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Western Sahara and New Cell of Hezbollah involvement in North Africa

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Tehran’s recent moves against Morocco’s national sovereignty represents its plan to keep on its strategy through global supremacy by undermining and destabilizing pro-Western states. the Kingdom of Morocco decides to disjoin relations with Tehran a week before President Trump announcement of his full decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action. Iran’s existence in North Africa and Maghreb region has been increasing over time and evolve yet more marked as the deadline approached for the expected American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action.

Morocco and Qatar Relations

Currently, Qatar has been seen as display powerful and growing relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. Both states signed 12 agreements in March restating their strong and mutual cooperation on a range of domains. Qatar also emerged to hit targeting Morocco’s regional rival, Algeria, the key supporter of Polisario Front, on the international sphere.

For this case, Doha’s illicit support for Polisario Front is seen by some Moroccans as a stab in the back. If double-dealing is, in fact, taking place, it would be another reason of Qatar’s openly criticized style of diplomacy, wherein it has proved to achieve international right by welcoming Western countries while at the same time sustaining relations with terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Taliban.

Relations between Morocco and Qatar may have been tight as early as April when documentation of Qatari individuals’ ties to Polisario Front first surfaced. Besides, according to Saudi sources, Qatar’s charity in Somalia supports and finances Iran-backed terrorists. Iran has also organized a group of Somalian fighters in Saudi-backed Sudan, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. Sudan is one of the states Qatar has been aiming for military deals jointly with Turkey.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia vowed Kingdom of Morocco that it would declare Polisario Front a terrorist organization in a major spot of support for Morocco’s territorial integrity. hence, the Western Sahara Conflict became yet another part between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, further provoke the Gulf Dilemma.

Some reports showed that Qatar’s covert support for Polisario Front is another interpretation of its plan to break into North Africa and promote an independent foreign policy. The way out of criticized this move for benefiting militias in Libya at the expense of neighborly state actors. Polisario’s Front link to Hezbollah makes the organization strategy in global terrorism, against which the Anti-Terrorism aggregate has taken a strong stand.

for the time being Qatar fully appreciated Iran for its backing during the Gulf Dilemma, which runs counter that Qatar is held hostage to Iran’s proximity to its gas zone and that it is only the Gulf Dilemma that has pushed Qatar through furthering that relationship. Such public statements likely disturb officials in Morocco who notice Iran’s act as that of a troublemaker, not as a source of support.

Morocco’s disagreement with Iran plans an intimated sitting for Qatar, which currently joined the other Gulf Countries and the US in sanctioning Hezbollah while in the same time admiring Iran’s back its Gulf rivals. It has not yet had to directly acknowledge the strange phenomenon of its coalition with a state that supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah. alike, Qatar’s supporting of the Hamas-led riots – jointly with Iran.

Hezbollah Involvement in North Africa

Hezbollah’s movements in Africa –particularly with the Polisario Front, and with the explicit supporting and assistance of powerful state actors – are a threat to regional stability and US interests. Despite Morocco’s bold move, the risk of Iranian support for radical organizations and separatist groups throughout the African continent is likely to rise in the near future. Under tension from the US and changed about the future of European financial investment as well as facing domestic opposition to costs on foreign military experimentation, Iran will enhance its relationships with South Africa and quest to make new allies, find manners of preventing newly imposed US sanctions and potential losses in profit, and collect “supplemental profit” through weapons, drugs, and human trafficking .

Iran has been engaged in Africa for a long time, and its engagement into North Africa anticipate the current milestone with Polisario Front. Iran has been drilling, training militarily and growing spies, Palestinian terrorist groups (in South Africa), and weapons for its darkness war against the West. In 2014, Kenya, which has an increasing bilateral relationship with Iran, arrested Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) helps with fake Israeli passports who were allegedly preparing terrorist attacks against US, Israeli, and British targets. In 2015, in the same circumstances, two alleged Iranian assets were also jailed. Iran’s rational impact in Africa towards its financing of infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, universities, and mosques increased after Riyadh severed relations with Iran following an attack on its embassy. It has also enlarged its commercial trading with African states twenty percent in just the previous year.

