When will the Turkey-Ihvan love affair end? 

Musa Özuğurlu writes: In the AKP-era, Turkey interfered with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, via a new lover: the Muslim Brotherhood (Ihvan). However, as normalization with the U.S. is not on the table, we are running back to the trio with our tail between our legs. Turkey used to have a semi-prestigious position in the region, but we have come to our current situation by squandering away our foreign policy.

Musa Özuğurlu

Did we give a heads up to the Muslim Brotherhood (Ihvan) after Egypt started exerting pressure? Or did we think we could fool our interlocutors with a couple of statements? Did we that they wouldn’t understand that they’d been fooled? The answer is unclear. Despite official statements from governors mentioning ‘consensus,’ there appears to be little to no consensus present when one of the ‘signatories’ comes up and denies it. Unfortunately, this is a foreign policy style we have seen carried out in recent years.

Our efforts to re-return to the Middle East via Egypt and Saudi Arabia are no secret. Before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, our stance was “What business do we have with the Arabs?” After the AKP, however, we were determined to “fully interfere with their domestic affairs.” As a result of this attitude, we could not maintain a healthy relationship with our neighboring countries, as we never had a seat at their table.

Our relations have not been sincere, even during the “What business do we have with the Arabs?” phase, but they were amicable towards us at least.

However, during the AKP rule, we have reached a new phase of contemporary civilization and our prosperity increased. After we reached this stage, we were ready to become the “little America” in our region. We thought we were the “SME of imperialism” in the Middle East. Of course, there were several requirements for this to happen. Was our own National Intelligence Organization (MİT) inferior to the CIA? We thought conducting ‘covert and overt operations’ may fit the bill in reaching this criterion.

When we barged into the Middle East with such intentions, we began to support the opponents of any administration we disliked. The list is quite long, but let’s focus on the Muslim Brotherhood Organization (Ihvan), which was causing problems with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. We selected Ihvan to focus our efforts on in order to hit three birds with one stone.

Thus, Turkey embarked on an adventure with Egypt, the giant of the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, which announced that they were negotiating to sell just 1 percent of the oil company ARAMCO shares for 19 billion dollars, and with the UAE, which has a per capita income of approx. 60,000 dollars. This adventure centered around our new lover: Ihvan.

Of course, Ihvan was not the only cause of problems with these countries. However, it is important to note that, aside from an ideological closeness to Ihvan, we placed our bet on Ihvan in our Egypt-Morsi, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria policies. To make matters worse, we downgraded ourselves to a place of having to use Ihvan as leverage.

Turkey used to have a semi-prestigious position in the region, even during the pre-AKP era. Unfortunately, we have come to our current situation as the result of squandering away our foreign policy and its instruments.

What were we after when we favored Ihvan during the Saudi, Egypt, UAE versus Qatar dispute? This erroneous policy came crashing down when Qatar began its normalization process with these three countries.
It recently became clear that normalization with the U.S. via President Biden is not on the table; therefore, we are running back to the trio in the Middle East with our tail between our legs. Since all three are now ‘once bitten twice shy,’ they now insist that Turkey, “Break ties with Ihvan first, and let us see concrete progress, and then we can sit at the table.” 

Ihvan members who attended meetings in Ankara recently insisted that they are “political refugees.” They also guaranteed that, “They will not do anything to endanger Turkey’s stability.”

Unless Turkey makes radical decisions regarding Ihvan and its members soon and implements them, it is not difficult to predict that this vicious circle will repeat itself in coming years. We will be confronted with the same demands in order to be able to re-return to the Middle East in the future.

The statements of Ihvan officials make us think that they were probably given some kind of a guarantee such as, “stay silent for a while, let things settle and then we’ll take care of it.” Their explanations suggest there is a hoax. Haven’t we learned our lesson? Foreign policy based on the assumption that we can fool the entire world is not sustainable.
Is linking the country’s foreign policy to Ihvan or regarding Ihvan as an essential partner in the Middle East in Turkey’s interest? Or is it the result of a religious whirlwind romance? When will this Ihvan love affair come to an end?