Turkey versus Egypt: A boxing rivalry

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York

(President Erdogan addressing the U.N. General assembly.  Photo via Reuters)

This year, the UN General Assembly became the new boxing arena for two Middle-Eastern rivals, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Both threw punches. The UN encounter highlighted the still acrimonious relationship between Turkey and Egypt. Despite Sisi’s oppressive policies toward opponents, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian President emerged after his trip to New York less damaged and less isolated than his Turkish nemesis Erdogan.

In his UN General Assembly address, Turkish President Erdogan spoke of the ‘murder of democracy” in Egypt. He added, “The United Nations as well as the democratic countries have done nothing but watch events, such as the overthrow of an elected president in Egypt, and the killings of thousands of innocent people who want to defend their choice. And the person who carried out this coup is being legitimized.” Later, the Turkish President refused to attend a luncheon hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the General Assembly in New York when he learned he would be seated at the same table as the Egyptian leader. Erdogan continued with harsh remarks in his keynote address to the World Economic Forum in Istanbul on Sunday, and questioned the legitimacy of the Egyptian government.

Although it is understandable that the Turkish President’s default position is primarily anti-coup, his approach is problematic to say the least. His criticism was not directed only toward Egyptian leadership, but also toward the rest of the world that has not joined in his hostile policy toward Egypt. This moralistic, rigid approach is counter-productive and unlikely to win Erdogan empathy or sympathy from other world leaders. Turkish leadership has consistently ignored the fact that other countries may judge its foreign policies based on their own strategic interests, and they do not need a Turkish parent to teach them what they should or should not do. Furthermore, world leaders are expected to have a minimum level of maturity when handling trivial issues such as lunch seating in a public gathering as with the luncheon at the UN.

Unlike Erdogan, other world leaders have opted for a less confrontational policy with Egyptian President Sisi. They met with him, but equally raised concerns about freedom and human rights in Egypt ___ a balanced approach between interests and principles that the Turkish leader has, unfortunately, failed to mimic.

In contrast, Egypt has played its cards well. Before the UN meeting, it invited Turkey to the Gaza reconstruction conference due to be held in October. This move positioned Egypt as pragmatic and willing to put aside its differences with Turkey for a greater cause. It then leaked news that Turkey requested a meeting between its FM and the Egyptian FM, which created the perception that Turkey was the one reaching out to Egypt and not the other way round. Later, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry responded harshly to Erdogan’s speech: “There is no doubt that the fabrication of such lies and fabrications is not something strange that comes from the Turkish president, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through support for groups and terrorist organizations.” It responded on Monday to Erdogan’s Istanbul comments, saying that the Turkish president is “not in a position to give lessons to others about democracy and respect for human rights and appoint himself the guardian of them.”

Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry cancelled a bilateral meeting requested by Turkey in response to Erdogan’s speech. Again, that gave the impression that Egypt was the one calling the shots; not Turkey.

The smartest move, however, came from Egyptian President Sisi who declined to snap back at Turkey. Instead, he opted for a more subtle counterpunch: “When I was young and was hit by those older than me, I used to say “I’ll grow bigger and hit you[back]’.” Sisi’s remarks did not just appeal to his Egyptian domestic audience; it gave the outside world the impression of a calm, composed leader, not willing to dignify angry emotions with a heated response.

Although Erdogan is proud of his Ottoman heritage, he forgets how the Ottoman Sultan AbdulMecid I in 1854 put aside his differences with Egypt’s Mohamed Ali family when he faced Russia in in the Crimean war. Egyptian leadership at the time responded positively and sent 40,000 soldiers to fight beside the Ottoman army. Those soldiers were neither loyal servants to the Ottoman Sultan, nor believers of the Ottoman Caliphate; however, they fought as a professional disciplined army that served the interests of both Egypt and Turkey.

Currently, both countries, Egypt and Turkey, face a common threat of extremism from radical groups such as the Islamic State (ISIL), and others. This is a good reason to put ideologies and differences aside and focus a common enemy. Erdogan, however, is still ambiguous about handling the radicals and is unwilling to put aside his patronage of political Islam. He is grudgingly holding onto his differences with other Arab states such as Egypt. These actions make it difficult to develop a coherent policy to fight radicalism in the Middle East.

Semih Idiz is right to predict that it is unlikely in the coming period that Erdogan will change tactics on Egypt, and Turkish-Egyptian ties will remain in the doldrums for the foreseeable future. It is unlikely that the Lebanese Prime Minister’s offer to mediate between the two leaders will yield positive results. Nonetheless, the big loser will not be Egypt, but Turkey. The difference between Erdogan and Sisi is more than just how they came to power, but how each conducts himself after gaining power. While Erdogan allows his ideological dogma to dominate his actions, Sisi is willing to paint a pragmatic image, at least on foreign policy, to conceal his own dogmatic zeal.

