13 September 2011

Two Hints About The Future

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is in Egypt.

He was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds and his speech was carried live on TV. He has just addressed the League of Arab Nations and his trip will cover all three countries that experienced regime change, namely Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Clearly, this is a show of force on the part of Turkey, claiming not only the Middle East but North Africa within its zone of influence. Even Somalia was not too far away for Erdogan. If the term Muslim Brotherhood was not taken (and somewhat tainted) he would have claimed it. As Al Arabiya News reported:
Egypt has traditionally seen itself as the leading diplomatic player in the Arab region. But its position has been eroded by wealthy Gulf countries, such as Qatar, and lately overshadowed by Turkey, with its fast expanding economy.
What was interesting (and what prompted me to comment on it) was this:
He told the Arab League that before the year's end "we will see Palestine in a very different situation".

Sure, this could be bluster on his part. Or it could be a reference to Palestinian application to UN for the recognition of its statehood.  But his statement went beyond the UN application.

Or it could be that my hypothesis was correct and there will be a Palestinian state in the near future and Israel is in on this. The only way for such a fast timetable to work is for Israel to announce before the UN application that it will start talks with Palestinians towards a recognition of their statehood.

So, after this hint I began wondering if Israel is getting ready to make that gesture. When you think about it, it has nothing to lose and everything to gain from it. By acknowledging the validity and legitimacy of Palestinian statehood Israel would be getting in front of a situation it has no hope of controlling. After all, nobody has much control over the tumultuous General Assembly, it is not the cozy Security Council.

It would also place them on a better negotiating posture. You can ask for more things if you were not coerced into negotiations but asked for them yourself. It would make life easier for Tantawi and his efforts to keep the Cold Peace in place. And it would make Erdogan both the wise old man and the alpha dog of the region. And if the whole thing was a kabuki theater, that would be a good thing.

Domestically, it would be an easy sell for Netanyahu. After all, the General Assembly was going to go for it, why not stop the process, right? And what do we have to gain from enraging Arab crowds, as we saw in Cairo? Plus the security expenditures are killing us, as you people have been saying, we need peace, for god's sake.

In other words, he does not have to let anyone know Israel was in on it, he acts like a statesman (a role I am told by Israeli friends, he would relish)

But, and it is a big one, for that too happen (that last statement about "we need peace" to ring true to ordinary Israelis) Syrian situation will have to be sorted.

Enter the second hint:
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he was concerned Syria could slip into civil war and that he wanted to deepen Ankara's ties with Egypt, in an interview published by an Egyptian newspaper on Tuesday during a visit to Cairo.

"I fear that matters will end in civil war between the Alawites and the Sunnis," Erdogan told the Al-Shorouk newspaper in an interview that marked the start of his visit to Egypt.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has sent tanks and troops to quell months of protests against his rule, is from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. Most Syrians are Sunni Muslims.
The timing of the statement is interesting as is the location. Why give this interview in Egypt, just before you talk to the Arab League?

More importantly, if you Google it you will see it has been picked up by a lot of media outlets (my link is to Vancouver Sun, come on, what are the odds?).

I read this as the end game for Assad. He sends his tanks again to some small town and they will cry that it is a civil war.

Remember what the Security Council did last time someone cried civil war? Hint: you can ask Qaddafi.

You could say that Russia would never allow another similar resolution. My response would be, they would if Turkey asks for it.

I will explain another time why that would be the case.

In the meantime, I am genuinely curious how this will play out.

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