Alike Morocco’s Islamist parties notified, lately on October 2017, of Tehran’s supporting of Shiite militias in Sunni North Africa. Tehran’s foreign minister embark to the region an official visit in June of that year, talking with heads of state in Mauritania, Tunisia, and Algeria – entire states that have been paid off by Sunni extremists and militias and are at endangering of increasing destabilization.

Even it has failed to establish its own infrastructure, Iran has few choices for self-gain other than to attack stable and pro-Western states such as Morocco, imposing security and economic loss however it can. Many observers acknowledged that the Kingdom of Morocco is using this opportunity as an influence to grow its relationship with the US, which would include the US openly embracing Morocco’s autonomy plan to undermine Polisario Front. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and pressure on European companies to cease up doing business with Iran might likewise prevent Iran’s financing for involvement in foreign conflicts and involvement with local separatist and terrorist groups in several parts of the world.

Iran’s Northern African Allies

In 2009, Tehran obtains a Mauritanian hospital formerly condescended by Israel. Mauritania is now overrunning with jihadist groups and ripe for the picking, despite having accepted a significant amount of foreign aid from the US over the years for national security and defense. However, Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, and Mali were also part of the visit. Iran’s Shiite movement has been aiming those countries in different ways for many years.

Additionally, Russia’s supporting of states such as Algeria and its confusion with European investors may give a temporary lifebelt to Iran’s aspiration due to the close alliance between Russia and Iran and their quest of similar goals. A powerful alliance between the US and Morocco will go a long way through countering the plans of these aspiring hegemons.

The Kingdom of Morocco can serve religious training education to African and European Imams, retaliating Iran’s ideological pushing; involve in stronger economic relations with other African countries, as it is fighting to do after rejoining the African Union; and become a cultural link between the US and Africa, initiating an additional support against Iran’s ideological impact and military hegemony. As well as the US, Europe, and the Anti-Terrorism band, Morocco is working to build up a strong reinforcement position that can help protect the African continent from the spread of Iran-backed jihadist groups and criminal activities.

Teheran’s ambitions will look profitable only concerning poor, fragile and failing states. A strong, stable Morocco is a danger to its plans to co-opt Africa and destroy American, European, and Saudi alliances and business potential. It will use Hezbollah group as well as state proxies to enhance Morocco’s adversaries, increase more terrorist entities, and manipulate ideological allies in Morocco’s backyard, as well as in more sensitive areas. And it will search to set up forces similar to Hezbollah that could be used to attack Western objectives and plant discord between allies, all the while using Africa for hidden and illegitimate activities.

Polisario and Hezbollah move

Morocco’s break with Iran came as a slap too much of the international society. Not many have pursed events and circumstances in North Africa and are aware of current illegal manipulates by the separatist group Polisario Front, which claims to represent the Western Sahrawi tribes. Polisario Front has long been known as a smuggler of weapons to Mauritania and other countries in the Sahel region, and in the last decade has been involved in drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Polisario’s Front recent movements in the defensive zone break ceasefire agreements from 1991. In a deeper violation, Polisario Front declared that it is mobilizing its facilities closer to the Moroccan border wall. latest reports about Polisario’s Front role in terrorist attacks against civilians, mostly Moroccan businessmen, fishermen, are further blaming the legacy of the group, which is strongly supported by Algeria, Iran, and Russia. Counterterrorism organizations that run activity in North Africa have decided that Polisario Front has well-established connections with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) as well as Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.

Western Sahara, then, is becoming just another fresh filed for Qatar’s rivalry against Saudi Arabia and others. It seems that Qatar may have been eager to design its foreign policy desire – dominating Africa and dealing a blow to the Saudis – over its clearly intimate relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Conclusion

Tehran’s influence on African foreign politics and security issues can be every part as undermining and destabilizing as its pattern of terror and oppression in the Middle East. The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) withdrawal is an enormous chance for the United State to strengthen its relationships with allies in Africa and go jointly after backing for Hezbollah, Iran, and their counter partners in Africa and somewhere else.

Dr. Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in North African and Western Sahara Issue, at Jilin University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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Saudi religious moderation: the world’s foremost publisher of Qur’ans has yet to get the message

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When the religious affairs minister of Guinea-Conakry visited Jeddah last week, his Saudi counterpart gifted him 50,000 Qur’ans.