Every day, the Egyptian President seems to solidify his grip on power. His opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood, does not seem to gain much from Erdogan’s moralistic stance. Istanbul host its cadres after their dismissal from Qatar, nonetheless, they need more than a new base and moral support to regain their popularity inside Egypt. Sadly, part of the Brotherhood tragedy is the inability of their patron, Turkish President Erdogan, to understand that his preaching style will lead to his isolation, which will do them more harm than good.

Posted in Egypt, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 39 ( Sept 22- 28)

Sisi in UN

(Egypt’s El-Sisi speaks at the United Nation General Assembly, photo via AP)

Main Headline

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

Video

Plus:

 Poll

  • Baseera: 82% of Egyptians approve of Sisi’s performance in first 100 days

 Photo Gallery

Finally, Jayson Casper is back with his prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey and the US led anti-IS coalition: Ankara is doing more than People Think

nervana111:

Few interesting thoughts from Aaron Stein. I find this side note very important:
“Davutoglu thinks the term “radical Islam” is an orientalist construction used to justify US/Western intervention in the region to advance their interests. These interests, he argues, are incongruent with Turkey’s”

Originally posted on Turkey Wonk: Nuclear and Political Musings in Turkey and Beyond:

My apologies. I am traveling this week and don’t have time to write a proper post. However, I wanted to get a few thoughts on paper about Turkey’s role in the US led anti-IS air campaign in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s policy vis-à-vis ISIS has always been relatively clear. Ankara has not supported the group and has thought of it as a terror organization for 1.5 years. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, for example, has criticized Sayyid Qutb’s ideology and believes that his understanding of Islam is incorrect. Davutoglu, who is the architect of Turkish foreign policy, argues that Qutb’s understanding of Islam is too heavily influenced by Western political theories. These theories, he argues, are incongruent with the concept of Dar al Islam, which is a  better source of political legitimacy in the Arab/Muslim world. Thus, any suggestions that the AKP supports IS because of an overlap in religious points…

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Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 38 ( Sep 15 – 21)

Main Headlines

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Sunday

 Best Reports

Good Read

Poll

Interview

Plus

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The myth of Sisi’s Sinai proposal

 

Sisi: abbas

(Photo via Cairo Post)

Initially published in Al-Monitor

A few days ago, a claim surfaced that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered to give part of the Sinai Peninsula to the Palestinians to expand the Gaza Strip and create a state. It was also claimed that the Palestinian president had rejected the Egyptian offer.

In fact, the claim is a farce — it never existed. Anyone with a basic understanding of the Egyptian psyche and current dynamics will reach this same conclusion. The proposal, however, reflects the new reality that has emerged after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza that ended with an open-ended cease-fire deal. This inconclusive end of the war highlights a new reality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is characterized by no peace, no victory and no guarantees for any long-term period of calm. Within this atmosphere of uncertainty, everyone is bound to feel stuck, and rumors can be considered legible.

Continue reading here

Posted in Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Politics, Sinai | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ISIS recruitment in Turkey

nervana111:

Interesting piece that is worth reading

Originally posted on turkeyetc:

Sahin Aktan005

Şahin Aktan keeps a file to help him in his hunt for his ex-wife Svetlana, who took their three-year-old son Destan to live under ISIS rule in Syria’s Raqqa province in July. (Photograph by Fatih Pinar).

Last Friday Newsweek published an article by Alev Scott and I about recruitment by ISIS—the self-styled ‘Islamic State’—in Turkey, which has received substantial attention in the Turkish press.

We weren’t the first to write on this issue, and several other publications have run great stories on it in recent weeks. One of the most notable was Emily Feldman’s excellent article for Mashable, which examined ISIS recruitment in a single neighbourhood of Ankara, and goes into more detail than our own piece, in particular looking at the perception among many that they will enjoy a ‘better life’ under ISIS.

Feldman interviewed a man who has apparently spent time in Syria’s ISIS-controlled Raqqa province and intended to take his family…

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Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 37 ( Sept 8- 14)

 

Hunger strike

(Egyptian Journalists denouncing the Protest law, Photo via Lobna Monieb)

Main Headlines

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 Good reports

Good Read

 Plus

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Power outage in Egypt, a burning memory from the past

 

Power outage

The pain was excruciating, the darkness daunting. The combination was too much for an 11-year-old girl. I cannot remember exactly how that night started, but I will always remember how it ended. The nightmare began when I accidentally dropped a pot full of boiling water, severely scalding my upper legs and the lower part of my abdomen. To add insult to injury, a power cut followed that delayed the emergency treatment I required. Although I have never forgotten this incident, Egypt’s current electricity crisis has inadvertently triggered a flashback.

