Erdogan’s Visit to Saudi Arabia: A Game Changer in Regional Politics?

Muhammad Zawawy 1004 Gösterim

The “biological change” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the death of the late monarch King Abdullah, combined with various factors may bring about a new regional politics that could transfer the shape of the Middle East.

A number of signals came out from the house of Saud and also from the region can be translated into a change in the course of the foreign policy of the kingdom. Maybe the most important of which was the statement of Prince Saud Al Faisal, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, that the problem with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is not with the ordinary affiliates, but with those who gave homage to the Murshid (the leader) of the MB. That was followed by talks with Islah Party of Yemen, which is related to the MB, after the coup of the Houthis and their control of the presidential palace in Sana.

The planned visit of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Saudi Arabia in the coming days shows that there is a thaw in the relations between the two regional powers, and an opening in the regional puzzle may be available at last, with cooperation insight the files of combating Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and confronting the rise of Shiite militancy in the region supported by Iran. There were leaks as well about a dialogue between Obama and King Salman in the funeral of the late king about engaging MB in dialogue and retreat from labeling them as terrorist group, as US doesn’t see them as such.

What also supports the hypothesis of change in the Saudi course is the media campaign erupted in Egypt against King Salman from the propaganda apparatus of the current Egyptian regime, wailing about the coming change in foreign policy of Saudis after king Abdullah, among them TV anchors and writers known to be close to the intelligence apparatus in Egypt, which indicates a negative change in the relations between the two regimes, especially after sacking Khalid al-Tuwaijri, the Secretary General of the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah, and also other members of the inner circles of the past king who architected the Egyptian coup with other regional players like the UAE. The new crown prince Muhammad Bin Nayef is also known for his good relations with Turkey, as the new king himself, who visited Turkey in May 2013, and expressed his intention to consolidate the good relations with turkey.

From a pragmatic point of view, Saudis may see changing course as imperative, given the dire situations in its four fronts: the rise of the Iran influence in the east, ISIS threat in the north, Houthis rise in the south, and the high cost of sustaining and supporting the Sisi regime in the west. Even inside the kingdom, there are voices that ask for corrections in the current course and of the universal vision of the kingdom in order to cope with the current threats and challenges, as money and oil can’t buy loyalty and stability for ever, especially in the era of social media and the rising power of the people that connecting them and their thoughts with their counterparts around the globe.

Maybe Turkey can work as a catalyst in this process, with the ethical role of its president and its policy toward various issues of the region, starting from its attitude against the Egyptian coup, to resisting the rising tide of sectarian politics and struggles in the region. In this context, the visit of the Turkish President to Saudi Arabia may present a new era in the regional politics, that may give birth to a new formula of political Islam and its role in current affairs, which in turn needs the right signals come from the MB that Turkey harbor number of its main cadres, to find a solution to the regional dilemma and the right formula of reengaging them in social and political arena once again.

There is no silver bullet to the long rooted problems of the region on the political, social and economic levels, but at least we can start enacting a right path to a better future for all, and that may begin in the next visit of Turkish President to Saudi Arabia, as we hope.

Muhammad Zawawy

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Muhammad Zawawy

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