Turkey’s recent thawing of relations with long-time rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is indicative of the Orwellian nature of diplomatic relations in the Middle East, U.S.-based New Lines Magazine said in an editorial published on Monday.
The case of Turkey is not unique, New Lines said, but instructive in how autocrats in the Middle East control popular opinion and have the ability to shift long-held perspectives relatively quickly.
Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE were severed after the Arab Spring along sharp ideological lines when Turkey emerged as a pro-revolutionary power supporting political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. The disagreements between Ankara on the one hand and Riyadh and Abu Dhabi on the other, found the countries on opposite sides of the conflicts in Libya and Syria. But the countries in recent months have stepped up efforts to seeking normalization of relations amid rising regional uncertainties and economic insecurities.
Until not too long ago, the propaganda against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was so pervasive in the region that the country became a “regional pariah except in Qatar and among the Syrian opposition, which Ankara continued to support,” it said.
States in the Middle East have the ability to impose “top-down revolutionary cultural, political and social change that instantly transforms (at least on the surface) attitudes about festering problems that have shaped people’s worldviews for decades, often their whole lives,” it said.
Just over a year ago Erdoğan blamed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In retaliation for Turkish allegations, Riyadh imposed an unofficial boycott on goods from Turkey. Fast forward to year later and the countries had agreed to improve ties following constructive discussions.
Following a decade of tensions, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates signed investment deals in November worth billions of dollars, including in energy, after talks between Erdogan and now UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Earlier this month, the countries discussed cooperation in the defence industry and military training,
In the Middle East, “bygones will be bygones because the leaders of the states have willed it,” New Lines said.