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Turkey reclaims Muslim leadership

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 13, 2017

The Istanbul Declaration of the Organization of Islamic Conference declaring East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine is a landmark event. The Turkish initiative to convene an extraordinary summit in Istanbul today targeted such an outcome. The summit was well attended, although convened at short notice.

A notable absentee was King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi minister for religious affairs apparently represented his country. On Tuesday, Turkey openly taunted Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “Some Arab countries have shown very weak responses (on Jerusalem). It seems some countries are very timid of the United States.” He added that Saudi Arabia had yet to say how it would participate.

The Istanbul Declaration says it “rejects and condemns in the strongest terms the unilateral decision by the president of the United States America recognizing Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel, the occupying power.” It urges the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of the Palestinian state and invites “all countries to recognize the state of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”

The OIC has set the bar high. But OIC is largely ineffectual and its declarations and statements remain on paper only. Is it any different now? Yes, it could be different. One, the Istanbul Declaration at one stroke debunks United States’ pretension so far to be the charioteer of the Middle East peace process. Washington’s locus standii as mediator has come under questioning from none other than Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been widely regarded as a cats-paw of the US (and Israeli) intelligence and Saudi Arabia.

The fact that Abbas’ back has stiffened only reflects that the ground beneath the feet has shifted. The popular opinion in the Muslim Middle East has become so overwhelmingly anti-American. This has geopolitical implications. Interestingly, Moscow deputed a representative to attend the OIC summit in Istanbul as observer.

Israel was gaining in confidence lately that it could break out of isolation and form a quasi-alliance with Saudi Arabia. It was not a realistic hope and was predicated on the political personality of the young Saudi Crown Prince. But such hopes must now be mothballed. Israel also may have to live with the reality of a strong Iranian presence in Syria for years to come. Clearly, Israel overreached. It is doubtful whether Israel gains anything at all out of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Even a re-location of the US embassy from Tel Aviv may take years – and, for all you know, kept in abeyance indefinitely by Washington as a matter of expediency.

The known unknown is about the mantle of leadership in the Islamic world. The Istanbul summit was a personal initiative of President Recep Erdogan. A poll conducted by Pew has come up with the finding that Erdogan is today the most popular figure in the Muslim Middle East.

For sure, Erdogan is making a determined pitch to reclaim the leadership of the Muslim world, as it used to be under Ottoman sultans. With Saudi Arabia caught up in a difficult transition and its future increasingly uncertain (plus with the brutal war in Yemen where it is bogged down), Turkey’s hour may have come. Erdogan’s main plank is his emphasis on the unity of the ‘Ummah’. His clarion call to put behind sectarian politics gets big resonance. And here Turkey and Iran on the same page, too.

A leadership role will come handy for Erdogan, as it gets him ‘strategic depth’ vis-à-vis the West, apart from consolidating his power base within Turkey. On the other hand, he may take his caliphal authority seriously to reboot the OIC as an interventionist tool to tackle Muslim issues the world over. Countries like Myanmar or India feel the pressure.

All in all, a very transformative period lies ahead for the Muslim world. Trump wouldn’t have anticipated all this in the downstream when he opened the Pandora’s box. He is not known to be a grand strategist. The Anadolu news agency featured an insightful commentary on how Trump’s sense of obligation to the Jewish lobby almost entirely led him to this fateful decision on Jerusalem. Read it here – Trump’s decision: Inside story, expected consequences.

December 14, 2017 - Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , ,

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