In many ways, the recent crisis between Qatar and its Gulf and other Muslim “friends” marked, among other things, the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “grand Middle Eastern design.” Once again, Turkey’s leaders were trapped by their own ideological shallowness into betting on a losing horse.
Very important Turks in dark suits saw the start of the Arab Spring as a golden opportunity to realize their neo-Ottoman ambitions. In Tunisia, their Islamist brothers in arms, the Ennahdha Party, would come to power and annihilate the “secular infidels.” Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahdha’s chief ideologue, never hid his admiration for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stealth Islamization by popular vote.
Erdoğan received one rock-star welcome after another on his visits to Beirut and Egypt. He failed, however, to detect that Lebanese Muslims’ devotion to him was merely praise for his outspoken hatred of Israel. He also failed to predict the turn of political events in Egypt, investing all his political resources in the Muslim Brotherhood. In Iraq, he calculated that with some western backing, he could end the Shiite rule in Baghdad and build a Sunni regime instead. In Gaza, Hamas was, and still is, Erdoğan’s ideological next of kin.
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