The Arab League has long been described by ordinary Arabs themselves as an impotent, useless and even shamefully discredited institution. Originally formed in 1945 to bolster economic and diplomatic cooperation throughout the vast Arab world, today it has been reduced to a shell of its former self. Against this background, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued a statement which sought to scapegoat non-Arab powers as a means of excusing the Arab League’s own failings. Ahmed Aboul Gheit stated:
“We [together with the European Union] are sharing concerns over the ongoing military conflicts in Yemen, Libya and Syria as well as foreign interference in them, both Iranian and Turkish ones”.
While the Arab League’s statements about Iran have been commonplace since the 1980s, blaming Turkey for the failures of the League and of governance in the Arab world more widely, is symptomatic of a newer phenomenon. The problem that Arab leaders have with Turkey is not that Ankara seeks to reconstitute the territory in the Arab world that was once peacefully integrated into the Ottoman Empire. The problem is that while Turkey’s government appears to be capable, worldly, professional and while Turkey’s President is an articulate supporter of Palestine, the same cannot be said of just about any Arab government.
In this sense, it is Turkey’s “soft power” that frightens Arab leaders but ultimately, they only have themselves to blame for allowing petty feuds and irrational rivalries to retard the cause of Arab unity, whilst these same factors have rendered Arab countries largely powerless when it comes to Palestine.
But as Turkey’s soft power and consequently its geopolitical prestige continues to grow throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the leaders of once influential Arab states are finding themselves internally compromised and externally irrelevant, with the occasional exceptions of the cash rich monarchies of the GCC.
This reality has in fact lead to a strengthening of the unspoken but widely acknowledged alliance between Israel and a number of Arab states including Saudi Arabia. Moreover, this Arab-Israel alliance has reportedly named Turkey as a bigger so-called “threat” than even Israel’s open nemesis of Iran.
In respect of Israel’s meddling in the wider Middle East, the Middle East Eye has reported the details of a secret meeting between Mossad head Yossi Cohen and the intelligence heads of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. At the meeting, it was agreed that Turkey presents an even bigger challenge to the de-facto Israeli-GCC(minus Qatar)-Egypt alliance than does Iran. According to Middle East Eye
The Israelis told the meeting that Iran could be contained militarily, but that Turkey had a far greater capability. In the meeting Cohen is reported to have said: ‘Iranian power is fragile. The real threat comes from Turkey.”
The report further states,
“The fourth measure agreed on at the meeting was to support Syria’s Kurds against Turkey’s attempts to expel the YPG and its political counterpart, the PYD, from the Turkish border right up to the Iraqi border”.
The intelligence meeting between Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt therefore confirms three important factors, all of which were accurately predicted in previous analysis from Eurasia Future:
1. Israel’s rivalry with Turkey goes far beyond rhetoric over Palestine but is instead the result of a systematic military, economic and petro-political rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean region in which Israel has conspicuously aligned itself with traditional rivals/enemies of Turkey.
2. Israel’s support for radical YPG/PKK terrorism and other forms of politically extreme ethno-nationalist Kurdish separatism movements is part of a wider attempt to threaten Turkey’s long term regional security. At the same time, the US based Israel lobby has formed an anti-Turkish alliance of convenience with the US based Kurdish, Armenian and Hellenic lobbies – all of whom are traditionally anti-Turkish.
Taken as a whole, while the GCC and its partners in the Arab world have failed to weaken the power of pro-Iranian groups in the Arab world, most notably Hezbollah, it remains a worrying development that Israel and its Arab allies may attempt to support anti-Turkish terror groups like the YPG/PKK in order to “avenge” the fact that while Turkey’s soft power is increasing throughout the wider Ummah (global Islamic community), the influence of most Arab states is declining in terms of soft power.
This is also what lies behind the UAE and Bahrain’s restoration of relations with Assad’s Syria. While mid-20th century attempts at Arab unity were undertaken from a position of strength, today’s pseudo-Arab unity is motivated more out of a desperate desire on the part of most GCC members, Egypt and Israel, to counterbalance the expanding influence of not just Iran, but more importantly, that of Turkey throughout the Middle East and beyond. It is this desperation for Arab unity with the aim of of retracting Turkey’s increased regional influence, that has led to several Arab states working to normalise the Syrian government throughout an Arab world that largely turned its back on Assad after 2011.
The recent anti-Turkish statement from the Arab League’s Secretary General is derived from a place of desperation, is objectively foolish, but is likewise motivated by a wider attempt to stifle Turkey’s peaceful regional influence. In this sense, the true authors of the Secretary General’s statement, clearly include both Israeli and Arab intelligence and political assets.