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The Aleppo Moment: Sanctioned Ignorance in the US: New Age Islam's Selection, 05 October 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

05 October 2016

The Aleppo Moment: Sanctioned Ignorance In The US

By Hamid Dabashi

Afghanistan: Beyond Reactive Tactics And Quick Fixes

By Waliullah Rahmani

Will Obama Eliminate Assad By The End Of His Term?

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Turks Love Their Language, But Also Fight Over It

By Riada Ašimovic Akyol

Saudi-Turkish Ties Amount To A Major Strategic Realignment In The Middle East

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


The Aleppo Moment: Sanctioned Ignorance in the US

By Hamid Dabashi

04 Oct 2016

Recently the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson has found himself in some quite embarrassing situations. 

"What is Aleppo?" he wondered when asked on a television interview to share his thoughts on the dire circumstances in Syria. The interviewer was incredulous. But that was indeed the answer. He had no clue "what" - let alone "where" - Aleppo was or is.

The embarrassment was repeated again a few days later when Johnson was asked to name his favourite foreign leader and he was unable to name a single head of state.

"Go ahead, you gotta do this," the interviewer insisted. "Anywhere. Any continent. Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect."

Johnson could not.

"I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment," he finally confessed.

Inside Story - What has Russia accomplished in Syria?

The New York Times, the tall bastion of normative neoliberalism in the US, gleefully reports such embarrassing incidents, obviously hoping they will help the rush of people to vote for its favourite corporate icon Hillary Clinton.

Such ignorance and illiteracy is not limited to those aspiring to the highest political office of this land.

"We know that at least 30 million American adults cannot read," said The New York Times in a recent op-ed.

"But the current presidential election may yet prove that an even bigger part of the citizenry is politically illiterate - and functional. Which is to say, they will vote despite being unable to accept basic facts needed to process this American life."

The moral of such stories is that Hillary Clinton's rivals and those who might opt to vote for them are ignorant people.

What Do You Know?

These criticisms might indeed be true and put to good liberal use. But suppose everyone from Gary Johnson to Donald Trump and his supporters are all dumb and illiterate - then what?

The astonishing ignorance of this clumsy and dysfunctional empire is far more calamitous than an off-Broadway candidate not knowing where Aleppo is or cannot name any head of state.

The key question is not what they do not know. Far more critical is what those of whom The New York Times and the rest of the neoliberal literate establishment approve do know, and how do they know what they know, and to what use do they put what they know.

No doubt Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can identify scores of world leaders and know perfectly well where Aleppo is. But has the world at large or Syria in particular benefited from that knowledge?

We can be fairly sure Obama's drones dropping bombs on people anywhere in the world are equipped with state-of-the-art GPS to the smallest villages in Pakistan to Syria to Libya so they can target them well. But he still manages to kill more innocent people than he does "terrorists".

So what good does his GPS-equipped knowledge of geography do for the people at the receiving end of his drones?

The astonishing ignorance of this clumsy and dysfunctional empire is far more calamitous than an off-Broadway candidate not knowing where Aleppo is or cannot name any head of state.

The problem is with what their smart and knowledgeable leaders actually do know, how they know it, the whole regime of knowledge they have learned and internalised through their wicked think-tanks and native informers who keep feeding them rubbish and telling them what they want to hear and not what they need to know.

By scandalising someone like Gary Johnson for not knowing what he ought to know, The New York Times & Co are celebrating those who do know, meaning people such as Obama and Clinton, and with that celebration is the tacit endorsement, approval, and authentifying of the kind of knowledge they flaunt.   

Not Political But Moral Education

Far more dangerous than ignorance is when you take, camouflage, and sell your moral obliviousness as political knowledge. What difference does it make if you don't know where or what Aleppo is compared with where and what Jerusalem is?

Barack Obama gives a speech praising his "friend Shimon Peres" in Jerusalem and he thinks he is in Israel, before he goes back to Washington and has to cross the word "Israel" from the top of his White House stationery where he had made this ignorant blunder.

On the very same land where Obama stood and staged his eulogy for his "friend Shimon Peres", human suffering soars from Gaza to Palestinian refugee camps. To this he has been completely blind, deaf, and indifferent. What nauseating "knowledge" of geography and "world leaders" is that?

Just within earshot of his waxing eloquence about a war criminal, Zionist settlements are mushrooming with his full knowledge and financial support.

The man he knew well and could name as his most favourite foreign leader was chiefly and singularly responsible for vastly expanding those ugly and vulgar settlements.

