Turkey should not be a base for the Muslim Brotherhood

Turkey should not be a base for the Muslim Brotherhood

President Tayyip Erdoğan started his official visit to Qatar on Sept. 14 - his 4th trip abroad as president after the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan, and the U.K. (for the NATO summit).

Before leaving Istanbul for Doha, Erdoğan responded to a reporters’ questions, and said he agreed with what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had stated two days before about Turkey’s cooperation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), adding that it is out of the question for Turkey to step back from its stance against terrorism.

That is a “wait-and-see” signal before today’s “anti-ISIL coalition” meeting in Paris, which follows the one in Jeddah on Sept. 11, during which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would cooperate against ISIL in all intelligence, logistics, and humanitarian aspects, like Britain and Germany, but would not cooperate in military attacks. Kerry said the next day in Ankara that he understood Turkey’s position, as a country with 49 captives, including its consul general in Mosul, in the hands of ISIL.

Çavuşoğlu will represent Turkey in Paris, at the same time as Erdoğan carries out talks in Qatar.
Qatar has been criticized (along with Turkey) for the last two years by the media and politicians in the West for helping Islamist arms group fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, thus contributing to the development of radical groups like al-Nusra and ISIL. But Qatar, which is known to be a major financial source for Islamist groups, has agreed to take part in military attacks against ISIL; it anyway hosts a major U.S. military base.

Just a day before Erdoğan’s visit started, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership announced that Qatar had asked them to leave the country within a week. It is still not clear what Qatar will do for the Hamas leadership, which is also living there.

Anadolu Agency reported that seven names in particular have been asked to leave: the Secretary General of the Brotherhood, Mahmoud Hussein; the member of Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Amro Darraj; Hamza Zoba; Ashraf Badriddin; Jamal Abdul-Sattar; and the renowned preachers Isam Talima and Wajdi Ghoneem.

The Brotherhood’s leaders have been staying in Qatar since its member, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, was toppled in a military coup on July 3, 2013. The coup leader, who is now the Egypt’s president, Abdulfattah Sisi, has declared the Brotherhood to be “outlaws” and “terrorists.”

Mahmoud Hussein, the highest ranked Brotherhood member in Qatar, has been quoted by the Rassd news agency, which is reportedly affiliated with the group, as saying that Turkey is among the countries they are considering going to.

For decades, Turkey has suffered from countries opening up their borders and capabilities for outlawed organizations, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the “Revolutionary Left” (DHKP/C). The PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan (now imprisoned for life) had used the Syrian capital Damascus for years; currently, as Öcalan carries out peace dialogue with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s government, the PKK’s military headquarters are in Iraq and its diplomatic quarters are in Belgium.

In answer to a question about ISIL, President Erdoğan himself gave the example of cooperation with Greece against the PKK and the DHKP/C as a positive example.

The joint struggle against ISIL gives a chance to Ankara to open a new page in relations both with the West and the Arab countries. If Davutoğlu stays firm in not getting involved in military action, the rest of Turkey’s support could get approval from the Turkish people. However, the government should not move sentimentally and harbor the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Turkey. That would not only further widen the gap between Turkey and a number of Arab countries, especially Egypt, which see the MB as a threat to their existence, but would also endorse perceptions in the West about the Turkish leadership’s sympathy for radical Islamist movements in the Middle East.

President Erdoğan, currently paying a visit to Qatar, will have a prime responsibility for controlling this potential crisis.