It was during a cold winter in Davos when Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit a political jackpot. Overnight he had become the Muslim and Arab world’s champion. It was the first time that Turkish and Israeli relations were in danger. During his last re-election, many hearts were close to God and raised their hands in prayer for Erdogan’s election victory.
After the Davos conference, thousands of people gathered at Ataturk airport, in Istanbul, to greet the Turkish prime minister, waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting: “Turkey is proud of you”.
According to the Middle East Eye, the Islamic and Arab world, plagued for decades with rulers who are either secular despots, dictatorial monarchs or theocratic autocrats – all of whom pay no more than lip service to furthering the wellbeing of Muslims, is quick to revere anyone who is willing to publicly speak on their behalf, even if it fails to result in firm action.
Also, for the Middle East Monitor, while the Arab countries continue to be under oppressive, tyrannical regimes, whether monarchies or presidential systems governed by the military, they can easily search for a “Hero”. All these countries, with no exception, are corrupt, with the leaders and their hypocritical supporters benefitting from the country’s wealth while the vast majority of their people suffer from poverty, hunger, deprivation and illness, unable to make a decent living or receive adequate medical treatment.
During the previous years we have seen many articles from the Arab world praising the Sultan as “Erdogan is now the hero of the Egyptian street,” from one Egyptian blogger, complaining that Egypt was suffering from a severe shortage of national heroes.
Turkish AKP partly relates to the Middle Eastern “cult hero” phenomenon, whereby leaders seen to be defying the west or Israel, no matter how recklessly or for whatever selfish reasons, are elevated to heroes in the eyes of millions. This wannabe leader of the Arab world and Africa presents himself as a champion of the Palestinians to lure Arabs into his corner, while maintaining diplomatic, trade and intelligence ties with Tel Aviv.
To strengthen that relationship, both countries began planning the multi-billion-euro Mediterranean Pipeline Project, known as Med Stream, back in 2008 and more recently in 2017. The longterm goal of the undersea infrastructure project: To create a sophisticated pipeline system to facilitate the exchange of electricity, natural gas, crude oil and water.
The tender involved building a pipeline from Leviathan to the Turkish shoreline. Such a pipeline must necessarily pass through Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).Cyprus has repeatedly stated it is opposed to an Israel-Turkey pipeline running through its EEZ until a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. Whereas Cyprus’ ally Israel would prefer to have Nicosia’s consent for the pipeline,in reality it does not need it (international waters).
Erdogan’s government since Davos has been quick to mobilise Turkish resources and dispatch aid to various places where Muslims have become imperilled, whether it be to Somalia or to the Rohingya in Burma. For Erdogan, championing the cause of the world’s Muslims has also helped him to bolster his reputation among his major constituents domestically – the Muslim conservatives.
As the Arab Spring kicked off in 2011, a confident Turkey hoped to restore some of its former Ottoman-era glory, positioning itself as a leader among the Sunni Muslim nations. It threw its weight behind Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syria’s rebels, just as it had backed Hamas in Gaza. Qatar proved an enthusiastic ally.
This strategy backfired when the Brotherhood was overthrown in Egypt and replaced by a military strongman who, backed by the region’s other status quo powers, chiefly Saudi Arabia, is restoring the pre-2011 status quo in Cairo. Syria’s Turkish-backed rebels lost ground and Bashar al-Assad held on to power in Damascus. These setbacks left Turkey looking weakened and isolated in the region — just at the time that Ankara’s relations with its long-standing NATO allies are fraying under Erdoğan.