The man instrumental in transforming the Zionist wet dream into a racist apartheid garrison state he compares to Nelson Mandela.

I'll take Gary Johnson's ignorance of foreign leaders and distant cities over that kind of familiarity and knowledge any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Obama's moral ignorance is far worse than Johnson's political ignorance.

What the US lacks and desperately needs is not a political but a moral education for its corrupt and dangerous leaders. You will not see a sleeker operator and more refined "Chicago politician" than Barack Obama for quite some time, yet he stood there for more than 23 minutes and with barefaced vulgarity spoke of a vicious ideology of land theft, ethnic cleansing, and incremental genocide of Palestinians as a beacon of "justice and hope", regurgitating the historic Zionist lie of making "the desert bloom". He ignored which settler colony sits over 200 nuclear bombs, courtesy of his "friend Shimon Peres", and charged his brutalised victims as the "Arab youth [who] are taught to hate Israel from an early age".

What wicked "knowledge" predicated on what depth of moral depravity is that?

This is no longer just "sanctioned ignorance", as the Indian scholar Gayatri Spivak has correctly called it. This is far worse. This is transvalued ignorance, ignorance celebrated as knowledge, ignorance transformed into false and murderous intelligence, an Orwellian knowledge, successfully elevating a moral destitution into a militant banality.    

Obama's moral ignorance is far worse than Johnson's political ignorance. Obama stages his worldly knowledge and political eloquence with the spilt blood, broken bones, demolished homes, uprooted olive trees, tall and thick apartheid walls, and stolen lands of Palestinians.

Compared to Obama's vicious knowledge, Johnson's innocent ignorance is positively saintly. 

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/10/aleppo-moment-sanctioned-ignorance-161004114827734.html


Afghanistan: Beyond Reactive Tactics And Quick Fixes

By Waliullah Rahmani

04 Oct 2016

Afghanistan's two key political leaders - President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah - today meet European Union representatives, 70 donor nations and 20 international organisations in Brussels, to review progress and agree on future assistance.

As the Brussels conference gets under way, Afghanistan is increasingly fragile. Ghani and Abdullah jointly head the National Unity Government (NUG), which is now reaching the end of its second year. But in a recent interview, former president Hamid Karzai directly questioned the NUG's legitimacy.

The political agreement that created the NUG requires a constitutional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) to decide on a change of political system, from a presidential to a parliamentary model, by the end of its second year.

Afghanistan: Taliban storm into Afghanistan's Kunduz

Likewise, the NUG was supposed to undertake electoral reform and hold parliamentary elections. But as the two-year deadline passes, none of these conditions has been met. Political opposition groups are relishing these failures, trying to further weaken the government.

Early elections

Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, a prominent opposition politician, has suggested early elections as the only solution. NUG leaders have instead pushed a new reform agenda, promising to fulfil 30 commitments by the end of 2016.

Beyond the political sphere, Afghanistan remains vulnerable in security terms. A renewed Taliban offensive threatens city centres in the northeast and south, while Islamic State has emerged in the country's east.

The provincial capital of Kunduz, in the northeast, has been under near-continuous siege for more than a year, briefly falling to the Taliban last October, while Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, is almost encircled and Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan, came dangerously close to falling to the insurgents last month.

Ordinary Afghans, the ones legitimising the government through high turnout in elections, accept the current system and support the state.

How NUG leaders deal with the security crisis, amid their own internal disagreements and weakening legitimacy, will determine Afghanistan's future.

Most Afghans still prefer the post-Bonn order that has governed Afghanistan since the Taliban. People prefer a democratic state, despite its inadequacies.

Ordinary Afghans, the ones legitimising the government through high turnout in elections, accept the current system and support the state. That's why the NUG, as a symbol of the first peaceful transition of political power in Afghan history, should continue for its constitutionally defined term.

Even its strongest political opponents - groups such as the Enlightenment Movement - agree that the NUG must serve its full five years. A government collapse would set Afghanistan back, running the risk of a return to its brutal past. To address these challenges, the NUG needs to focus on bolstering its legitimacy.

In the past 15 years, reactive tactics and short-term solutions dominated Afghan government thinking. Both Afghan leaders and the international community invested primarily in insurgent-dominated population groups and violence-affected provinces through developmental projects and security programmes.

Pakistani-Centric Foreign Policy

The idea was not to focus on the majority of citizens who support the government, but to win over the minority who don't. This "red-centric" approach was partly to blame for the rifts that have appeared between the government and the people over the past decade.

