Perspectives this week from three Arab journalists on three countries in the region – Turkey, Iraq and Iran
The first, Ashraf Al-Barbari examines the price being paid by the people of Turkey due to the confrontational and reckless path of its long-serving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; the second, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed reveals how the protest movement in Iraq is not calling for a coup against the regime but for early elections to hold corrupt politicians accountable and ensure the rule of law; and the third, Ameel Amin, speculates that Iran – facing debilitating sanctions and weakened in leadership beset by internal disagreement – could face “collapse” unless it negotiates soon with the USA.
Lessons Learned from the Tyranny of Erdoğan
By Ashraf Al-Barbari
Al-Shorouq, Egypt, December 6
It seems as if the illusions from which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been suffering, have reached a new and unprecedented level. They now exceed the limits of perception. The man has redrawn his country’s map to unilaterally include many Greek islands. Determined by an obsession to recreate his country’s lost empire, he continued by signing an agreement with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj to draw a maritime border between the two countries, even though the two countries share virtually no water between them. Although the entire purpose of a border demarcation agreement is to make it publicly known to all, Erdoğan made sure that his agreement with Sarraj stayed secret – mostly because he understands, better than anyone else, that the paper on which it is written lacks any value, especially from the standpoint of international law.
This agreement is nothing more than new evidence indicating that Erdoğan’s long stay in power has transformed him from a successful prime minister with undeniable development experience in his early years to a despotic ruler leading his country to the abyss after he toppled his closest allies and advisers. The leaders of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party have paid the price for allowing Erdoğan to be transformed from a mere party leader whose term must not exceed two periods every four years to a lifelong leader. Erdoğan turned the party into his own political organization and toppled every leader who contested his authority. Now, the entire Turkish public is paying the price of allowing Erdoğan to stay in power for more than 16 years, whether as prime minister or president of the republic. In the past few years, Turkey found itself drowning in a sea of problems with virtually all of its neighbors, while the Turkish economy entered a freefall following years of stability and growth. Erdoğan’s transformation from a successful prime minister to a ruler haunted by paranoia and delusions was nothing but a direct, and possibly inevitable consequence of staying in power for too long. If the president had adhered to the rules of the democratic game and left his executive positions after eight years, Turkey would have perhaps continued on its path toward prosperity. Erdoğan is a living testament to the fact that power corrupts. In seeking to secure his own thrown, he manipulated the rules of the democratic game, overthrown his political partners and opponents, and corrupted his country.
Iraq Is in Great Danger
By Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 8
Iraq, which is looking to get out of its crisis, may very well turn into another Syria unless Iraqi politicians, parliamentarians and the military apparatus remedy the situation and block the way to the “third party.” Sadly, the campaign to target unarmed protesters is getting more violent and bloody with each passing day. This will eventually push the protesters to turn violent, themselves. The perpetrators of these brutal crimes, known as the third party, are Iran-backed militias that get their money and the salaries of their tens of thousands of militiamen from the Iraqi government.
Since the demonstrations erupted in early October, about 500 protesters have been killed and 20,000 others have been injured. The attack on demonstrators this past Friday was the boldest and most violent we’ve seen to date, as unknown militants killed about 50 people in Baghdad, while security services remained neutral. And because no one calls the killers by their name, even though it is a secret known to everyone, whether they are Asaib Al-Haq or other armed groups, organized violence will continue, and the Iraqi state will continue losing its grip over the situation. These militias dare to engage in confrontations because no one calls them by name, and there is no public warning against them, and they exploit their semiofficial status. They live on the government’s money while not abiding by its rules, despite attempts to tame it. And the army, the country’s official military force, is sitting on the sidelines without intervening. No one wants to see Iraq pushed toward complete chaos, but everyone is monitoring with concern how Tehran increases its grip over Iraqi state organs. In Iraq, Tehran sees an opportunity to overcome its serious financial crisis brought about by the American sanctions. What about those who are claiming that the Iraqi protests are an attempt to collapse the Iraqi political system and should, therefore, be suppressed? Unfortunately, those making these claims, trying to sow distrust in the protests, are the very same people who are forcefully trying to take over Iraq. As for the protesters, they are, in fact, strengthening the Iraqi political system because what they are demanding is change and reforms from within; not a coup against the regime. The protesters actually recognize state institutions. Their only demands are early elections, to hold corrupt politicians accountable, and ensure the rule of law. The third party, in contrast, want to crush the protests because they fear institutional change that would diminish their power. The protesters represent the power of the state and the opportunity of the Iraqi political system to finally reform itself. Therefore, protecting protesters means protecting the regime, and fighting against the killing of protesters means fighting against the killing of the modern Iraqi state.
Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
IRAN AND THE ESCAPE TO THE UNKNOWN
By Ameel Amin
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, December 6
Iran is still trying, in vain, to find a way out of the sanctions and its inevitable fate. But it failed yesterday, today, and will continue to fail tomorrow. Its leadership is failing to understand that its strategic recklessness does not improve its bargaining power; it only tightens the noose around its neck. Events of recent days suggest that the mullahs are anxious and confused, suffering from disagreements and contradictions even among themselves. This may be the reason why President Hassan Rouhani declared a few days ago that his country was ready to launch negotiations with the United States on a multilateral framework if Washington lifted the sanctions that it re-imposed on Iran. However, Trump resents the Iranians and, unlike his predecessor in office, is unwilling to make any gestures toward the mullah regime.
A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal drew attention to what US financial intelligence revealed – that the Iranian government is experiencing a crisis in foreign exchange reserves, a crucial indicator of the country’s ability to control economic forces and import supplies. This lack of foreign exchange reserves, the decline in oil exports, and the increasing trade deficit place Iran in greater economic distress than it was in 2013 – that is, before it signed the notorious agreement with the US in 2015.
Therefore, the immediate question is:
Will Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, drink from the cup of poison that was drunk by Khomeini the founder, and accept submission to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions?
Evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
Observers of Iranian affairs believe that Iran would rather ignite the whole region in its attempt to save itself. On Wednesday, Washington was talking about new evidence indicating that Iran was smuggling new weapons and forces into the Middle East, possibly indicating that it was planning for a possible attack. In this context, the American Politico website reported that the US government is planning to support the protests of the Iranian people in several ways, most notably by lifting the Internet ban in the country and by escalating the media campaign in support of the Iranian people. The Americans believe that the recent Iranian youth protests are a sign of the effectiveness of the intense American pressure campaign against Iran. If the Iranian people take to the streets, the mullah regime will have no choice but to continue burning its foreign reserves to save the economy. This will only expose it to further danger and potential collapse unless it comes to the table and negotiates with the United States.