x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Turkey's foreign policy weaker than it lets on

Turkey's foreign policy is not as strong as Ankara would have the region believe, an Arabic newspaper columnist says. Other topics in today's roundup: a new crisis in Sudan, ancient fanaticism and Hosni Mubarak's trial.

urkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has clearly put aside the Syrian dossier for the moment to focus on other alternatives in his project to expand in the Middle East, opined the columnist Rajeh el Khoury in the Lebanese Annahar daily.

"But, travelling to Somalia and getting photographed stroking the head of a dying infant in his mother's lap doesn't do much."

Mr Erdogan has been sounding the Palestinian trumpet in a bid to rally support by playing on the chords of the "cause". From his celebrated stunt at Davos last year, where he publicly insulted the Israeli president Shimon Peres, to the Mavi Marmara incident, Mr Erdogan has managed to evoke extensive support among his Arab neighbours. His rise as a serious Sunni competitor for the Iranian Shiite upsurge earned him advocates.

But Turkey's "zero problems" with neighbours strategy is pushing him to walk a tightrope.

Mr Erdogan's catch-up measures have mostly been faux pas so far. He supported Col Muammar Qaddafi at the start of the Libyan revolution. He advocated the Bahraini uprising then was forced to change positions. He opposed Syria's regime at first but he then retracted and adopted the Russian position of no foreign interference in Syria.

It seems, as the Turkish political scientist Soli Ozel said, that Turkey doesn't really have any powerful cards to play and isn't as powerful as it thought.

Sudan at risk of another humanitarian crisis

The military tension in Sudan's Blue Nile state presages a new chapter of crises and confrontations, said the editorial of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.

The recent altercations between Khartoum's army and the leaders of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan in fact stir concern over a possible new crisis that could lead to yet another internationalisation of the issue.

Sudan was and still is suffering from the repercussions of international interventions. When the Darfur crisis was handled in international forums, it led to severe sanctions on the Sudanese leadership. Similarly, international intervention in South Sudan resulted in secession and in the segmentation of Sudan.

"The Sudanese must resort to calm and reason," the daily advises. President Omar Al Bashir's address following the recent crisis imbibes a new dose of tranquillity in an otherwise tense atmosphere."

"Division and separation beget nothing but conflicts and struggles. Sudan is going through a new phase following the separation of the south and all efforts at this point must be directed at the priorities and at the service of the country's interests."

A humanitarian crisis is feared in the Blue Nile state, as more than 20,000 citizens were forced to flee to neighbouring Sinar and 3,000 people sought refuge in Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Ancient fanaticism is still a trend today

The 14th Century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun - often referred to as the precursor of sociology - discussed at length the nature of "fanaticism" in society and politics, arguing that being fanatical proved crucial for political contenders to gain power and for prophets to spread their message, wrote Abdelhaq Azzouzi, a Moroccan scholar, in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

Ibn Khaldun referred to a form of fanaticism that characterised his day and earlier periods; a time when reign was typically perpetuated by bloodline and overturned by bloodshed.

Centuries later, not much has changed. The current Arab uprisings came to remind us of the striking longevity of that notion, the writer said.

"Consider what Col Muammar Al Qaddafi in Libya and Ben Ali in Tunisia, among others, have been doing for decades: they've mixed power with bloodline and money. The ruling figure hogs all powers, (terrorises) the people and makes himself a gang of well-paid henchmen."

Indeed, most of the Arab leaders who have been deposed by their people have ruled by the "fanaticism" Ibn Khaldun theorised.

"Fanaticism in the 21st century has preserved the meaning Ibn Khaldun had given it more than seven centuries ago: it is the attitude characterising a group of people who enter into socio-economic relations and are bent on promoting one another to gain lobby power."

Kuwaiti lawyers' move will offend Egyptians

There may have been fights inside and outside the courtroom, but it was a group of Kuwaiti lawyers who really stole the show during Monday's trial of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted Egyptian president, when they decided to join his defence team, stated the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper.

The Kuwaiti lawyers said their decision was a way of returning the favour to Mr Mubarak who stood by their country's side when Iraqi forces invaded their country in the summer of 1990. They said Egypt under Mr Mubarak drafted contingents to fight alongside US forces against Saddam Hussein's army, leading to the liberation of Kuwait, the newspaper reported.

"Maybe there are many who see this as a commendable act of gratitude … But there are others, just as numerous perhaps, who don't see it that way, especially those Egyptians who had experienced the [Mubarak] regime's oppression firsthand."

Those who really fought by the side of Kuwaitis during the Iraq invasion are the Egyptian people, not Mr Mubarak, the newspaper added.

"It is the Egyptian people who opened their doors wide open for Kuwaitis who fled to Egypt during the invasion … and many of them will have reason now to be offended."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk