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Turkish-Saudi relations and the Emirati lobby

January 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

The deterioration in relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia as a result of the military coup in Egypt was obvious for all to see. However, relations between the two countries have recently seen a noticeable development that led to a number of questions about the potential for a rapprochement between Ankara and Riyadh; improving relations and opening a new chapter.

One of these significant developments was the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attendance of the funeral of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz while Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi both stayed away. In addition, Ankara announced an official mourning period to mark the death of King Abdullah.

These developments coincided with important decisions that were made after Salman Bin Abdulaziz was made king. These included the appointment of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef as deputy crown prince and removing Khalid Al-Tuwaijri from the Saudi Royal Palace and stripping him of all his powers. This led many observers to breathe a sigh of optimism that Saudi foreign policy was about to change and that a new chapter was going to be opened in Turkish Saudi relations. They pray to God that this new reign will be guided to what God loves and is pleased with and that God will bestow upon King Salman a righteous entourage.

Should changes take place in this direction, they will undoubtedly be in the interest of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. They will also serve the best interest of the entire region. The two countries share mutual interests and visions and the two countries could complement each other in the roles they play in many issues. However, what both need is a decisive and firm position to protect them from the UAE lobby, which will definitely seek to derail this new approach just as it previously sought to spoil the kingdom’s relations with Turkey and Qatar.

As of late, Saudi Arabia – rather regrettably – appeared as if it was dragging right behind the UAE’s foreign policy. Abu Dhabi succeeded in embroiling Saudi Arabia in wars ignited by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed and pushing it to the forefront so as to exploit the kingdom’s heavy weight and hide behind it while confronting UAE adversaries.

The lobby consisting of Saudi journalists and writers, who reside in the UAE or outside it but work for it, played a significant role in achieving this success. However, the more serious thing has been the hijacking of concepts and sentiments and the exploitation by this lobby of the concept of “patriotism” turning it into a sword with which Saudi nationals were being threatened so that whoever amongst them criticised the boyish policies pursued by the UAE rulers would be accused of being “unpatriotic” and may even be charged with treason and dissension even if the criticism was meant to be of service to Saudi Arabia and even when the critic is a staunch lover of his or her country.

The UAE is opposed to the doctrine of monotheism upon which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded and it perceives this doctrine as a threat. No wonder, the UAE hosts preachers such as the Yemeni Al-Habib Ali Al-Jafri and the Iraqi Ahmad Al-Kubaysi who accused Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, may Allah have mercy on his soul, of being a “Jewish creation” but then withdrew his remarks and apologised. At the time when citizens are being imprisoned for simply expressing their opinions and when their nationalities are being rescinded, the UAE has provided a cover for this major insult to Saudi Arabia and its doctrine and has been content with Al-Kubaysi’s forced apology. He expressed regrets for his remarks after facing mounting pressure in the wake of a flood of protests.

The UAE lobby has also targeted the friends of Saudi Arabia in Turkey by stirring doubts and illusions and by blowing them out of proportion so as they appear to be real and imminent threats. Taha Genc, the advisor of the Turkish prime minister, was one of those targeted and those who were incited against. This lobby tried to portray the love this man harbours for the Saudi people and their leaders as if it were a crime and a matter that warrants suspicion and scepticism.

It is necessary for the Saudis to ask what would be the goal of targeting a man who grew up in the kingdom, it is where he studied and he loved it, both as a government and as a nation, and never uttered a single word of abuse against it? Who stands to benefit from inciting against him? They should also ask these Saudi journalists and writers who reside in the UAE or those who work for the Abu Dhabi crown prince if they are able to criticise the UAE if it turns out that its policies are harmful to Saudi Arabia? Or do they simply become deaf and dumb when Saudi Arabia is abused or ridiculed by elements belonging to the UAE? Or do they simply find excuses, explanations and justifications for these abusers?

Saudi Arabia, with all its weight and size, should not just drag behind the UAE and should not allow Mohammed Bin Zayed to use it to beat his foes. At the same time, the Saudi brothers should pay attention to the UAE’s dangerous penetration that may reach some very high levels. They ought to silence the UAE lobby and the UAE tools inside Saudi Arabia of demagogues, savages and bad eggs. They should simply be prevented from incitement and sowing the seeds of sedition. This would be necessary in order for the climate of optimism to prevail and in order to encourage further steps in the direction of repairing the damage inflicted upon Turkish-Saudi relations.

Translated from Arabi21 on 28 January 2015

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.