Saudi Crown Prince Angers Turkish Islamists
Turkey’s pro-government media is livid over remarks about Turkey reportedly uttered by Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent Muhammed Bin Salman.
According to the Egyptian media, Salman, who was visiting Cairo this week, characterized Turkey, Iran, and Qatar as the region’s “devil’s triangle” for their support of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups.
News that Riyadh and Tel Aviv are inching towards better ties to counter the threat they perceive from Iran had already angered Turkey’s Islamists.
The fact that Salman is said to have uttered his remark in Cairo poured more fuel on this anger.
It is no secret that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and their Islamist support base loath Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al Sisi because he undid the Muslim Brotherhood.
Both Riyadh and Cairo have declared the Brotherhood, which is much admired by Turkish Islamists, to be a terrorist organization.
Ankara’s desire to establish better ties with Riyadh has acted as a stop-valve against overt expressions of animosity towards Saudi Arabia among government supporters, but this may be changing.
We don’t really know what Salman actually said in Cairo, but Yeni Safak, the “flagship” of Turkey’s Islamist media, took the words attributed to him as true and wasted no time in its attacks.
Ibrahim Karagul, the papers firebrand Editor in Chief, accused the Crown Prince of being a tool of a west that is out to destroy Islam, which, according to Karagul, Turkey is trying to prevent with all its might.
“You need Turkey, you cannot do without Turkey. You will come to understand this in a few years, Mr. Prince.” Karagul intoned, issuing what he clearly wanted to sound like a prophetic warning.
Extrapolating from what we already know about Riyadh’s obsession with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, it is not inconceivable that Salman uttered the words attributed to him.
Saudi Arabia clearly sees Turkey as an unwelcome interloper in the Middle East, a fact exemplified by its low-level attendance at the Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference in Istanbul in December, called for by Erdogan to discuss Jerusalem.
The recent ban on popular Turkish television serials by the Saudi owned MBC network also angered Ankara.
“It is not a couple of politicians who are supposed to decide who will watch which movies or shows from their desks,” Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Al Jazeera.
These are odd remarks, of course, from a minister whose own government is trying hard to restrict what people read, say or watch, but that is beside the point here.
The point is that the assumption that just because a country is Islamic and Sunni, it will fall in line with Turkey’s regional designs has proved to be seriously flawed.
This has been the rock on which many of Ankara’s ships have foundered in the Middle East. No doubt we will see more of this up head as Turkey attempts to carve a leading role for itself in the Middle East, where it is clearly not as welcome as it presumes.