Will Turkey's mending Arab ties break its regional isolation? - opinion

The mistakes of Turkish policy are reflected in its trade levels and important economic interests with Arab countries.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, December 14, 2020 (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, December 14, 2020
 There have been recent hints of diplomatic or intelligence contacts between Egypt and Turkey, which highlight a number of issues, regardless of the limits and objectives of these contacts (on the Turkish side, of course).
Chief among these issues is the party that pushes for resolution and for things to happen. That would be the Turkish side, which had caused relations to flounder between the two regional powers in the first place.
Turkey has come to realize that the risk of losing relations between nations in order to satisfy the “Brotherhood” is not in its interest, as it pigeonholed itself in a tight regional and international cage.
It can no longer maneuver and achieve its trade and economic interests in this hostile environment of its own creation. The mistakes of Turkish policy are reflected in its trade levels and important economic interests with Arab countries.
I am very much of the opinion that Turkey’s quest for regional repositioning is mainly aimed at breaking out of the imbroglio it got into thanks to unwarranted military interventions beyond its capabilities and limits of comprehensive power. It is a way to achieve this goal by trying to remedy the rifts that have affected Arab-Turkish relations – with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Cairo’s reservations about Turkey’s behavior and its alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood terror organization are shared by other countries in the region, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Turkey’s moves to harm the interests of three Arab states have not achieved any of their objectives.
The truth is that throughout his political career, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been known to jettison his own political and partisan allies and friends. It is enough that his closest allies and companions have turned into foes on the political and partisan scene (mainly Abdullah Gul and Ahmet Davutoglu, his fellow founders of the Justice and Development Party).
This is a genuine manifestation of his orientation, in which his defenders see a kind of pragmatism. His detractors, on the other hand, see it as a genuine expression of political opportunism. In any case, it is not so much the classification of the behavior that interests us as its content and implications.
In the end, politics is not just about labels, but about behaviors and the long quest for interests. Certainly, the current world order and geopolitics in its current form no longer recognize the classic strategic alliance model. New models of evolving tactical alliances have emerged.
These can bring antagonists together based on the issues and strategic interests that bring states together. One might see an alliance between two states on one issue, antagonism between those same states on another issue, and so on. Examples of this would be the quite complex relations between Turkey, Iran and Russia.
There is agreement on issues such as Syria and deep differences on others, such as Iraq for Turkish-Iranian relations, and Libya for Turkish-Russian relations. It is true that Erdogan’s Turkey has been late in discovering that its loyalty to the “Brotherhood” has grown to be a heavy burden.
Ankara’s bet on using it as a pawn to dog some influential Arab capitals no longer pays off. Ankara’s losses have become heavy and unacceptable for the Turkish people. The people have lost interest in Erdogan’s policies over time.
This is due to the decline in internal economic performance and the policies that have plunged the country into external conflicts and isolation, which have dented Turkey’s reputation in Arab societies over the past two decades, especially at the cultural level. I do not believe in political inertia.
Politics is about dynamism, maneuvering and being able to achieve and secure national interest through various gates. I am not inclined to belittle Turkey’s so-called courtship of Egypt, Saudi Arabia or the UAE. The important thing is not what’s said, but what’s done.
What matters is that Turkey works to undo the causes of its regional isolation, to create the right conditions and remove the bones of contention in order to open a new page in Arab-Turkish relations. This is the litmus test for Erdogan, not the declarations, albeit important for a good climate.
Turkish foreign policy may or may not have undergone some revision. Some observers are confident that there are moves to return to Davutoglu’s “zero problems” policy. This policy has been the driving force behind Turkey’s economic rise in the G20.
Similarly, Turkish signals expressing a desire to restore relations with Arab states may or may not reflect a strategic direction or constitute a temporary tactical shift. In any case, to know what is behind all this, one needs to know to what extent Turkish policies have really changed and whether this change is a lasting one.
Indeed, Turkey’s strategic interests, especially with regard to gas from the Eastern Mediterranean, and deteriorating relations with Arab countries have become strong selling points for the opposition against the AKP and Erdogan.
The president understood that Turkey’s room for maneuver was limited against Arab regional powers he believed could be easily pressured and influenced to achieve his party’s goals and leanings, not the Turkish state’s interests. 
In the end, it is worth remembering that in politics as a whole, nothing is constant. The only constant is change. The interests of nations rule. There is nothing surprising in any signals that reflect changes in the policy of a country, whether it is Turkey or other countries, in their relations with the Arab world.
What matters most is the extent to which this change is consistent with the objectives and interests of Arab countries and nations, and whether it is a real transformation in the political thinking and approach of Erdogan and Co.
The author is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.