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17 November 2011


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Jim Ticehurst

Interesting Read...Thanks...How does this Play with Turkey and The Kurds...and any Influence in the New Iraq..?

William P. Fitzgerald III

F.B. Ali,

Would not the developments you've described be truly ironic? I say this thinking that the Baath Party descends from the Pan-Arab movement of the Great War epoch, which had, as a basic aim, ending Turkish rule. British Empire forces and Lawernce's Arab uprising accomplished that goal. And, now, here come the Turks again, albeit with influence and subversion, rather than outright rule.


William R. Cumming

Thanks General Ali! Turkey now the key to much of the 21st Century in MENA. Ottoman Empire redux? A fairly successful Empire for its time by the way until ended by alliance with Germany in WWI!

But hey no Gallalopi no Mustapha Kemal!

FB Ali

One way of looking at these developments is to see a resurgent Turkey seeking to dominate the lands once ruled by its precursor, the Ottoman Empire. However, what I think is really happening, and of much greater significance, is Turkey leading and encouraging a potent form of political Islam.

I have written earlier on the general aims and goals of political Islamists and how they differ from those of religious Islamists. The rise of the AKP in Turkey and of the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab countries, especially those freed from despotic rule in the Arab Spring, is a development with far-reaching implications. Syria is likely to become part of this movement.


FB Ali

A new kind of political Islam? Yes, but the Ottoman state itself was a form of political Islam. pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

Of course, the Caliphate was the very embodiment of political Islam in those times. But the Ottoman Empire also pursued many other goals besides advancing the cause of Islam, and often wasn't very gentle with many of its non-Turkish Muslim subjects.


FB Ali

That may well be the case again. pl


Turkey leading and encouraging a potent form of political Islam?

Not a chance. Erdogan is now a laughing stock on the Arab street, for his blatant and ridiculously amateur attempts at playing both sides. Until the GCC counter revoulution even little Qatar was playing that game better than he knew how. Erdogan has read the Arab and especially the Syrian situation all wrong and now has no political capital, no matter how many of Peres's speeches he walks out on.

Charles I

Thanks Fb for some cogent context that really informs my earlier thought that Turkey seems to be going from strength to strength.

Heard on CBC Syria agrees to AL monitors "in principle".

There just seems something in the air besides the age of the regime. Israeli DF Ehud B. in Canada this week and Canadian Defence Min Petey MacKay was heard on
CBC analogizing between Libya and Syria. Our gov very big on our CF18 & tonnage contribution, the glory of forcing MQ from convoy to culvert and thence to perdition.

We are, after one o the Twelve Tribes.


Thanks for another informative overview, Furrukh.

different clue

If Erdogan (Turkey) achieves it and makes it work, will the Arab street still be laughing?


Acheive what and with whom? There are no natural partners in this. Syria is not a natural ally and the group that Turkey is backing is so disparate that as soon as Assad is removed I will bet anything the fight will turn inwards ; Iraq is out of their sphere as is Lebanon. Jordan is firmly under the influence of the GCC and the GCC itself is undertaking its own attampts at 'ruling' the Arab world. The North Africans are already being courted by the GCC who have far more influence and money than Turkey.

Also, without "the street", a street that he was doing well in, I doubt he can achieve anything.

Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

The Caliphate of the Ottomans carried no weight with the Iranians or the Mughals.

It was akin to the English Monarch being the Head of Church of England.

Perhaps the qadis thought that they were advancing the cause of Islam fighting and subjugating Christians; the view was very different from Isphahan were the Ottomans were seen for what they were: another Sunni-majority state bent on pillaging foreign people; just like their Sheibanian brothers on the Eastern frontier of the Safavids.

Babak Makkinejad

No chance of it.

The political arrangements of Tureky, at this moment, are too specific, too ad-hoc, and too rooted in her recent history to serve as a blue-print for other Muslim states.

However, the arrangements in Turkey point to the possibility of creating analogous - but not identical - such arrangements in other Muslim states.

In fact, I have been informed that many Iranians, upon trips to Turkey, come back asking: "Why cannot we be more like Turkey? Are they not Muslims too?"

But this is the work of decades; the application of Reason to create political dispensations that are informed by Islam and which - at the same time - support and sustain both representative systems of government and the Rule of Law.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, I agree.

There has to be theoretical systems of governance behind all these attempts. As such, they are a repetition of the Middle Eastern history of Kings and Potentates setting up an arrangement that disappears with them.



You fell right into the trap! Any Islamic structure of faith and politics is inherently limited in appeal to its adherents, subjects or mwmbers of its ijmal group. Islam has pretentions of universality but is deeply divided and has always been so. It is perfectly clear that the Sunni Persian became Shia in order to avoid acceptance of Ottoman claims to the caliphate and therefore to universal authority. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I am not sure which trap you are referring too.

The Shia Doctrines have safely put the Khalifate to the return of the Al Mahdi.

Sunni Persians were not the creators of the Shia Safavid state; Turkic Shia tribes were and it was the Safavids Turks that caused the conversion of the Persians to Shia.

