imports.

This capitulation did not come as a surprise. Erdogan earlier complied fully with the Egyptian authorities’ demands to close down or muzzle Egyptian Islamist opposition TV channels based in Turkey. He also extradited Chinese Uighur dissidents and tuned a blind eye to the assassination of Iranian and Chechen oppositionists by their countries’ intelligence services. His next move could be to deport leaders and members of Hamas from Turkey in line with Israeli demands and directives, after the festive reception he gave President Yitzhak Herzog when he visited Ankara last month.

Islamic principles and values rank low on the Turkish president’s order of priorities. If Khashoggi were alive, he may have handed him over to the Saudi authorities. What matters to him is to remain in the presidential palace and — to facilitate that — for the lira to recover and the Turkish economy to overcome the difficulties it currently faces due to the failure of his policies.

Erdogan was a talented actor who managed to enlist ‘political Islam’ in the service of the US and its schemes against several Arab and Islamic states like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. It is regrettable that some leaders of the Islamist movement still see him as Caliph of the Muslims and Commander of the Faithful and continue to defend him fiercely.

His support for the Palestinian cause was verbal. To avoid angering Israel he never provided the Palestinian resistance, Hamas specifically, with a single bullet or dollar, only some rhetorical assistance. He never severed ties with the occupation state. He sufficed with recalling ambassadors during the height of its assault on Gaza. Yet some Islamists, including within Hamas, continue to deify him and sing his praises.

Erdogan only understands the language of power. That is why he prostrated himself before the Saudi prince and prior to that the Egyptian authorities, released the American pastor Brunson, and apologised profusely after Russia punished him for downing one of its warplanes that allegedly strayed into Turkish airspace.

Who knows, he may even one day go down on his knees in front of President Bashar al-Assad to apologise for the death and destruction he wreaked on Syria — if he’s still in power after next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Or expel Syrian refugees from his country and hand over oppositionists to the Syrian authorities as a goodwill gesture and down-payment for the restoration of relations between the two countries.

We still don’t know whether Muhammad Bin-Salman will accept this capitulation to his conditions. Erdogan made major, previously unimaginable, concessions to the Egyptians, but their response was lukewarm. Ambassadors have yet to be sent back to the two countries’ capitals. The simple reason is that the Egyptian authorities consider Erdogan to be erratic and capricious, changing stances according to how the wind blows, and thus do no trust him.

By dropping the case of Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in his country’s major city, Erdogan sought to be first in line not only to apologise to Muhammad Bin-Salman, but also to endorse him as future King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques — and Political Islam, which crowned him as caliph, can go to hell.

Erdogan capitulates to MBS

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