September 6, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4114

Al-Arabiya TV Director to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan: Don't Sell Dreams to the Arabs for Demagogical Purposes

September 6, 2011
Turkey, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 4114

In an August 22, 2011 op-ed in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the daily's former editor and current director of Al-Arabiya TV, criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for inconsistency in his attitude towards the Syrian regime. He said that while Turkey had adopted a harsh stance against the Al-Assad regime at the onset of the protests in Syria, it had softened its stance following the June parliamentary elections – to the point where Turkey now resembled pro-Assad Russia. While praising many of Erdogan's accomplishments, Al-Rashed called on him not to make empty promises and to realize his potential as an influential leader in the region.

It should be noted that Al-Rashed's position is in line with similar views expressed in the Saudi press, i.e. that Saudi Arabia had hoped that Turkey could find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Syria.[1]

Following are excerpts from Al-Rashed's op-ed:[2]

"Erdogan, Who Rode the Wave of Popular Arab [Adoration], Should Think Long and Hard Before Taking Up the Role of Savior"

"Two years ago, during the Davos summit, this [Turk] from Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, became the hero of the Arabs when he snatched the microphone from Israeli President Shimon Peres and rebuked him harshly for Israel's crimes in Gaza. Then he walked off the stage and told the world he would never again return to Davos.

"The frustrated Arabs – comprising the majority of Arabs, who grasp at every sliver of hope that might rescue them from their miserable situation – naturally celebrated [Erdogan's actions]. They always look for heroes, but in most cases they discover that [their] heroes are cardboard figures and media propagandists [like Gamal] 'Abd Al-Nasser, [Bashar] Al-Assad, Saddam [Hussein], [Hassan] Nasrallah, and other stars who have ended up in the dustbin of history.

"Erdogan, who rode the wave of popular Arab [adoration], should think long and hard before taking up the role of savior, as he did recently when he and his family flew to Somalia and called for [feeding] the hungry [there]."

"Erdogan Could Have Contributed Much to the Region… [But] Turkey's Many Failures Under Erdogan's [Leadership] are Etched In Our Memory"

"What is the truth behind this great demagogue?

"I think Erdogan could have contributed much to the region. First, he could have been a model of the moderate Muslim, in an age dominated by extremist Islamists. Turkey, too, could be a model of the modern Muslim state. There are many things that Erdogan and Turkey can do – but the question is whether they have any real intent and desire to do them.

"What happened at Davos was nothing but a show. The conflict with Israel over the Freedom Flotilla, [after] the Israelis attacked [the Mavi Marmara] and killed nine Turkish [activists], ended just like other [conflicts]: with nothing more than verbal threats...

"Turkey's many failures under Erdogan's [leadership] are etched in our memory. In handling the Iranian crisis, [Erdogan] supported a nuclear Iran. [When the] Libyan [crisis erupted], he initially supported the regime of Colonel [Qadhafi] and then claimed he had been misunderstood. In the Bahrain [crisis], he supported the protest movement and called its suppression 'a second Karbala,' and later claimed, once again, to have been misunderstood. [In the Syrian crisis], he [initially] took a strident tone towards the Syrian regime, to the point of making threats; this elevated his popularity to new heights, with his photo being carried in most of the Syrian demonstrations."

"All This Noise Was Prior to the Turkish Parliamentary Elections; After the Elections, Turkey [Suddenly] Changed Its Tone and Style"

"Unfortunately, all this noise was prior to the Turkish parliamentary elections. After the elections, Turkey [suddenly] changed its tone and style... The position of Erdogan's government [became increasingly similar] to that of the Russians, who were hostile towards the Syrian people. [Turkey] opposed foreign intervention [in Syria] and rejected the calls for Assad's resignation. Considering Erdogan's pre-election declarations that so delighted the Syrian public, Turkey could have at least remained silent [instead of voicing a pro-Assad stance]."

"We Are Not Forgetting that… Erdogan Has Enormous Accomplishments… [But] I Advise Him Not to Say Things He Does Not Mean In This Region"

"I do not want to present Erdogan as a disappointing Muslim leader. I believe he [still] has plenty of time to prove the sincerity of his program. Nobody expects Turkey to do what is beyond its ability, but it should not sell people [empty] dreams for demagogical purposes...

"We are not forgetting that, amid all his demagogical positions, Erdogan has enormous accomplishments: his reconciliation with the Kurds in Turkey and his support for their rights; the true peace with Greece, Turkey's [longtime] enemy; and the economic prosperity of his country, which allowed it to knock on Europe's gates and apply for membership in the EU. [Erdogan] has many accomplishments, and there is much more that he can yet achieve.

"[But] I advise him not to say things he does not mean in this region – where people are emotional and easily moved to either love or hate – because they have a good memory."


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.725, "Gulf and Arab States Break Silence over Syria Crisis," August 17, 2011, Gulf and Arab States Break Silence over Syria Crisis; MEMRI Special Dispatch No.3973, "Saudi Press Criticizes Syrian, Iranian Regimes," July 6, 2011, Saudi Press Criticizes Syrian, Iranian Regimes.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 22, 2011.

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