Since Turkey announced starting normalization with the Egyptian government, restrictions on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Turkey have been escalating.
Ömer Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling AKP Party in Turkey, has indicated that the first step to normalize relations is the Turkish airlines getting back to operate flights to Cairo. Çelik’s announcement comes after months of negotiations between the Egyptian and Turkish governments. According to well-informed sources, these negotiations focused on several topics, the most important is the MB issue and its activities in Turkey. In addition, extraditing wanted persons back to Egypt and bringing all media campaigns targeting Egypt to an end have also been discussed.
New Era Announced by Erdoğan
Amr Abdel-Dayem, a researcher in international relations, points out that during the past few days, Turkey has openly announced dropping the support for the MB. He draws attention to the fact that the AKP government’s support for the movement came as a result of compatibility with Turkey’s interests at one point in time, not for the unity of belief and orientations between the two parties.
“Before the Arab Spring revolutions, it became clear that there were Turkish ambitions in the Arab region. These ambitions were notable by Turkey establishing distinguished relations with the ruling regimes in those countries, foremost the Syrian regime, the Qatari government, the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya. At that time, Turkey was out of the way of supporting the MB movement, but after the Arab Spring revolutions, the belief that the future would be supporting the MB has prevailed in Turkey. The matter that prompted Turkey to provide full support to the extremist group and try to dominate it by promoting an ideological unity that did not exist, at least for the Turkish side,” Abdel-Dayem also adds.
In addition, Abdel-Dayem points out that supporting MB now in light of the international and regional changes taking place, has become incompatible with Turkish interests, especially after realizing that it is impossible for the movement to rule in the Arab region. This credence has come after the the MB’s rule fall in Egypt and, then, in Libya, and now, in Tunisia. The MB failing to dominate the Syrian revolution has cemented the impossibilty of MB ever ruling. The researcher opines that Turkey’s practical interests and ambitions in the Arab region depend on building relations with the ruling authorities and not with the MB.
As for the new era in relations between Turkey and the Brotherhood, Abdel-Dayem considers that it has already begun, especially with the clear changes in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior, the Turkish President, after he unhanded the Rabia sign during the AKP Party conference, which was last Friday.
“What Turkey has done is offering the Brotherhood as a sacrifice for its interests in the Middle East and to improve relations with the Arab system, specifically Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which have been leading the front against Turkish influence in the Arab countries, especially with new leaders coming to power in many Arab countries that oppose the MB’s rule,” Hussein Ismail, a political analyst, says commenting on the Turkish actions against the MB. Ismail draws attention that the relationship between the two parties has always been based on dependency and never been one of an ideological alliance as presented.
Ismail also points out that it is not the first time that the Turkish regime has sold its allies in the region. At first, they sold Bashar al-Assad’s regime, who at one time was their very strong ally. This abandonment of al-Assad came after Ankara had believed that the Syrian revolution would overthrow him. The same happened to Gaddafi’s regime. The analyst shows that the nature of President Erdogan in particular is based on securing interests, even if they are at the expense of building new alliances internationally, regionally or even internally.
Moreover, Ismail thinks that the MB should have benefited from the lessons of recent past and realized that they will not be more important than the former partners of the Turkish president, such as Abdullah Gul, the former president, Ahmed Davutoglu, the former prime minister and Ali Baba Jan, the former Minister of Economy. Ismail stresses that the time of the Brotherhood for Erdogan has ended, at least with the continuation of their repeated defeats in the Arab countries, the last of which is Tunisia.
Relevantly, Turkish sources have indicated that the government prevented any meetings between Turkish officials and leaders of the MB residing on Turkish territory. As reported by the sources, some of movement’s leaders tried to renew their residency in Turkey or apply for citizenship, for fear of being handed over to the Egyptian government or deported outside Turkey.
The Qatari Experience and the Consequences of Gulf Reconciliation
Leaving the MB stranded is not related to the relations with Egypt only, according to what Husam Youssef, political analyst, sees. He indicates that Turkey is also seeking to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE by limiting the movement’s role.
Youssef considers that Turkey has been going through a period of political re-calculation for at least a year, especially with the change of the US administration this year and the arrival of Democrats to rule the White House, as well as the Gulf reconciliation and the return of Qatar to the Arab-Gulf trend. He points out that these developments have increased the Turkish awareness and opened their eyes to the fact that keeping support the Brotherhood would not serve the interests of the AKP government, particularly with the strained relations with the West and the United States and a decline in alliance with Russia.