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July 31, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8873

Senior Saudi Journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: We Need Joint Arab Defense Treaty Against Iran, Turkey, Which Are 'Greatest Threat Arabs Have Faced In Past Half-Century'

July 31, 2020
Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8873

In the recent days, Saudi Arabia has made intensive efforts to coordinate with the Arab countries and form a uniform Arab position on the Libya crisis. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan visited Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco and met with senior officials in those countries. His visits come against the backdrop the escalating hostilities in Libya; the advance of the Sarraj government forces, backed by Turkey, on the strategic city of Sirte and the Oil Crescent region in the east of the country, and reports on the ongoing influx of mercenaries and arms dispatched by Turkey into Libya. Also in the background are threats by Saudi Arabia's ally Egypt to intervene militarily in Libya and even arm Libyan tribes if the Sarraj government forces and Turkish forces approach Sirte and the eastern parts of the country, which are close to Egypt's border.[1]

During his meetings with Egypt's president 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, bin Farhan expressed full support for Egypt and its positions vis-a-vis Libya. The two sides stressed the importance of coordinated Arab action aimed at finding solutions within the framework of the joint Arab mechanisms.[2] Bin Farhan's meetings in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco were likewise devoted to the situation in Libya and the need to bring peace and stability to that country. According to some reports, bin Faisal relayed reassuring messages from Egypt to Tunisia and Algeria, after the latter two countries voiced concern about Egypt's suggestion to arm Libyan tribes.[3]

The Saudi press has published articles explaining the goals of the kingdom's current intensive diplomacy. The July 29 editorial of the daily Al-Riyadh stated that Saudi Arabia has launched an initiative  aimed at uniting the Arab position, in order to thwart Turkey's and Iran's "blunt intervention" in Arab affairs and their efforts to undermine Arab security. Senior journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily and former director of Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya TV, wrote, in a similar vein, that Turkey and Iran are "the greatest threat the Arabs have faced in the past half-century." Fifteen Arab countries, he said, are under threat of Iranian or Turkish invasion, and some are even controlled by these countries and are engaged in warfare. He stressed that this situation requires the Arab countries to unite and form a defense treaty.


Cartoon in Saudi daily: Arabs try to keep Erdogan's military forces out of Libya (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 29, 2020)

The following are excerpts from Al-Rashed's article:[4]

"We seem to be facing the greatest threat we have had to contend with in the past half-century. Iran and Turkey – each on its own – are expanding in the region in an unprecedented manner, putting all its countries at risk. The Turks in Libya are a direct threat to Egypt, the biggest threat [it has faced] since it signed the Camp David Peace Accords [with Israel], which put an end to the possibilities of waging war against it. Tunisia and Algeria are threatened indirectly by the concentration of armed Islamic organizations, comprising [fighters] of various nationalities, in Tripoli, [which is under the control of the Sarraj government forces]. Sudan is also vulnerable to infiltrations by these organizations, although its border with Libya is the shortest, [measuring] about 400 kilometers.

"The plan of Iran, as a regional power, grants it almost total control over Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, and via Iraq it currently [also] threatens Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE. The armies and militias of Turkey and Iran are currently [fighting] in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Libya. This new situation threatens everyone and calls for a political coalition to contend with it, conveying a clear message, [namely] that 15 Arab countries face the threat of an Iranian or Turkish invasion and are ready to form a defense treaty as part of joint Arab action.

"However, despite the danger and all the [regional] hot spots, it seems that joint [Arab] action is still limited, perhaps because the situation is not clear to the public in the region, [which views the events] as separate and limited campaigns. In Libya, for example, everyone was surprised by Turkey's direct military intervention, for nobody had even conceived of it. Prior to this, the war in Libya was regarded as the continuation of the [internal] crisis that has been ongoing there for the past nine years. The military intervention of Turkey and its Syrian militias was like the [sudden] appearance of a snake: it sparked fear and triggered all the defense mechanisms, causing a shift in the political positions on Libya. Tunisia and Algeria had not feared Turkish intervention for years… They had regarded the situation in Libya as an internal struggle supported by several external powers. The same goes for Egypt, which never imagined that Erdogan's forces would reach its border. Today the danger is serious and Egypt is definitely in [Turkey's] sights. Algeria is not safe either, and takes into account that Turkey will not hesitate to extend its influence to [its] internal domain, should there be any security problems there.

"The truth is that, when it comes to Turkey's evil intentions, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time now, as the saying goes. But nobody was willing to believe it, because it seemed like 'paranoia' and hyperbole resulting from the disagreements with President Erdogan. Today no one doubts this theory anymore. Turkey has dispatched forces and equipment [to Libya], officially and openly. Thousands of its [Syrian] militiamen who previously fought in Syria are [now] fighting in Libya under the Turkish flag, and they have reached the outskirts of Sirte and the Oil Crescent. The concerns are no longer 'paranoia' but rather a reality, and the story doesn't end here.

"Some are asking why the Turks would risk fighting a war in a distant land. Part of Turkey's strategy is to gain influence in North Africa, which is important for Europe's security. Its presence [there] gives it leverage over the EU countries and will force them to agree to its demands. We have already seen how Turkish President Erdogan used the millions of Syrian refugees to impose his political and financial demands upon the Europeans. This scenario will repeat itself when he controls Libya: he will blackmail the Europeans and threaten [Libya's] neighbors – Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Sudan.

"As for his next campaign – it will be in Yemen. Why? Because this will grant the Turks and their financial supporter, Qatar, influence over Washington and help them promote their goal of weakening additional Gulf States."

 


[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), July 28, 2020.

[3] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), July 29, 2020.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 28, 2020.

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