Saudi Islamic affairs minister Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh offered the holy books as part of his ministry’s efforts to print and distribute them and spread their teachings.

The Qur’ans were produced by the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, which annually distributes millions of copies. Scholar Nora Derbal asserts that the Qur’ans “perpetuate a distinct Wahhabi reading of the scripture.”

Similarly, Saudi Arabia distributed in Afghanistan in the last years of the US-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani thousands of Qur’ans produced by the printing complex, according to Mr. Ghani’s former education minister, Mirwais Balkhi. Mr. Balkhi indicated that the Qur’ans were identical to those distributed by the kingdom for decades.

Mr. Ghani and Mr. Balkhi fled Afghanistan last year as US troops withdrew from the country and the Taliban took over.

Human Rights Watch and Impact-se, an education-focused Israeli research group, reported last year that Saudi Arabia, pressured for some two decades post-9/11 by the United States and others to remove supremacist references to Jews, Christian, and Shiites in its schoolbooks, had recently made significant progress in doing so.

However, the two groups noted that Saudi Arabia had kept in place fundamental concepts of an ultra-conservative, anti-pluralistic, and intolerant interpretation of Islam.

The same appears true for the world’s largest printer and distributor of Qur’ans, the King Fahd Complex.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has, since his rise in 2015, been primarily focussed on social and economic rather than religious reform.

Mr. Bin Salman significantly enhanced professional and personal opportunities for women, including lifting the ban on women’s driving and loosening gender segregation and enabled the emergence of a Western-style entertainment sector in the once austere kingdom.

Nevertheless, Saudi Islam scholar Besnik Sinani suggests that “state pressure on Salafism in Saudi Arabia will primarily focus on social aspects of Salafi teaching, while doctrinal aspects will probably receive less attention.”

The continued production and distribution of Qur’ans that included unaltered ultra-conservative interpretations sits uneasily with Mr. Bin Salman’s effort to emphasize nationalism rather than religion as the core of Saudi identity and project a more moderate and tolerant image of the kingdom’s Islam.

The Saudi spin is not in the Arabic text of the Qur’an that is identical irrespective of who prints it, but in parenthetical additions, primarily in translated versions, that modify the meaning of specific Qur’anic passages.

Commenting in 2005 on the King Fahd Complex’s English translation, the most widely disseminated Qur’an in the English-speaking world, the late Islam scholar Khaleel Mohammed asserted that it “reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture.”

Religion scholar Peter Mandaville noted in a recently published book on decades of Saudi export of ultra-conservative Islam that “it is the kingdom’s outsized role in the printing and distribution of the Qur’an as rendered in other languages that becomes relevant in the present context.”

Ms. Derbal, Mr. Sinani and this author contributed chapters to Mr. Mandaville’s edited volume.

The King Fahd Complex said that it had produced 18 million copies of its various publications in 2017/18 in multiple languages in its most recent production figures. Earlier it reported that it had printed and distributed 127 million copies of the Qur’an in the 22 years between 1985 and 2007. The Complex did not respond to emailed queries on whether parenthetical texts have been recently changed.

The apparent absence of revisions of parenthetical texts reinforces suggestions that Mr. Bin Salman is more concerned about socio-political considerations, regime survival, and the projection of the kingdom as countering extremism and jihadism than he is about reforming Saudi Islam.

It also spotlights the tension between the role Saudi Arabia envisions as the custodian of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and the needs of a modern state that wants to attract foreign investment to help ween its economy off dependency on oil exports.

Finally, the continued distribution of Qur’ans with seemingly unaltered commentary speaks to the balance Mr. Bin Salman may still need to strike with the country’s once-powerful religious establishment despite subjugating the clergy to his will.

The continued global distribution of unaltered Qur’an commentary calls into question the sincerity of the Saudi moderation campaign, particularly when juxtaposed with rival efforts by other major Muslim countries to project themselves as beacons of a moderate form of Islam.

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League convened some 100 Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist religious leaders to “establish a set of values common to all major world religions and a vision for enhancing understanding, cooperation, and solidarity amongst world religions.”

