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Why was al-Sadr in Turkey? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The picture remains unclear regarding the reasons behind Moqtada al-Sadr’s surprise appearance in Turkey after an almost two year absence in Iran, even if it was [officially] announced that al-Sadr was in Turkey to attend a conference called “The al-Sadr movement and future challenges.”

The welcome that al-Sadr received in Turkey with regards to his meeting with both the Turkish President and Prime Minister justifies questions being asked on the real motive behind the visit. Some of the Arabs concerned [with this turn of events] believe that Turkey is beginning to play the role that it desires which confirms that it has the [requisite] power and position [in the region]. This is confirmed by the appointment of the new Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who’s of the “let’s tackle and clear all issues” school of thought.

Davutoglu is the current Turkish [political] mastermind, and he has aspirations for Ankara to gain regional influence, he believes that his country should participate in all issues, from the Palestinian issue to Somalia, from the issue of Iraq to the issue of the Islamist movements.

A well-informed Arab source informed me that “Turkey has ambitions and a role that enables them to act as mediators, which is something that pleases the Americans. They have previously mediated with Hamas, and between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Damascus.”

Another well-informed source from the Arab-Gulf told me that “it would not be surprising if Turkey move closer to political-religious movements, for Ankara is following part of its history” adding “Let Ankara attempt to resolve some of these [regional] files.”

However there are inconsistencies between what was announced with regards to Moqtada al-Sadr’s visit to Turkey, and what was not. Al-Sadr traveled to Ankara, not from Baghdad, but from Iran where he has spent the past two years, and he did not visit Turkey in secret, but openly and was received warmly. Also the reasons for the visit announced by the Sadrist movement is inconsistent with the reasons given by Turkey, and completely contradictory to Arab analysis.

An official from the Gulf told me something note-worthy about al-Sadr’s visit to Istanbul when he said “I do not know anything about al-Sadr’s visit to Turkey, all that I know is that there is large Iraqi activity in Doha these days, which includes Sunnis and others.”

So is there a connection here?

Is there a Turkish – Iranian – Qatari coordination? And what is Washington’s relationship in this equation?

The other issue is that the reason given for al-Sadr’s visit to Turkey by the Sadrist movement was that it was in order for al-Sadr to attend a conference that aimed to “advance the political, cultural and social reality for the Sadrist movement” which completely contradicts what we have heard from the two high-ranking Arab sources. The Turks informed some Arab officials that Ankara had invited Mr. Moqtada al-Sadr to Turkey “in order to calm the situation in the region” i.e. Iraq. While the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak quoted Turkish officials as saying that al-Sadr had told them “not to allow Iraq to collapse…therefore we will stand with you on the Kirkuk issue.”

This statement came in Istanbul at a time when Iranian helicopters were undertaking air raids against Kurdish villages in Iraq, which in turn led to the Iraqi Council of Representatives to condemn the Turkish – Iranian raids.

And so are we looking at mediation, or the arrangement of the situation in Iraq by Turkey and Iran prior to US withdrawal?