Commentary, Middle East, Politics

Second Spring with Saudi Arabia

There had been interesting developments in Turkey’s policy towards the Middle East in the past ten years. While this policy could be read as the Middle East expansion, it could also be summarized as the departure of the mentality that disregards the remaining Ottoman geography that is compelled on Turkey. 

There had been interesting developments in Turkey’s policy towards the Middle East in the past ten years. While this policy could be read as the Middle East expansion, it could also be summarized as the departure of the mentality that disregards the remaining Ottoman geography that is compelled on Turkey. The borders, which had been drawn after the empire, acted as a frontier that puts up a wall between the sides and separates them, rather than being a mutual line shared by the sides. Of course, the demands of the world system, which compelled Turkey to put up a wall against its history, were also valid for the countries in the Middle East that are harvested from tribes. On the contrary to the assumptions, while opening out to the Middle East, it was revealed that Turkey’s intellectual and diplomatic accumulation was not sufficient to read the region and regional administrations, and most importantly, the sanction power of the global actors in the region. More particularly, the relations with Saudi Arabia are an important indicator for Turkey, in the sense of seeing itself in the Middle East mirror and to test its power and influence. Because, Saudi Arabia is in a key position in the sense of its economic power, special relations with U.S., the mentality it represents, and from the point of geopolitical and geo-economic balance. Apart from all these components, Saudi Arabia is standing at a different position in the Islam world for not dominating Hedjaz and because of its geo-cultural influence.

Within this context, because of the global role it represents in the world petroleum trade, no evaluation can be made without taking the dependency relation undertaken by Saudi Arabia in a political and strategic sense, and their role in reflecting it on the region and the Islam world, into consideration.

In this existing rulership period, Turkey developed three different wavy relation types, which could also be regarded as rhythmic, with Saudi Arabia. Even if the first and third periods of the process of this rhythmic relation seems to be movements that follow each other, its nature is quite different.

The first period, in other words, in the first expansion period of the rulership, Turkey had taken on a mission that represents the non-Western modernity which almost carried the Western values to the Muslim world. During the period after September 11, when the psychological and political pressure of the U.S. neocons’ strategy to civilize the Islam world increased, Turkey was presented as the representative of a display compatible with the West and even a modern conservatism that could even be read as moderate Islam.

As a “model country”, which is Muslim but secular and democrat, adopted Western values and having strategic bonds in the eyes of the West, Turkey approached a tone that possessed “expression superiority”. It was a message like “Before the Westerners attempt to civilize you, take Turkey as an example”. Turkey was presenting a political and communal model, which is compatible with the global system/capitalism in economic matters and which ranges from the status of women to adopting democratic values. In this way, while opening out to the Middle East, Turkey had taken on the mission of being a role model and aimed at an economic expansion by pulling the financial support and investment potential of the Middle East. This formulation also got the support of the West in a period where the neo-liberal policies in Turkey became functional.

The subsequent period, the Arab Spring, which is an apolitical revolution process, points at a period where the relations tensed up. The response of both sides, despite being shoulder to shoulder in Syria, against the communal demands in the other regions brought conflict.

This disintegration will make a summit in Egypt with Sisi’s coup.

While stating that the nature of this conflict and alliance especially experienced in Syria and Egypt is a separate analysis matter, let’s have a look at the second spring that is being experienced with Saudi Arabia.

Turkey, who had been regarded as the role model of the neocon-based community engineering in the Middle East after September 11, is holding the psychological superiority with an instructive tone.

In the new period, even though a second spring is being experienced, both its expression and the platform of the alliance are feeding off different dynamics.

In the new period, no matter what anyone says, the biggest justification of this intimacy is the actual perpetrator Iran’s influence, even if it looks like the civil war in Yemen. Especially, after Iran came to terms with the West, reached an agreement over the nuclear weapons, and shown the intention of developing its influence in the region in real terms, Saudi Arabia put aside all the political differentiations and drew near Turkey. Within this process, Saudi Arabia wanted to form a new balance by acquiring Ankara’s diplomatic and strategic support.

It’s clear that Saudi Arabia, who felt threatened strategically after Iran, or to put it better, the Shi’ite factors were mobilized in the region, is thinking about establishing the balance by taking Turkey on their side.

It’s also clear that this intimacy is an important opportunity for Turkey during a period, where the economic issues started to show up.

However, the factor that triggered the new cooperation was directed at reinforcing the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and that propounds a sectarian nature rather than a role model. It’s certain that this diplomatic initiative of Saudi Arabia, who is skilled in turning strategic worries into a sect war, is far from principal worries and carries long-term risks for Ankara. Before anything else, no matter what the preferences are, it’s required for the multiple correlations to be sustained and developed before the regional equation enters a conflict-based blocking. At this point, it’s not a secret that the new alliance is starting to rise over a strategy based on Saudi Arabia – Iran disagreement or mutual threat perception. Reciprocally Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical and sectarian moves are increasing the tension that leaves no place for reconciliation. There is not even any need to think about which powers and what global interests are behind this conflict.

During this process, as Turkey’s language, which blesses the relations with Saudi Arabia, becomes widespread, it shows that the nature of this new alliance is different than the first period. Maybe, the possible short-term profit of the new alliance can provide a political gain; however, in the long run, this alliance, which is based on this language and approach, might present a heavy invoice for us. Putting real political realities to one side, we shouldn’t abstain from questioning the things that should be questioned mentally and principally. This duty falls on the writers and commentators.

Resource: Yenişafak English, May 7, 2015


Akif Emre is one of the founders of Yeni Safak newspaper and still remains a columnist in this newspaper. At the same time he continues as Chief-Editor of the Dünya Bulletin which is the first international news portal broadcasts in many languages ​​in Turkey.