 Later in the hospital, the plastic surgeon rightly pointed out that the neighboring pharmacist who had applied a dressing had made a classical error. The last thing you should do to a scalding burn is to wrap it with a dressing. The surgeon had to unwrap the dressing, which was firmly attached to my swollen and inflamed skin, and peel the dead skin away. The standard at that time was to perform this procedure without anesthesia or any form of pain relief. The procedure, punctuated by my relentless screams, lasted a full 96 minutes, according to a giant wall clock that glared down on me. Words are not enough to describe my ordeal, but I survived it, and was later discharged home___ to another power cut.

 Pain and darkness are a terrifying and almost unbearable combination. Fortunately, however, the pain became more tolerable over the next few days, and the random power cut was an event that distracted my attention from my wounds. But my real savior was my little transistor radio, which broadcast news from channels around the globe. Each one taught me something new, and allowed my hyperactive mind to grasp two words: perspective and spin. In short, my recovery days served as my introduction to the world of politics.

 Moreover, the random power cut became fun. Darkness made the noisy Cairo streets quieter; no loud TV from my neighbors’ houses, or kids bickering in the streets. Then there was, of course, the loud cheer when the electricity came back on, as if the whole neighborhood had won the lottery. Looking back, it was not such a bad experience. I learned a lot and it shaped my life in a way that might not have happened otherwise.

My mother and I (like many Egyptians) developed a plan to cope with power outage; candles, matches, dried food, batteries, and a prompt defrost of the fridge ___ a tenacious plan to maintain a kind of normality. Interestingly, there was no revolt or resentment among the public. Admittedly, the problem eased off a bit later, although it never disappeared.

 However, more recently, Egypt’s energy crisis has become worse. A combination of negligence, chaos, abuse of the system, and chronic lack of investment has compounded the existing problem. This reached grave proportions on September 4, when Cairo and other cities and regions in Egypt experienced an unprecedented power outage.

 Thus far, the government has remained tight-lipped about the damages and consequences of the outage. Undoubtedly, there must be a loss of production times, damage to equipment, destruction of products, and additional maintenance costs. It is also easy to imagine the health impact on hospitals and patients. Generators in Egypt are poorly maintained and may not start promptly after the power cut. The lack of accountability in Egypt prevents us from properly assessing the damage. Furthermore, one important aspect that tends to be largely ignored is the psychological impact a chronic power outage has on people, particularly children. Instability and unpredictability can interrupt children’s thinking processes, rattle them deeply, and negatively influence their studies and progress at school.

 Exacerbating the situation is the fact that in the age of high-speed internet, games and mobile phones, people have become increasingly dependent on electricity for their daily routine. As a child, I was content with my simple radio; the younger generations of today are not; their expectations are higher. As Akram Ismail has rightly mentioned, after the January 25, 2011 uprising, Egyptians have had less patience with the failures of state services and have demanded change.

 If we exclude those who approved of the ousting of ex-President Morsi, Egyptians are roughly divided into two groups: an older generation that is willing to give President Sisi some time to address Egypt’s domestic woes, and a younger generation that is more angry and frustrated, who demand accountability. Many youth do not believe the current government is capable of implementing an innovative approach to the energy crisis.

 Egypt needs solar panels, smart meters, and, more importantly, a new motivated management team that can implement the right changes. In a special televised speech, President Sisi appealed for patience over power cuts. The question, however, is: Can the public remain patient, and for how long?

 If the January 2011 revolution can teach us anything, it is how revolution succeeds only when it can unite the nation’s various generations. This energy crisis can inflict deep burning wounds that can bridge the age gap and turn many Egyptians against their leadership. What Sisi needs to do now is what my surgeon did with my wounds years ago, peeling the dead skin off to allow fresh healing to start. A process that can be rough and painful. However, unless Sisi can do a good, comprehensive job, the much-required healing process will never start, and unimaginable knock-on effects may happen in the near future.

 In a way, I was lucky the burns happened at a relatively young age. Healing was fast; the burns left no scars. Egypt, however, suffers from several deep wounds that can leave it scarred for a long time. The leadership has a colossal task; a complicated surgical process that needs meticulous handling. Egyptians can put-up with a short-term agony, but it is unlikely they will tolerate chronic, enduring torture.

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Middle East | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 36 ( Sep1- 7)

Sisi after power outage

(Sisi speaks after major power outage – AFP Photo )

Main Headlines

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 Good reports

 Good read

 Plus: 

Interview

  • ‘Building a strong parliament essential for bringing about normalised democracy’: Nick Harvey

Video

Photo Gallery

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Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 35 ( Aug 25- 31)

 

Ahmed Seif

 

(Cartoon about the late human right defender Ahmed Seif, via klmty)

Main Headlines

 Monday

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Wednesday 

Thursday

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 Good report

Good read

And

 Plus:

Photo Gallery

Poll:

Baseera’s latest poll claim 82 % of Egyptians approve of El-Sisi performance

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment