by Kevin Barrett (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 7, Muharram, 1442)
On August 13, 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to recognize the Zionist entity. The Arab princelings’ humiliating surrender to the Zionists was above all a political stunt designed to benefit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, both of whom are fighting to stay in power and out of prison.
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah responded eloquently to news of the deal: “It’s good, though painful, that the masks have fallen.” His meaning was clear: When the forces of evil gather in the full light of day to proclaim their unity, those who would resist evil have an opportunity to rise to the challenge. The Emiratis’ shameful betrayal of the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim peoples is a wake-up call to the region—and to the leadership of the Muslim East’s two rising, independent Islamic powerhouses, Iran and Turkey.
The region now faces a stark choice: Will it follow Iran and Turkey and become increasingly Islamic, independent, democratic, united, and economically and technologically proficient? Or will it let itself be divided and ruled forever by backward, ignorant, despotic sybarites in the pay of the regional and global enemies of Islam?
The geopolitical significance of the Emirati surrender to Zionism was correctly diagnosed in the neocon New Republic, of all places, where Trita Parsi explained that “The Israel-UAE Deal Puts the ‘Forever’ in ‘Forever War’: What binds Israel and its new Arab allies is not the threat from Iran but the threat of the US military leaving the Middle East.” Parsi understands that neither the Zionist entity nor the pathetically puny princedoms of the Gulf enjoy the power and legitimacy to sustain themselves in a post-US-Empire world. So, they are plotting not so much against Iran and the Palestinians as against the American people, who would be better off if the US leaves the region sooner rather than later, and against the people of the region, who would also benefit from a US withdrawal.
The Zio-Emirati deal was lambasted by the region’s two economic and technological leaders, Iran and Turkey, in almost identical terms. The Iranian Foreign Ministry responded to news of the agreement with the statement: “The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalizing of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry was almost as vociferous: “History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behavior of the UAE, betraying the Palestinian cause for the sake of its narrow interests.”
The joint Turkish-Iranian condemnation of Emirati treason raises the possibility of a larger alliance between the two countries, both of which are heir to pan-Islamic visions. Turkey hosted the Ottoman Khilafah (Caliphate) that was destroyed a century ago by a Zionist-imperialist conspiracy. As for Iran, its Islamic revolution of 1979 was conducted under pan-Islamic auspices and sought to lay the groundwork for the eventual reunification of the Muslim world.
To succeed, Iran and Turkey will have to defeat the Zionist-imperialist divide-and-conquer strategy by cooperating or even uniting. Rather than laying exclusive claim to the leadership of the Islamic ummah, each country’s leaders will have to forge institutions that would foster joint action and power sharing. Each can claim religious authority in its respective sphere, Turkey with respect to the Hanafi madh-hab and to a lesser extent the other three major “Sunni” schools, and Iran with respect to the Twelver Jafari madh-hab and to a lesser extent the various loosely-related “Shia-affiliated” schools.
Both countries will need to continue down the road toward full autonomy and economic prosperity in order to jointly liberate the region. The complete political autonomy Iran has enjoyed since 1979 has enabled the development of a resistance economy that is now poised to soar thanks to major investments from China. As for Turkey, its economic growth has slowed even as it has begun to break free from NATO and the Zionists while forging realpolitik-based relationships with China and Russia. Ankara needs regional friends and a project to inspire its people. A pan-Islamic pact in alliance with Iran would fit the bill.
The two countries should be able to come to terms on geographic spheres of influence. Turkey’s natural base is northern Central Asia, where a crescent of Turkic-speaking people stretches from the Bosphorus to China. Adjacent to that region, and somewhat interspersed with it, are Persian-speaking communities with natural ties to Iran, as well as the Pakistani-Indian Muslim population that has historically supported efforts at pan-Islamic unity.
Likewise, the Arabic-speaking lands include historically Ottoman territories as well as Shia enclaves. Though the Zionist-imperialist invasions of the region, especially the 9/11 wars, have aimed at implementing Oded Yinon’s divide-and-conquer plan to erase Islamic unity from popular consciousness and replace it with quarrelsome ethnic-sectarian identities, popular identification with Islam and Palestine persists and may inform future popular uprisings against the region’s corrupt rulers.
If Turkey and Iran could officially commit to a pan-Islamic project including the eventual liberation of al-Quds, the people of the region would be predisposed to join them. Most Muslim Easterners have always considered themselves first and foremost members of the Islamic Ummah, and only secondarily citizens of a Sykes-Picot nation-state.
Alongside the spiritual treasures of Islamic unity, the material benefits of a unified or gradually unifying Muslim East would also be enormous. The region is currently hobbled in its terms-of-trade negotiations with outsiders, especially in the energy field, due to its political disunity. Each petty princeling has to compete with the other princelings to lick the Zionists’ and imperialists’ boots more abjectly, and to hand over resources more lavishly. If the region were unified, its negotiating position would be much stronger.
Political and economic unity would also allow for a common currency that could stand alongside the world’s other leading currencies, and perhaps even outstrip them. The Islamic gold dinar and silver dirham, traditionally the only acceptable currency for paying zakat, could be brought back in a streamlined form adapted to today’s world. Fully backed by gold and silver, the dinar and dirham would have a long-term edge over fiat riba currencies, which are actually disguised forms of fraud. Just as the merchants spread Islam in past ages by using common weights and measures with unusual probity, so could a reunited Ummah spread Islam through honest, usury-free currency.
This positive vision of Islamic unity would give meaning and purpose to a future popular uprising against the corrupt, decadent, treasonous monarchies of the Persian Gulf region. And the ground for such uprisings is being laid not only by the princelings’ betrayal of the Palestinians and Islam, but also by long-term economic factors including the impending demise of the region’s oil-only economies. As Patrick Cockburn recently wrote, “The era characterized by the power of the oil states is ending… Ironically, a petrostate like the UAE is flexing its political muscles by normalizing relations with Israel just as the economic world of which it was part is breaking up… As populations rise and young people flood into the labor market, more and more money is required to keep society running as before, but such resources are no longer there. This change has revolutionary implications as the unspoken social contract between rulers and ruled breaks down.”
Cockburn forecasts a “coming earthquake” of revolution in the region. Regimes ruling mere gas stations in the desert will topple. The two major regional powers that have mastered advanced technology and built real economies, Turkey and Iran, will have an opportunity to channel the coming unrest in a pan-Islamic direction. But to do so they will have to overcome differences of interests and sectarian ideologies and work together in service to the larger cause.