Ghani and Abdullah continued the same approach, adding a Pakistani-centric foreign policy in their first year in office. But this futile methodology must change.

The Afghan government's key source of political legitimacy is the majority of the Afghan population who continue to support the state despite all its challenges.

Through a people-centric - or, we might say, a "green-centric" strategy, the NUG would focus on delivering nationwide services comprehensively, seeking to reward and integrate the majority of Afghan citizens who support the state, rather than trying to win over the minority who support an expanding insurgency.

In foreign policy, just as in its internal security, Kabul has traditionally invested much political capital on winning over Pakistan ...

In foreign policy, just as in its internal security, Kabul has traditionally invested much political capital on winning over Pakistan, gaining support from China and reinvigorating a failed peace process, with consequences that can be described as mixed, at best.

Ghani trusted Pakistan's political goodwill gestures, failing to understand, or preferring to ignore, the real Afghan affairs doctrine of Pakistan.

The Pakistani military "Green Book", which underpins Pakistan's foreign policy towards Afghanistan, was updated in 2013, and indirectly treated Afghanistan as its primary enemy. With this doctrine in place, it is hard to see a strategic change in Pakistan's vision towards Afghanistan.

Moreover, Afghanistan faces the challenge of managing conflict security interests of regional and international players. Until 2014, NATO member states, along with key non-NATO coalition members such as Australia, were the key players engaged in security affairs of Afghanistan.

But since then, major economic players such as China and Russia have become increasingly involved in the security arena. Managing these conflicting states' interests in Afghanistan is challenging and the country needs a more focused foreign policy. That's why the NUG should not put Kabul in the circle of conflicting security interests of major players.

Despite the daunting list of challenges, Afghanistan is changing for the good and there is every chance of a positive future.

But multilateral domestic development is time-consuming, and with an increasingly active insurgency actively threatening cities across more than two-thirds of the country, there is no doubt that Afghanistan remains in dire need of international support.

This support should be conditional, requiring ongoing reform and development efforts, but despite all the difficulties, a strong international commitment is a must for the future of the country.

Forgetting Kabul, or treating Afghanistan as a burden on the international community increases the risk of a catastrophic collapse, as we saw in Iraq in 2014, or at the very least a backsliding that would wipe out current achievements and might lead Afghanistan back to the chaos of the pre-9/11 era.

Neither the world as a whole, nor Afghans - the overwhelming majority of whom reject a return to that disastrous past - can afford that outcome.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/10/afghanistan-reactive-tactics-quick-fixes-161004072248644.html


Will Obama Eliminate Assad By The End Of His Term?

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

4 October 2016

It didn’t cross my mind to ask this question as I realize that the Obama administration has never desired to do anything.

This is its policy which it believes is less harmful and less costly - although events during the past eight years have been more harmful and came at a higher price. What pushed me to think about dealing with the Syrian crisis outside the box are the several statements made by Moscow warning Washington not to defy it in Syria. Oh Obama’s administration, beware of targeting the Assad regime in Damascus or Russia will shake the region!

So there is a possibility, even if it is small, that the US will defy the Damascus alliance during what little time is left of Obama’s presidential term. There are many motives, including putting an end to Iranian and Russian expansion in opposition areas and stopping massacres and the horrific destruction inflicted by these forces which will threaten the region’s security, Europe’s and perhaps the world’s.

It’s certain that some in the Obama administration will warn the president and advise him not to act against the Assad regime and Damascus. They will warn against the threat posed by the regime’s fall and say that it will trigger the collapse of the state and will lead to chaos across the country.

Truth be told, these are no longer convincing excuses as the regime has already been dismantled and is in a collapsed state. It lives in a medically-assisted state, supported by Iranian forces and extremist Shiite militias brought from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The majority of these forces do not even speak Arabic, Syria’s language. Fears of the spread of chaos worked as an excuse two years ago but today, there is no safe corner in Syria.


Chaos reigns and hampers security and many areas are subjected to the protection and governance of local and foreign gangs which collect money from residents by force. Therefore, targeting the regime’s headquarters in Damascus will send multiple messages. The first one confirms the necessity of respecting the map which divided the country between “our opposition” and “your forces” which the Iranians and Russians violated by attacking Aleppo and other areas controlled by the moderate opposition. It’s certain that Damascus’ allies will respect the status quo that existed before the last shelling. The second one will be an important message to the regime stipulating that if it rejects seriously negotiating with the opposition and rejects the concept of a political solution based on partnership, then it will also be subjected to becoming non-existent. It currently refuses all solutions and is stalling because it thinks the Russians and Iranians will eliminate the opposition by destroying their strongholds and therefore it does not have to accept any political solution where it makes concessions.

It’s historically proven that the Syrian regime responds to serious threats and not to verbal threats of the kind we have become used to hearing from the US secretary of state

How will Damascus’ allies react if the regime is targeted? Damascus’ allies have committed every single prohibited act in the past. They did not respect any international or bilateral agreements or regional interests or security considerations. They subjugated the Turks, the Jordanians and the Gulf and humiliated the Americans. All this happened under the Obama administration’s nose. If Obama’s administration carries out one big operation, it may restore its reputation and legacy and it will allow the new administration to enter the White House in a stronger negotiating position with the Assad regime and its allies.

It’s historically proven that the Syrian regime responds to serious threats and not to verbal threats of the kind we have become used to hearing from the US secretary of state. When the regime of late President Hafez al-Assad went too far in its support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party led by Abdullah Ocalan, the Turks moved their tanks toward the border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, threatening to invade Syria. Within two days, Assad handed over Ocalan to the Turks through an African country and closed the Kurdish party’s camps. When current President Bashar al-Assad ignored Israeli warnings about arming Hezbollah in South Lebanon, Israel broke the sound barrier with a jet right above his secret vacation residence and this repaired the relationship between the two parties.

If the regime in Damascus thinks - for even a second - that it’s threatened by an American attack, it will alter its behaviour as well as the behaviour of its Iranian ally. The Russians do not want to confront the Americans to protect a worn-out system at a time when they are cautiously dealing with Ukraine’s crisis, which is the more important issue to them.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/10/04/Will-Obama-eliminate-Assad-by-the-end-of-his-term-.html


Turks Love Their Language, But Also Fight Over It

By Riada Ašimovic Akyol

October 4, 2016

Each year on Sept. 26, Turkey proudly celebrates its annual Turkish Language Day with conferences and festive ceremonies around the country. This year was no exception, with many leading politicians issuing statements calling on the Turkish people to continue their efforts to cherish the Turkish sensibility of language for future generations. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish is an “assurance of our people’s unity and solidarity.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim hailed Turkish as a language that is among the most important and prevalent ones in the world, in terms of its geographical spread, the number of people who speak it and its richness. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, extensively praised the heritage Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s reforms produced for the Turkish language.

As a foreigner who learned Turkish as my fifth language, let me tell you that the Turkish mother tongue is quite difficult to learn — as an example, how about "Cekoslovakyalilastiramadiklarimizdanmissiniz" as one word — but also very beautiful and captivating. What is even more fascinating, though, is the political wars that are waged over the language.

One of the most important fronts in these wars is between the “old” and the “new” Turkish, and the ideologies that both symbolize in Turkish minds. The former reflects loyalty to the Ottoman past, while the latter refers to Ataturk’s so-called language revolution. Today, proponents and opponents of historical changes of the Turkish language continue clashing on the legacy left from the early Republican era.

The root of the problem is modernization. There was no strict language policy in the very diverse and multilingual Ottoman Empire. But in time a huge problem arose, as minorities — allowed to speak their own languages — could not understand Turkish people who spoke folk Turkish, perceived as a nomad language at the time. Moreover, the Ottoman language, a “higher” Turkish with strong influences of Persian (seen as the language of science and literature at the time) and Arabic (for its importance as the language of the Holy Quran), was spoken by the privileged ones in the palace. Something had to be changed. This first came with the Tanzimat (Reform) era that began in 1839. So by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attempts for language simplification aimed at a “New Language” (Yeni Lisan) that everyone would understand were well in place.

When Ataturk came to power, he launched a “language revolution” as one of the most important tools for homogenizing the nascent nation. In 1928, the Arabo-Persian Ottoman script was changed to the Latin alphabet. Moreover, the Turkish Language Institute (TDK), founded in 1932, engaged in an effort to create “pure Turkish” (oz Turkce) by purging foreign elements and then standardizing to assimilate local dialects and languages. As academic Yilmaz Colak noted, “It was one of the constituent parts of the planned secular conversion from the imperial religious to national secular culture.”

