Voices from the Arab press: Erdogan is blackmailing Syrian factions

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

TURKEY-BACKED Syrian rebel fighters walk through a field of flowers in Idlib’s southern countryside, in Syria in April (photo credit: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS)
TURKEY-BACKED Syrian rebel fighters walk through a field of flowers in Idlib’s southern countryside, in Syria in April
(photo credit: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS)
ERDOGAN IS BLACKMAILING THE SYRIAN FACTIONS
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, May 14

I know that the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the dirtiest political movements of the modern era, using whatever means necessary to achieve its political goals, regardless of what is permissible and moral. However, even I did not imagine the extent to which it would be willing to go. Specifically, I’m referring to blackmailing and forcing militant factions to abide by the Brotherhood’s rule.
It goes without saying that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Brotherhood member through and through. Erdogan is working to achieve his Ottoman ambitions by restoring Turkey’s influence in Libya, with the hope of ultimately establishing a foothold in both Egypt and Algeria. At the same time, he knows that deploying Turkish troops to North Africa and incurring human losses will cause a political upheaval at home, which may threaten his regime. Therefore, he found an innovative way to pursue his ambition: recruit terrorist factions operating in Syria that have allied with Turkey in the battle over the country, and divert them to the Libyan battlefield. With the help of his intelligence services, Erdogan launched a blackmail campaign against leaders of these factions. He threatened that unless they carry out his wishes, he will personally ensure their demise.
Of course, those who know how dirty the Brotherhood plays will not be surprised. For Erdogan and his cronies, Islamism is just a means to consolidate power. None of these methods are new. Indeed, they are integral to the Brotherhood’s culture of deceit and betrayal.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s Government of National Accord, is one of Erdogan’s puppets. He is a Brotherhood member who will betray his country and sell its assets to the highest bidder, most likely with Erdogan’s help.
– Muhammad al-Sheikh
GERMANY’S OLD DISEASE IN DEALING WITH POLITICAL ISLAM
Al-Ittihad, UAE, May 13
A few weeks ago, the German government decided to designate the Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization after it was finally convinced that the oft-quoted claim that the party has two independent bodies – a political apparatus and a military apparatus – is nothing but a lie.
Germany, with its complicated laws and the nature of its political system, has often struggled at making these decisions. For example, it faced numerous challenges in outlawing organizations like al-Qaida and Islamic State despite witnessing a growing presence of these groups’ personnel in its territory.
Almost two years ago, I received a generous invitation from Abu Dhabi’s Hedayah Center, which focuses on countering violent extremism, to a symposium on extremism held in Berlin. The symposium was attended by ministers, journalists and researchers from Germany and the Arab world. One of the central topics was Germany’s problem with outlawing Islamic fundamentalism. It was clear to me, as one of the presenters, that the German officials in attendance were not too moved by the warnings they heard in that room. Instead of putting this item on the top of their country’s political agenda, the officials seemed to brush it off. Indeed, Germany has previously taken steps against terrorism and extremism, but these moves have always been very cautious and too late.
Therefore, the decision pertaining to Hezbollah is groundbreaking. Does this mean that Germany is finally adopting a new approach to dealing with these radical groups? It is difficult to claim that Germany and its historical acceptance of political Islam groups has come to an end simply because of the Hezbollah decision. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Let’s not forget that some of the most monumental leaders of the heinous September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States worked, planned and executed their plan out of Germany. Muslim minorities in Germany are a thorny political issue. A search of Results Web shows that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, was among the first to make use of Germany’s Turkish minority to wield political power over Europe. Germany has been the money-laundering capital of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah for years.
Undoubtedly, the influx of Syrian refugees into Germany in recent years has brought this issue to the fore. This demographic change may have inspired the German authorities’ reawakening on this issue. Every designation of political Islam groups, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, as terrorist organizations is a correct step. The German step is certainly no exception to this rule.
– Abdullah bin Bajad al-Otaibi
WILL AL-KADHIMI SAVE IRAQ?
Asharq al-Awsat, London, May 13
The winds blowing out of Baghdad suggest a spirit of change. For example, a giant mural of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was removed from a wall at the airport where he was assassinated. Similarly, Iraqi security forces last week raided the headquarters of the Revenge of God Party in Basra, which is openly loyal to Iran and has been threatening Iraqi and American targets.
These changes are owed to one individual: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s newly appointed prime minister.... The majority of Iraqi parties, as well as regional powers, the United States and Russia, agree that Baghdad finally has a leadership that can be dealt with. And Kadhimi’s rise to power in Iraq coincides with the start of the countdown toward the American elections, whose results will decisively affect Iran and the region’s relations with it, including the Gulf.
Kadhimi’s most difficult task is to save Iraq from Iran, which is seeking to take control over its neighbor, as well as push his country away from the perils of an American-Iranian conflict.
Recent months haven’t been quiet in Iraq. After the Americans revealed Iran’s intention to wreak political havoc in Baghdad, they quickly assassinated Iran’s most prominent military leader, Soleimani. This was followed by an escalation of protests against the American military presence in Iraq.
Shortly after Kadhimi was elected prime minister, the US government announced its agreement to allow Iraq, as an exception, to purchase oil from Iran to cover its energy needs. It is, in fact, an enticement for the Iranians to curb their activities in Iraq in exchange for oil dollars.
Like his predecessors Haider al-Abadi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Prime Minister Kadhimi faces significant challenges. Iran has managed to infiltrate almost every corner of Iraq’s security, military and religious institutions. There are growing sectarian and religious rifts in the country. Corruption is widespread. And government deficits have multiplied with the collapse of oil prices.
Kadhimi needs to quickly establish public confidence in his government and ensure that parliament cooperates with him to meet the demands of demonstrators on the streets. He must also establish quick control over militias and the military institutions.
But what makes Kadhimi well poised to confront these challenges is that, unlike his predecessors, he rose to power without establishing clear enemies. His relations with all political stakeholders, including warring parties, are good. This will allow him to move forward over the next few months, leveraging his relationships to establish a political coalition that can help get Iraq out of the long impasse it has been confronting.
The prospect of Iraq rehabilitating itself under the guidance of a new premier is exciting. It gives hope for the rest of the Middle East, which is experiencing unrest unlike anything it has witnessed for decades. Overcoming Iraq’s crisis will help the region itself to step out of its chaos.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb
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