News Analysis: Attack against OIC chief is a road accident

News Analysis: Attack against OIC chief is a road accident

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
News Analysis: Attack against OIC chief is a road accident

The secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. DHA photo

Senior ruling party officials’ strongly-worded criticisms against the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, are still one of the most-debated issues in the capital and elsewhere, as this sort of a campaign against a Turkish international figure has never been witnessed in the past.

When digging to find out the reasons of this campaign, it has been revealed that along with some communication problems between the foreign policy decision-makers and senior party officials, a number of internal political motivations played an important role in what a senior government official described as “a road accident.”

Here is how all this happened: İhsanoğlu was elected as the secretary-general of the 57-member OIC in 2005 as a result of the Turkish government’s intense work with Abdullah Gül, as the foreign minister of that time, playing the most crucial role. Ihsanoğlu, who spent more than two decades as the founding Director General of the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), a subsidiary body of the OIC, was born in Egypt and has a deep knowledge of this country. His election as the head of the OIC, whose headquarters is based in Jeddah and therefore is under Saudi Arabia’s influence, was one of the most important early successes of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

That’s why deputy leader of the AKP, Hüseyin Çelik, and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ’s fierce reaction against İhsanoğlu created a shocking effect on many people, including İhsanoğlu himself.

Çelik, via his Twitter account, and Bozdağ, in a televised interview, lashed out at İhsanoğlu on Sunday (Aug. 18), while the latter called on the OIC chief to resign due to inaction of his international body in the face of a brutal crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protestors.

The Hürriyet Daily News learned that Çelik and Bozdağ’s reactions were the reflection of a foreign policy meeting held in Istanbul on Saturday (Aug. 17) under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At that meeting, foreign policy decision-makers reviewed options to mobilize the international community against the junta regime in Egypt and of course whether or not to make an appeal to the OIC. After deliberations, it was concluded that an appeal to the OIC for an extraordinary meeting would be useless, as many of member countries have already declared their support to the coup plotters and the necessary majority for such a reunion would never be provided.

But this conclusion of that meeting on Saturday could not be effectively spread among the AKP’s senior officials, which brought about a communication mistake and therefore this road accident, according to sources.
Following these public criticisms, the Daily News learned that İhsanoğlu phoned Erdoğan and other senior Turkish officials to ask the reason for such statements. Ihsanoğlu once again reiterated the OIC’s position with regard to developments in Egypt and stressed that there was no appeal for a meeting from any member country.

İhsanoğlu for President?

Çelik and Bozdağ, two prominent figures from the AKP, seem to be after internal political gains out of their attack against İhsanoğlu. But the political dimension of this attack is not limited to these two politicians’ daily profits. In Ankara, there are rumors floating about that an early attack against İhsanoğlu could have a perfect connection with the upcoming presidential elections, as high-level international personalities are always regarded as potential contenders for the presidency.

Yet another frequently mentioned dimension of this attack is the fact that slamming İhsanoğlu would also reflect unease towards President Abdullah Gül’s foreign policy approaches, which are not always parallel with those of the government.