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From Sisi to Houthi: The art of flirting with coups

A file photo dated July 31, 2013 shows a female protester supporting Mohammed Morsi holds a banner reading 'Against Military Coup' in Rabia Adaweya Square in Cairo, Egypt [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]
A file photo dated July 31, 2013 shows a protester supporting holding a banner reading 'Against Military Coup' in Rabia Adaweya Square in Cairo, Egypt [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Throughout his estrangement with Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan had considered it a principled and moral position to take. This was not merely a radical political stand-off between a country that had rid itself of a long and bitter legacy of military coups, and a military regime that seized power in 2013 through a violent coup accompanied by many allegations of crimes against humanity.

While Saudi Arabia refused to reach an understanding with the Houthi group in Yemen, it viewed this as a moral, national and legal position that developed into an Arab-Islamic military coalition against what was seen as an Iranian attempt to breach Arab security. Saudi Arabia mobilised regional allies in a war against this "sectarian coup" against the popular Yemeni revolution, the supreme interests of the Arab people and human values.

It was clear to those with insight and a degree of foresight that when this happened more than seven years ago Al-Sisi and Al-Houthi were the two sides of the counter-revolution coin that was popular in those days. There is no difference between them; if I were to call them Abdul-Malik Al-Sisi and Abdel Fattah Al-Houthi, it would not be too far from the truth. Hence, it is surprising that we are hearing groans about the Houthi attack against the outcomes of the Yemeni revolution from those who helped Sisi burn the nascent democracy created by the revolution in Egypt.

After events of the past eight years, and in light of the situations that arose during this time, it seems that what is happening is a figment of our imagination. Erdogan's Turkey is pushing enthusiastically for understandings, deals and reconciliation with Sisi's Egypt as part of a political process that takes many forms.

READ: Opposition TV channels in Turkey are giving Sisi's regime a major headache

The most prominent of these is the situation with the Egyptian TV channels which broadcast from Istanbul using rhetoric strongly opposed to Sisi's coup. They seemed to be an explicit expression of that strict moral, political and humanitarian approach which Erdogan had adopted towards military coups.

Now we see that these channels run by Egyptian opposition groups have to contend with Turkey opening up to Sisi's Egypt, and have been forced to adjust their editorial positions. From the outside, it seems as if this an inevitable consequence of the economic necessities in the eastern Mediterranean, where gas is the new king, replacing oil as the dominant factor in this part of the Middle East.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan flashes the Rabaa salute as he gives a speech during a meeting at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party headquarters in Ankara, on 20 August 2013. [ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images]

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan flashes the Rabaa salute as he gives a speech during a meeting at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party headquarters in Ankara, on 20 August 2013. [ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images]

The new impositions on the opposition channels are part of a process that is forcing them to change focus and become more about "entertainment" than politics. They are likely to lose viewers and fade into obscurity. The sympathetic public will be saddened by this, while the coup regime and its supporters in Egypt will gloat.

If you look at it through a 2013 lens, it appears to be a dispersal without violence, tear gas and blood. There were those who hoped that the revolution would live on with the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square, and put their hopes in political initiatives and mediations. However, as Mohammed ElBaradei said — he jumped ship early on from the coup, remember — the coup leader threw these initiatives out of the window.

Ultimately, it seems that Sisi has benefitted the most from what has happened. Ankara's enthusiastic openness to him can only be considered as a belated recognition of a fait accompli, with the Erdogan government granting his regime some legitimacy.

In Yemen, meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is doing the same thing by offering the Houthi coup a similar initiative, with much hope that the group will accept it. Eight years ago, this would have been a disgrace to the Kingdom, the Arabs and Muslims, but now Riyadh is awaiting the sectarian coup leader's agreement to the initiative it presented two days ago. This grants him legitimacy, recognition and acknowledgement, and the biggest and strongest share of the Yemeni cake.

It is true that Erdogan's Turkey declared that it is against all coups, and that it supports popular revolutions and democracy, and it is well-known that Saudi Arabia is against popular revolutions, supports tyranny and is categorically against democracy. However, the two positions meet here in a strange irony, in reconciliation with two coups, one of which is military and the other sectarian, after a long period of hostility.

The question here is simple. Can everything that is happening in front of and around us be considered as the end of the Arab Spring? In my opinion, the answer is no; but it may well be another beginning.

Turkish-Egyptian reconciliation: The prospects of success and of failure

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 24 March 2021

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

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AfricaArticleEgyptEurope & RussiaMiddle EastOpinionSaudi ArabiaTurkeyYemen
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