Reality check of the Erdogan phenomenon

Developing Just Leadership

Maksud Djavadov

Shawwal 03, 1432 2011-09-01

Special Reports

by Maksud Djavadov (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 7, Shawwal, 1432)

A large percentage of Muslims worldwide have become quite enamored with the phenomenon of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the political party — the Development and Justice Party (AKP) — he leads in Turkey.

A large percentage of Muslims worldwide have become quite enamored with the phenomenon of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the political party — the Development and Justice Party (AKP) — he leads in Turkey. It is no small credit to his political acumen that the AKP has secured three consecutive electoral victories since 2002 and enjoys widespread support among the Turkish masses. Outside Turkey, Erdogan has aroused widespread admiration among Muslims in search of a credible charismatic leader. This enthusiasm, however, should be rational and pass a reality check first.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan acquired the label of the Muslim world’s leader after his open spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos in January 2009 over the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. In the absence of an independent, credible Arabian ruler or state official, the Arab Muslims in particular became Erdogan’s most vocal supporters. Elsewhere too Muslims looked up to Erdogan as a courageous leader who could stand up to the Zionists.

After his 2009 Davos encounter from where he returned home to a hero’s welcome, Erdogan made more assertive statements and gestures against Western hegemonic powers. These further bolstered his image as a charismatic leader. However, the main platform for Erdogan’s rise in popularity among the Muslim masses has been his support of the Palestinian cause.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan acquired the label of the Muslim world’s leader after his open spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos in January 2009 over the Israeli slaughter in Gaza.

It is undeniable that Erdogan’s emergence is an asset to the Muslim world and should be welcomed. But how special his stance is toward Israeli crimes and the Palestinian resistance in comparison to say President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or any other Iranian official needs closer examination. If one applies a realistic and rational approach to this question, the answer is clear. Erdogan’s rhetoric and the policies of his government toward Israel are not that significant or meaningful. While Turkey treats Palestine as a foreign policy issue, for Islamic Iran, Palestine is a matter of its Islamic political identity.

If one applied a purely “pragmatic” test, Islamic Iran has no fundamental reason to be hostile to Israel. It has no territorial or economic disputes with the Zionist entity or even its principal sponsor and underwriter, the US. Iran could cut a deal with Israel and backstab the Palestinians in a thousand different ways if it wanted to be “pragmatic.” Iran could easily enter into a grand bargain with the global imperialist hegemonic power if it turned a blind eye to the suffocation of the Palestinian resistance as does Egypt and the other Arabian regimes. The only reason Islamic Iran backs the Palestinian resistance to Zionist occupation at every level, often at a very high cost to itself, is out of its Islamic duty.

While Erdogan and his government officially recognize Israel, Islamic Iran refuses to do so and does not provide even the slightest bit of legitimacy to the Zionist occupation of Palestine. When Erdogan sends humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, Islamic Iran provides direct support that ultimately weakens the occupation of Palestine.

Therefore, a logical question arises: why does the Western mainstream media portray Erdogan in a semi-positive light while it spares no energy or time in demonizing the Islamic government of Iran? Before addressing this question, the naïve assumption that the West promotes the AKP because it is supposedly more democratic, must be rejected. The West backs an assortment of despots throughout the Muslim world and loses no sleep over gross violations of human rights, lack of freedom or justice. In fact, many of the Middle Eastern despots are provided the wherewithal to torture and brutalize their own people.

The logical answer is that the AKP project in Turkey is tacitly supported as a Western counterbalance to Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah because the AKP does not threaten Western neo-colonial interests at the strategic level as does Islamic Iran.

The real tragedy of the West’s implicit support of the AKP project in Turkey would be if the latter assumed that by playing the Great Satan’s (US) game, they would outmaneuver Satan himself. One cannot outwit the side that draws up the rules of the game and whose game one agrees to play.

The Turkish Muslim political establishment can easily be tricked into believing that they can gain more global clout by cooperating with the US on certain strategic regional issues. If the US manages to convince the Turkish political leadership to cut a deal with them regarding Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, Turkey will become another Saudi Arabia. Such a mistake will not only inflame sectarian tensions in the Muslim world, it will also create tensions between the Arabs and Turks.

If the AKP manages to stay away from committing such a strategic blunder they will do Islam and humanity a great service. However, the narrow-minded Turkish position on the Western backed unrest in Syria does not look promising. Let us hope that charismatic Erdogan possesses enough wisdom to extricate his government and country from this blunder, and soon.

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