Once a major Saudi vehicle for the global propagation of Saudi religious ultra-conservatism, the League has been turned into Mr. Bin Salman’s megaphone. It issues lofty statements and organises high-profile conferences that project Saudi Arabia as a leader of moderation and an example of tolerance.

The League, under the leadership of former justice minister Mohammed al-Issa, has emphasised its outreach to Jewish leaders and communities. Mr. Al-Issa led a delegation of Muslim religious leaders in 2020 on a ground-breaking visit to Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi extermination camp in Poland.

However, there is little evidence, beyond Mr. Al-Issa’s gestures, statements, and engagement with Jewish leaders, that the League has joined in a practical way the fight against anti-Semitism that, like Islamophobia, is on the rise.

Similarly, Saudi moderation has not meant that the kingdom has lifted its ban on building non-Muslim houses of worship on its territory.

The Riyadh conference followed Nahdlatul Ulama’s footsteps, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement with 90 million followers in the world’s largest Muslim majority country and most populous democracy. Nahdlatul Ulama leader Yahya Cholil Staquf spoke at the conference.

In recent years, the Indonesian group has forged alliances with Evangelical entities like the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Jewish organisations and religious leaders, and various Muslim groups across the globe. Nahdlatul Ulama sees the alliances as a way to establish common ground based on shared humanitarian values that would enable them to counter discrimination and religion-driven prejudice, bigotry, and violence.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s concept of Humanitarian Islam advocates reform of what it deems “obsolete” and “problematic” elements of Islamic law, including those that encourage segregation, discrimination, and/or violence towards anyone perceived to be a non-Muslim. It further accepts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, unlike the Saudis, without reservations.

The unrestricted embrace of the UN declaration by Indonesia and its largest Muslim movement has meant that conversion, considered to be apostasy under Islamic law, is legal in the Southeast Asian nation. As a result, Indonesia, unlike Middle Eastern states where Christian communities have dwindled due to conflict, wars, and targeted attacks, has witnessed significant growth of its Christian communities.

Christians account for ten percent of Indonesia’s population. Researchers Duane Alexander Miller and Patrick Johnstone reported in 2015 that 6.5 million Indonesian had converted to Christianity since 1960.

That is not to say that Christians and other non-Muslim minorities have not endured attacks on churches, suicide bombings, and various forms of discrimination. The attacks have prompted Nahdlatul Ulama’s five million-strong militia to protect churches in vulnerable areas during holidays such as Christmas. The militia has also trained Christians to enable them to watch over their houses of worship.

Putting its money where its mouth is, a gathering of 20,000 Nahdlatul Ulama religious scholars issued in 2019 a fatwa or religious opinion eliminating the Muslim legal concept of the kafir or infidel.

Twelve years earlier, the group’s then spiritual leader and former Indonesian president Abdurahman Wahid, together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, organised a conference in the archipelago state to acknowledge the Holocaust and denounce denial of the Nazi genocide against the Jews. The meeting came on the heels of a gathering in Tehran convened by then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that denied the existence of the Holocaust.

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Iran Gives Russia Two and a Half Cheers

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Photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow, March 15 2022. Credit: @Amirabdolahian via Twitter.

Iran’s rulers enthusiastically seek to destroy the liberal world order and therefore support Russia’s aggression. But they can’t manage full-throated support.

For Iran, the invasion of Ukraine is closely related to the very essence of the present world order. Much like Russia, Iran has been voicing its discontent at the way the international system has operated since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, Iran and Russia see the world through strikingly similar lenses. Both keenly anticipate the end of the multipolar world and the end of the West’s geopolitical preponderance.

Iran had its reasons to think this way. The US unipolar moment after 1991 provoked a deep fear of imminent encirclement, with American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq cited as evidence. Like Russia, the Islamic Republic views itself as a separate civilization that needs to be not only acknowledged by outside players, but also to be given ana suitable geopolitical space to project influence.

Both Russia and Iran are very clear about their respective spheres of influence. For Russia, it is the territories that once constituted the Soviet empire. For Iran, it is the contiguous states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean — Iraq, Syria, Lebanon — plus Yemen. When the two former imperial powers have overlapping strategic interests such as, for instance, in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, they apply the concept of regionalism. This implies the blocking out of non-regional powers from exercising outsize economic and military influence, and mostly revolves around an order dominated by the powers which border on a region.