Khalifate has always been a Sunni obsession not a Shia one.

different clue

"Achieve what and with whom?" is a very fair question and a thought-clarifier. I wonder whether the Turkish leadership wants a much more modest achievement than the ultimate Muslim Brotherhood rule which F B Ali thinks they want specifically.
What if the Turkish leaders are afraid that if
Syria decays into unassisted civil war, then hundreds of thousands (or more) of Syrian refugees will enter Turkey? Perhaps the Turks think that if they can engineer forcing the Assadistas out of power much faster, they can then get any old successor government to restore enough order to prevent such a mass influx of refugees? Perhaps a least-common-denominator caretaker coalition government of all non-Assadista groups and players? Not to say they would be right . . . but could that be what they are thinking?

FB Ali


When I said that the caliphate was the very embodiment of political Islam, I was referring to the institution, not the office the Ottoman Sultans acquired, which they used mainly to control the religious establishment in their domains, though some, such as Abdul Hamid, took their responsibility seriously enough to introduce reforms in religious law and practice.

What Turkey represents today is not some new kind of Islamic doctrine; its significance is that it is a Muslim country ruled by political Islamists (the AKP and its wide base of support, not just Erdogan, Gul and Davotuglu). Its importance to Muslims worldwide is that it is the first such country in a long time, and serves as a model for political Islamists everywhere. The competing model is that of Iran, which is a country ruled by religious Islamists (as was Afghanistan under the Taliban). [To understand the form in which I use these terms, I would recommend a reread of my earlier piece on the subject].

FB Ali


What Turkey is presenting to the Arab (and, indeed, the Muslim) world is a model of a country ruled by political Islamists. The Arab Spring is putting an end to the (essentially secular) dictatorships that succeeded the failed socialist era in the Arab world. The new set up in these countries will be more or less democratic. What the AKP’s Turkey does is provide the strong Brotherhood parties in these countries a model to follow (as Tunisia’s is already doing), as well as reassuring the populace that electing such parties can lead to a satisfactory, even salutary, outcome. This is the “potent form of political Islam” that I was referring to.

I am surprised by your opinion of Erdogan’s popularity among Arabs. The news reports during his recent trip to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia painted a very different picture.

FB Ali

different clue,

I did not say that Turkish leaders “specifically” wanted Brotherhood rule in Syria. What I did say was:

“If Turkey has indeed decided to intervene in Syria, it would be to forestall a messy outcome that would create a destabilized country on its border, in which Saudi, Israeli and Western interests could pursue their goals..... A friendly Syria under Turkish influence would greatly increase its clout in the Middle East and the Arab world..... Turkey would hope that, after a transition period, a Brotherhood government would establish itself in Damascus”.


Sounds like democracy in America, where parts of our system are disappearing: collective bargaining (Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan), right to peaceably assemble, NYC, Oakland, UC Davis.....; Social Security, well the 'super committee' is very likely to inflict some deadly wounds on that just before Thanksgiving.

different clue

Clearly I overinterpreted what you wrote. Should I understand you to say that the Turks have a general hope for an eventual Brotherhood government? Should I understand you to say that any viable successor government which keeps the internal peace there would be good enough for the Turks whether it is eventually brotherhood or not?
Or is mere internal peace not good enough, and actual influence over a pro-Turkish Syria is the Turkish goal?

My guess that the Turks fear a massive influx of Syrian refugees if the problem isn't solved quickly is strictly my own guess. Would you say that guess is exaggerated or entirely wrong on my part?

FB Ali

I think all your questions are answered in the extract from my post that I have placed above.

An influx of refugees is part of the destabilized Syria scenario which they would like to avoid. They would like a successor government that would keep the peace. If that regime were friendly, that would be better, while a like-minded Brotherhood government would be even more desirable.

Why should any of these goals be mutually exclusive?

Babak Makkinejad

At the turn of last century, in Iran, there was a conservative Shia Doctor of Religion called Sheikh Fazlollah Noori (شیخ فضلالله نوری) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Fazlollah_Noor i) who challenged the policies of the leaders of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran.

One of the conceptual distinctions that he insisted on making was that between the "inhabitants of Iran" and the "people (for the lack of better term for Millet - ملت) of Iran". The first appelation included all of those who lived in Iran, the second only Iranian Muslims.

The first Majlis spent 4 months dealing with this distinction before continuing with its other tasks.

The late Mr. Noori was a Thinker that was at least willing to point out the conceptual issues between the Doctrines of the Constitutionalists and the prevailing (Shia) Muslim Doctrines.

Later, the (progressive) Constitutionalist hanged him as a traitor.

And here lies the crux of the matter - excepting the work of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, no Muslim thinker has yet succeeded in reconciling the Principles of Islam and those of Representative Government.

I wish Turkey well and hope that her experiment in ad-hoc constitutionalism be a durable success.

But I personally believe that without a solid theoretical foundation - based or at least informed by Islam - no democratic political dispensation is durable among Muslim polities.

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