As a result of that “linguistic engineering,” speakers of today’s Turkish can choose between different words with the same meaning. Usually, this reflects one’s education, political orientation or background, so that a more religious Turk and practicing Muslim will prioritize usage of Ottoman-, Arabic- or Persian-influenced words. On the other hand, one who is more secular and republican nationalist will probably use “pure” Turkish words introduced by the language reform — or merely use Western words. For example, the words “mustesna,” “ozel” and “specific” mean the same thing, but they reflect traditionalism, Ataturkism and Westernism, respectively. One study confirmed how Turkish politicians also choose words attentively and “borrow their words from the languages they associate with their political orientation.”

Erdogan is one such politician who is careful about language. Last year, he stated at the opening of a private university, “It would be more beautiful if we say ‘kulliye’ [Ottoman architectural concept] instead of 'campus.'” It is also not surprising that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies and followers praise Ataturk as a Gazi when they refer to him. Yet Mustafa himself had dropped that title — a word of Arabic origin — when the parliament gave him the name Ataturk (“Father of Turks”) in 1934, soon prohibited by law for any modification or use by anyone else. Expectedly, today the secularists use Ataturk — and rarely ever Gazi — when referring to him.

Another aspect of Ataturk’s language revolution was to force non-Muslims and non-Turkish Muslims (such as Kurds) to speak Turkish. This had a role in the making of “the Kurdish question,” and Kurds rightfully demanded the right to use their language in public, which was banned by Turkey’s past linguistic illiberalism. The list of positive steps that the AKP has taken while in power to offer more freedom for Kurds to practice Kurdish in public is not short. Unfortunately, the Kurdish demands do not end with those related to language, but extend to political claims that the government is unwilling to accept.

The main parties seem united on this matter, but the Nationalist Action Party is more hawkish than others. Its leader, Devlet Bahceli, used Turkish Language Day this year as an opportunity not only to panegyrize the Turkish language, but also to criticize the government for any accommodation of Kurdish demands like education in their native language as a “wrongdoing” and a “sin.” Bahceli said, “Turkish is an oath; Turkishness is an honor. … Let’s not forget, the dream we saw is Turkish, our ideals are Turkish, our country is Turkey, and the hope and horizon of all of us is Turkey.”

New battles over the Turkish language have lately been added to existing tensions. Since July, Turkey has been traumatized by a failed military coup that the government blames on the Gulen community. Hence, the Foreign Ministry is doing its best to prevent festivals and cultural activities previously organized by the Gulenists from being held.

There are even controversies about patriarchy and misogyny transmitted through language. Earlier this year, the TDK's definition of the word “dirty” caused a flood of anger, because it gave as an example a “[woman] who is menstruating.” Similar reactions occurred earlier for the word “musait,” a Turkish word of Arabic origin meaning “available,” because the TDK explained it as a “[woman] who is available to flirt with and who can easily flirt.” Despite harsh criticisms, the TDK defended itself by claiming these definitions exist among people. Unfortunately, as critics rightly point out, “Through its many proverbs and expressions, the Turkish language has for decades allowed certain ideas about women to normalize actions of violence against them.”

Furthermore, critics complain that every new rule the TDK comes up with only creates more complications in the language. Linguist and writer Feyza Hepcilingirler stated, “Instead of dealing with punctuation rules [related to freshly publicized changes for writing names of institutions], [the] TDK should [take] steps [to preserve the] Turkish [language] from degenerating tendencies and attacks from English.” Haberturk daily’s writer Murat Bardakci harshly criticized these changes as “nonsensical, unnecessary and confusing,” suggesting that no language in the world has probably been as pillaged or suffered as much as Turkish. Again, the TDK responded combatively to media criticism for publishing news without consulting them first, stating that this is not a new decision and “even primary school kids know [these punctuation rues].”

But while the TDK receives tough love for its decisions, others successfully promote interest in language and inspire interest for words both new and old. The forgotten words and their beautiful meanings that Banu and Onur Ertugrul have passionately shared on their Lugat 365 social media accounts since 2015 have become a sensation in Turkey, regardless of fans’ identities. The couple intended to popularize words that are no longer used among younger generations — their effort became so popular that the couple’s initiative has spread to a published book and on posters, bags, artistic objects and widely sold T-shirts. Separately from the commercial side, the enthusiastic Ertugruls successfully transmitted their appreciation for the value of old words into meaningful and attractive treasure.

So many different divisions continue to plague Turks. If only the Turkish language, with all its beauty, did not have to suffer from language battles its speakers bring upon themselves.

Source: al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/10/turkey-ongoing-wars-over-turkish-language.html


Saudi-Turkish Ties Amount to a Major Strategic Realignment in the Middle East

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

4 October 2016

If you are dealing with rational actors (which is surely not always the case) global geopolitics is a bit like high math; there are routinized equations – strategic moves on the map – that just make logical, irrefutable sense. The recent visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Ankara heralds a possibly decisive strategic counter-stroke to rising Iranian adventurism in the Middle East. Enduring, closer Saudi-Turkish ties provide political balance to Iran’s growing ambitions, amounting to nothing less than the nascent formation of a competing strategic bloc in the region.

Closer Saudi-Turkish ties have been a long time coming. Since President Erdogan became Prime Minister in 2003, relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia have gone from being coolly correct to far warmer, a deepening link that extends beyond the provision of Saudi oil for Turkey’s economy into the vital realm of strategic affairs.

Indeed, since the failure of the Arab Spring, this relationship has become far more of a security relationship as both Saudi Arabia and Turkey found themselves on the same side of this basic strategic fault line. The most important example of this burgeoning relationship and confluence of primary interests is that both Saudi Arabia and Turkey champion groups who are in rebellion against the Syrian government. Saudi Arabia has also given strong diplomatic support to Turkish government's recent decisions . The endless wartime crisis in Syria has thrown Turkey and Saudi Arabia more and more onto the same side of the regional strategic equation.

As the administrations of King Salman and President Erdogan are rational actors on the geopolitical chessboard, they have followed the logical course of together balancing against growing Iranian power in the region

Likewise, both Riyadh and Ankara have been deeply disappointed with their long-time strategic partner, the United States. Under the Obama administration, both increasingly view the US as a force that, rather than being a mutual ally and source of help, is getting in the way of their hopes and designs by virtue of its ostensible timidity and its diverging foreign policy practices, ranging from its perceived timidity in Syria to its landmark nuclear deal with Iran. For both the Saudi and Turkish governments, this newfound America tilt toward Tehran, bringing Iran in from the diplomatic cold, is both unacceptable and dangerous.

Fight Against Terror

Over the issue of terrorism, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have increasingly been victims, and have found further common cause. Both have publicly increased bilateral cooperation to fight terrorism, as Riyadh and Ankara now increasingly emphasize the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a multilateral organization around which Muslim majority countries can come together and pool their resources to fight terrorism. Increasingly, military cooperation between the two countries has taken place under the OIC umbrella.

In personal terms, the new relationship’s strength can be seen in that in the last visit by King Salman to Ankara in April 2016 President Erdogan himself met him at the airport, even though protocol and precedent required only a senior minister. In symbolic terms, Erdogan wanted there to be no doubt as to the personal value he places on the Saudi-Turkish relationship.

Crucially, at the moment of maximum danger, Saudi Arabia gave strong diplomatic support to Erdogan’s government during and after the failed July 2016 failed coup. This also suggests that Saudi Arabia sees its new friendly relationship with Turkey as something that is primarily due to Erdogan on the Turkish side; he is the indispensable man knitting Turkish interests to those of Riyadh.

This all being so, a strong caveat must be mentioned. Turkish officials – playing both sides of the strategic triangle – have recently made several high-level visits to Iran and have begun negotiations with Iranian officials, now that sanctions have been lifted, to begin doing business with Tehran again. Despite strong strategic disagreements with Iran over its foreign policy in Iraq and Syria, Ankara has moved forward with partially re-engaging with Tehran, sensing there is a real chance for enhanced commercial opportunities.

This Iranian counter-example proves the adage that alliances in the Middle East are rarely set in stone; it is more useful to think of the major players drifting toward or away from one another. While there is no doubt whatsoever that Ankara and Riyadh have (perhaps definitively) drifted closer together their links – as is true for all states in the fluid Middle East – are not absolute.

But for all the strategic hedging, something important is going on here. As both the administrations of King Salman and President Erdogan are rational actors on the geopolitical chessboard, they have followed the predictably logical course of together balancing against growing Iranian power in the region. Don’t look now but an enduring (for all its very real fluctuations) new balance of power is coming about in the Middle East.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/10/04/Saudi-Turkish-ties-amount-to-a-major-strategic-realignment-in-the-Middle-East.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/the-aleppo-moment--sanctioned-ignorance-in-the-us--new-age-islam-s-selection,-05-october-2016/d/108760


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