This largely explains why Iran sees the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity that, if successful, could hasten the end of the liberal world order. This is why it has largely toed the Russian line and explained what it describes as legitimate motives behind the invasion. Thus the expansion of NATO into eastern Europe was cited as having provoked Russian moves. “The root of the crisis in Ukraine is the US policies that create the crisis, and Ukraine is one victim of these policies,” argued Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following the invasion.

To a certain degree, Iran’s approach to Ukraine has been also influenced by mishaps in bilateral relations which largely began with the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by Iranian surface-to-air missiles in January 2020, killing 176 people. The regime first denied responsibility, and later blamed human error.

Iran, like several other of Russia’s friends and defenders,  the ideal scenario would have been a quick war in which the Kremlin achieved its major goals.

Protracted war, however, sends a bad signal. It signals that the liberal order was not in such steep decline after all, and that Russia’s calls for a new era in international relations have been far from realistic. The unsuccessful war also shows Iran that the collective West still has very significant power and — despite well-aired differences — an ability to rapidly coalesce to defend the existing rules-based order. Worse, for these countries, the sanctions imposed on Russia go further; demonstrating the West’s ability to make significant economic sacrifices to make its anger felt. In other words, Russia’s failure in Ukraine actually strengthened the West and made it more united than at any point since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

A reinvigorated liberal order is the last thing that Iran wants, given its own troubled relations with the collective West. The continuing negotiations on a revived nuclear deal will be heavily impacted by how Russia’s war proceeds, and how the US and EU continue to respond to the aggression. Iran fears that a defeated Russia might be so angered as to use its critical position to endanger the talks, vital to the lifting of the West’s crippling sanctions.

And despite rhetorical support for Russia, Iran has been careful not to overestimate Russia’s power. It is now far from clear that the Kremlin has achieved its long-term goal of “safeguarding” its western frontier. Indeed, the Putin regime may have done the opposite now that it has driven Finland and Sweden into the NATO fold. Western sanctions on Russia are likely to remain for a long time, threatening long-term Russian economic (and possible regime) stability.

Moreover, Russia’s fostering of separatist entities (following the recognition of the so called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” and other breakaway entities in Georgia and Moldova) is a highly polarizing subject in Iran. True there has been a shift toward embracing Russia’s position over Ukraine, but Iran remains deeply committed to the “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the affairs of other states and territorial integrity. This is hardly surprising given its own struggles against potential separatism in the peripheries of the country.

Many Iranians also sympathize with Ukraine’s plight, which for some evokes Iran’s defeats in the early 19th century wars when Qajars had to cede the eastern part of the South Caucasus to Russia. This forms part of a historically deeply rooted, anti-imperialist sentiment in Iran.

Iran is therefore likely to largely abstain from endorsing Russia’s separatist ambitions in Eastern Ukraine. It will also eschew, where possible, support for Russia in international forums. Emblematic of this policy was the March 2 meeting in the United Nations General Assembly when Iran, rather than siding with Russia, abstained from the vote which condemned the invasion.

Russia’s poor military performance, and the West’s ability to act unanimously, serve as a warning for the Islamic Republic that it may one day have to soak up even more Western pressure if Europe, the US, and other democracies act in union.

In the meantime, like China, Iran will hope to benefit from the magnetic pull of the Ukraine war. With so much governmental, military and diplomatic attention demanded by the conflict, it will for the time being serve as a distraction from Iran’s ambitions elsewhere. 

Author’s note: first published in cepa

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Ignoring the Middle East at one’s peril: Turkey plays games in NATO

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Image source: NATO

Amid speculation about a reduced US military commitment to security in the Middle East, Turkey has spotlighted the region’s ability to act as a disruptive force if its interests are neglected.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off alarm bells this week, declaring that he was not “positive” about possible Finnish and Swedish applications for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO membership is contingent on a unanimous vote in favour by the organisation’s 30 members. Turkey has NATO’s second-largest standing army. 

