Sunday, July 8, 2012

Egypt’s Morsi is not good news for Turkey

Very few understand how Turkey is rather a foe for Egypt than this man protesting outside the residence where Davutoglu and Morsi holding talks.

Turkey was excited to see a conservative president with beard in Cairo who shares similar views on domestic politics with Turkey’s previously progressive and reform-minded ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). But Ankara's fervor won’t last long.

In a sign of this excitement, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Cairo following his talks with Egypt's new leader Mohammad Morsi earlier this week that Egypt needs to be strong in the region and that strong Egypt means Turkey will be strong. "Strong Egypt means stability in the region,” Turkish foreign minister added.

There is little, if any, evidence to believe what Davutoglu says is reasonable. Points Turkish foreign minister stressed in his remarks are unprecedented in history and not possible in a normal setting of international politics. Two increasingly strong states in the same region are usually a primary cause of instability. Two powerful states hardly coexist unless there is a significantly strong state outside the region that is threat to both of these countries.

If history is any guide, peaceful relations between Egypt and Turkey are very unlikely in the long term. A short glance over history will prove this point further. European powers would most likely not fight each other in two devastating world wars if there was a powerful threat from Asia. European powers could establish a relatively stable union only after Communist threat from the East put the fate of entire continent on danger.

In another notable development, Turkey moved to militarily intervene in Cyprus in 1974, fighting a bloody war with Greeks there after a Greek-inspired coup. The U.S. then put tremendous pressure on Turkey to rule out the intervention and urged Greece to remain restraint. Greece’s response was minimal because both states faced a bigger threat in the north in the heydays of the communism: The Soviet Union.

The same scenario can describe the alliance among wealthy Gulf Arabs too. Saddam’s Iraq was a significant threat to the region and today Iran seems interested in instigating instability in the oil and gas rich region. Gulf Arabs will likely remain in union in a foreseeable future unless Iran chooses to cease its confrontational policy with the Arabs.

History is also awash with Turkish-Egyptian confrontation despite the fact that Cairo was under Ottoman rule. Egypt has always been a difficult country for Turkey to deal with during the Ottoman rule. It was the most disobeying vassal state compared to other regions for Istanbul. During 1831-1841, Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali challenged and fought against Ottomans to an extent that European powers had to intervene in 1840 with London Convention to prevent a new empire dominating the region vital for Europe’s trade with the South Asia. The incident is known as Oriental Crisis of 1840. Muhammad Ali virtually established a new empire encompassing Egypt, Sudan and Syria up to today’s southern Turkish city of Adana. Only after a solid military action in the eastern Mediterranean by Western empires Muhammad Ali’s new empire was put on hold from moving ahead. 

Today, Turkey and Egypt don’t face an important outside power that could threaten security and survival of both states. Instead of cooperation, the two countries have a lot of reasons to fight about. They share increasingly unstable and militarized eastern Mediterranean. New oil and gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean is also a good reason to seek dominance in the region.

Leadership in the wider Muslim world is another reason why Turkey and Egypt will most likely be foe more than a friend. Unlike its new leader, Egypt’s ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was decrepit and pro-Western. Morsi is only slightly different from leaders Libya, Tunisia and Morocco elected in the past year and we are yet to see a conservative leader in Syria largely representing views of the Muslim Brotherhood. It will be much easier and more effective for an Arab leader to appeal to the Muslim world rather than a Turkish-speaking leader.

In a nutshell, a stronger Egypt means more headaches for Turkey.

1 comment:

  1. Considering the devastation Ottoman rule has brought to the Middle East, I have no sympathy for the Turks.