King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz starts a historic three-day visit to Turkey, the first by a Saudi monarch since King Faisal visited Istanbul in 1974. The visit has been scheduled for some time and previously postponed. It comes at a time when Israeli aggression in Lebanon is at the center of events, let alone the situation in Iraq.
Of course, economic concerns will be on the negotiation table, since the economy is of great importance to both countries, even if it always disappears under the weight of incessant political developments in the region. Bilateral relations will also be discussed at length; this is how the Saudis like to portray the visit, without delving into anymore details!
Reality in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, where Iran is now the most prominent player, indicates Iran’s hijacking of Arab issues transforming them into a deck of cards, something that can no longer be ignored. Riyadh is well aware of what Tehran is doing and information suggests that the Saudi authorities have repeatedly and candidly spoken to the Iranians telling them that they do not have free reign to act as they will, however, Iran does not tire of implementing what it wants, despite all the promises it had made.
In a press conference, two days ago, Ali Larjani, Iran’s national security chief, said Iran rejects the French-US draft UN resolution on Lebanon. The implication of Lebanon’s rejection and the statements by parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri are also understood, but what does Tehran have to do with all this?
Regarding Iraq, at least Iran shares a border with the country. But, what about Lebanon, taking into account that the Iranian Foreign Minister visited Lebanon through Damascus, without the knowledge of the Lebanese government, preceding the meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers.
The value of the summit in Turkey now becomes evident. It is an important regional power, a member of NATO and is on the doorstep of the European Union. Saudi Arabia has an evident international and regional role, one we currently perceive in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Reality tells us that Turkey is, under the current circumstances, a better guarantor of Iraq’s unity then that of the Arabs, whose stances and interests remain, divided.
This is why Turkey will undoubtedly grow closer to the region, in order to balance the scales… Ankara which was distorted by the reformist camp for a long time, under the pretext of secularism, despite the secularism in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in Syria, is now important after the fall of Saddam and the increasing Iranian influence.
History tells us the ambitions of the Safavi dynasty, which converted Iran to Shiaa Islam, and sought to convert others, was hindered by the Ottoman Empire. It seems history will repeat itself and Iran’s political ambitions and those of its agents in the region will be thwarted, especially as the Americans appear to be, more than ever before, ready to withdraw from an ailing Iraq, with whom Iran has a long history. Will the Saudis do so? Will Turkey get closer? These questions await answers.