The vast majority of NATO members appear to endorse Finnish and Swedish membership. NATO members hope to approve the applications at a summit next month.

A potential Turkish veto would complicate efforts to maintain trans-Atlantic unity in the face of the Russian invasion.

Mr. Erdogan’s pressure tactics mirror the maneuvers of his fellow strongman, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. Mr. Orban threatens European Union unity by resisting a bloc-wide boycott of Russian energy.

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rejected US requests to raise oil production in an effort to lower prices and help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

The two Gulf states appear to have since sought to quietly backtrack on their refusal.

In late April, France’s TotalEnergies chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude in early May for Europe, the first such shipment in two years.

Saudi Arabia has quietly used its regional pricing mechanisms to redirect from Asia to Europe Arab “medium,” the Saudi crude that is the closest substitute for the main Russian export blend, Urals, for which European refineries are configured.

Mr. Erdogan linked his NATO objection to alleged Finnish and Swedish support for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the EU.

The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey in support of Kurds’ national, ethnic, and cultural rights. Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s 84 million population.

Turkey has recently pounded PKK positions in northern Iraq in a military operation named Operation Claw Lock

Turkey is at odds with the United States over American support for Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey asserts that America’s Syrian Kurdish allies are aligned with the PKK.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey opposes a US decision this week to exempt from sanctions against Syria regions controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“This is a selective and discriminatory move,” Mr. Cavusoglu said, noting that the exemption did not include Kurdish areas of Syria controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies.

Referring to the NATO membership applications, Mr. Erdogan charged that “Scandinavian countries are like some kind of guest house for terrorist organisations. They’re even in parliament.”

Mr. Erdogan’s objections relate primarily to Sweden, with Finland risking becoming collateral damage.

Sweden is home to a significant Kurdish community and hosts Europe’s top Kurdish soccer team that empathises with the PKK and Turkish Kurdish aspirations. In addition, six Swedish members of parliament are ethnic Kurds.

Turkey scholar Howard Eissenstat suggested that Turkey’s NATO objection may be a turning point. “Much of Turkey’s strategic flexibility has come from the fact that its priorities are seen as peripheral issues for its most important Western allies. Finnish and Swedish entry into NATO, in the current context, absolutely not peripheral,” Mr. Eissenstat tweeted.

The Turkish objection demonstrates the Middle East’s potential to derail US and European policy in other parts of the world.

Middle Eastern states walk a fine line when using their potential to disrupt to achieve political goals of their own. The cautious backtracking on Ukraine-related oil supplies demonstrates the limits and/or risks of Middle Eastern brinkmanship.

So does the fact that Ukraine has moved NATO’s center of gravity to northern Europe and away from its southern flank, which Turkey anchors.

Moreover, Turkey risks endangering significant improvements in its long-strained relations with the United States.

Turkish mediation in the Ukraine crisis and military support for Ukraine prompted US President Joe Biden to move ahead with plans to upgrade Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighter planes and discuss selling it newer, advanced  F-16 models even though Turkey has neither condemned Russia nor imposed sanctions.

Some analysts suggest Turkey may use its objection to regain access to the United States’ F-35 fighter jet program. The US cancelled in 2019 a sale of the jet to Turkey after the NATO member acquired Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defence system.

Mr. Erdogan has “done this kind of tactic before. He will use it as leverage to get a good deal for Turkey,” said retired US Navy Admiral James Foggo, dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy.

A top aide to Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, appeared to confirm Mr. Foggo’s analysis.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Mr. Kalin said, referring to the Turkish leader’s NATO remarks. “Of course, we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”

Spelling out Turkish demands, Mr. Kalin went on to say that “what needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries.”

Mr. Erdogan’s brinkmanship may have its limits, but it illustrates that one ignores the Middle East at one’s peril.

However, engaging Middle Eastern autocrats does not necessarily mean ignoring their rampant violations of human rights and repression of freedoms.

For the United States and Europe, the trick will be developing a policy that balances accommodating autocrats’, at times, disruptive demands, often aimed at ensuring regime survival, with the need to remain loyal to democratic values amid a struggle over whose values will underwrite a 21st-century world order.

However, that would require a degree of creative policymaking and diplomacy that seems to be a rare commodity.

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