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  • Davutoglu in Tehran
    Fri, 06 January 2012
    Elias Harfoush

    How can we categorize the visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Tehran, compared to the role that Ankara has played, and still aspires to play, in its sponsorship of Arab uprisings?

    Davutoglu is the author of his country's "zero conflict" foreign policy, which has only led to more problems for his country and its closest neighbors, particularly Iraq, Syria and Iran. He is visiting Tehran, which has recently headed a group of countries opposed to the Turkish role in the region, which Tehran considers to be an extension of and implementation of the role of the west and its interests. This is because Tehran is dominated by the feeling that the "Neo-Ottomans" are trying to strip it of its aspiration to sponsor regimes that are being generated by the "Arab spring." Didn't the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Brigade describe these regimes, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, as "new Irans," paying tribute to what his leader, Sayyed Ali Khamenei, had said earlier, about the Arab uprisings being a copy, 30 years late, of the Iranian revolution?

    How can Davutoglu, then, arrive at a solution for this competition over leadership of the Arab revolutions by Ankara and Tehran, and of the regional role for both capitals? There is competition between those who consider the Arab uprisings a modernization of the practice of Arab Islamist parties, such as the AKP in Turkey, by adhering to a policy of pluralist democracy that respects rotation of power and gives value to clean elections, and those who see the fall of Arab regimes as a victory for the policy of resistance against "international injustice." Even though the latter belief hides the truth that the governments that arose recently in Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and Sanaa, have only worked on fixing their internal conditions, which does not prevent "analysts" of resistance from insisting on their "correct" opinion that the sun of western influence is moving toward decline in the Arab world.

    Davutoglu says that he is worried about a "sectarian cold war" in the region, or more specifically, one between Sunnis and Shiites. Based on his usual method of advancing "zero conflict," he is trying to divide up, with the Iranians, the task of extinguishing such a war. It is a noble objective, in principle. But if the Turkish foreign minister, who has good sight, looks around him, he will clearly see the reasons behind this war actually exist (and it is no longer cold, unfortunately). This could be in Iraq, where the supposed "national unity" waited for the Americans to depart before blood was spilled in the street. Or in Lebanon, where the Turks and the Qataris shared their sponsorship of an agreement that was aborted before it could bear fruit. Or in Syria, where Iran is embarrassed by the condemnation of the daily acts of killing committed by the regime, while Turkey's prime minister and foreign minister say they have given up hope that the Syrian regime can reform.

    This once again brings us to the question about what Davutoglu's visit to Tehran can achieve. Is there still a division of influence between these two capitals, after everything that has happened? Or is it merely a message that Turkey is fed up with Arab caution vis-à-vis the role that Ankara is playing in the Syrian crisis, and believes that an understanding with Tehran over a way out of this crisis might be more beneficial and realistic than an agreement with 22 Arab countries, each with its own options, interest and objectives?

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