Egypt and the region
SOLİ ÖZELNo doubt that the coup in Egypt has exceedingly upset the ruling party in Turkey. They have a right to be upset. It is not quite necessary right now to bring up the subject of the huge mistakes the government has made in its Middle East policy. However, it is also difficult to mention the achievements of a foreign policy where, after Syria, a heavy blow was received also in Egypt, where it is indefinite how much of an initiative it holds in Iraq, at odds with Israel, cold with Iran, resentful to its allies, with no power to persuade the United States and where not even a word can be said to Russia.
Since foreign policy closely concerns the interests of everybody living in this country, it should also be expected that everybody contribute to drawing correct conclusions and correct lessons. The first thing to do is to understand what the regional equation looks like after the not-so-well-planned coup in Egypt. In parallel with this, it should also be debated where Turkey made a mistake and how that mistake could be made up for.
Recent developments in Egypt should especially be looked into. The army conducted a massacre after morning prayers. Some witnesses who appeared later said some motorcyclists and some armed people fired upon the congregation in the mosque. The accuracy of these statements will be understood later. But after Mohamed Morsi’s and hundreds of his brothers’ arrests, we can say the Muslim Brothers and the army are weighing each other.
As far as I can understand, both sides threatened the other with things shifting toward the “Algeria” example. Those in favor of violence and resistance within the Muslim Brothers as well as others put forward the possibility of violence. On the other hand, the army has shown with the massacre it committed the morning of July 8 that when it comes to violence it has no boundaries.
Maybe the beginning of the month of Ramadan prevented further violence. Again, we can say that the sides that have weighed each other have the willpower not to go the “Algerian” way. The relative calmness and the swiftly drawn roadmap can be considered hopeful, in this sense. However, after the civilian government is toppled by a military coup, if the social opposition cannot organize themselves, then it is not easy to say that Egypt will again be back on track.
What has happened in Egypt is noteworthy as it the fact almost all the countries in the world supported the coup, implicitly at least. Turkey is ethically in the right place, but it is politically alone. The Turkish government has invested seriously in its ideological friend in Egypt, the Muslim Brothers. It should not be expected that those who are not fond of the Muslim Bothers will easily forget this or disregard it. In short, if Turkey’s relations with the new and hopefully temporary regime in Egypt are not to be disrupted, then it would be hard to set up close and intimate relations.
Furthermore, the fact that almost all rulers in the Arab world welcomed the coup in Egypt requires a serious pondering on the future regional order. The conjuncture that has formed in recent years and that works in favor of Ankara is fast changing. Moreover, because of its policy on the Syrian crisis, Turkey has demonstrated the limits of its own capacity to the entire world, has not been able to persuade its allies on a joint policy and has had no effect on Iran and Russia. It is fast being isolated. Its closest friend, even the Kurdistan Regional Administration is redeveloping, actually strengthening its relations with the government in Baghdad; the one Turkey is at daggers drawn with.
Part of these developments is related to the Iranian elections and the fact a moderate personality has been elected as the president. Turkey is in a situation where it has to draw a different route for itself swiftly and try to improve its relations with countries it is at odds with or is resentful of or troubled by. Otherwise its wish to become a regional power is to end in disappointment.
Soli Özel is a columnist for daily HaberTürk, in which this piece was published July 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.