AMANDA – Why a Sunni block against Iran is a bad idea

Why a Sunni block against Iran is a bad ideaWhat could be Saudi Arabiaand#39s worst nightmare, other than their oil wells running dry? The normalization of ties between Iran and the West Iran regaining the powerful regional role that it once had. That is not to say that Iran is not a powerful regional player today, because it is.

Despite efforts to isolate Tehran due to its nuclear program, Iran remains the leader of the Shia world and uses all the tools that are available to it to influence development in the Middle East region.The Saudis are very disturbed over the growing influence of Iran over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and apparently feel besieged.

They view Iran as a troublemaker One could actually say the same about Saudi Arabia A recent European Parliament (EP) resolution takes Saudi Arabia to task for playing andldquoa leading role in financing, disseminating and promoting worldwide a particularly extremist interpretation of Islam, which, in its most sectarian vision, has inspired terrorist organizations such as the so-called Islamic State [(IS) also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)] and alIQaedaandrdquoThe Saudisand#39 aim to create a Sunni block against Iran — and so, by definition, the Shia world — bringing in other Sunni and non-Shia Muslims. Despite the differences that have existed between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, each one having different andldquofriendsandrdquo in the Middle East region, new Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud wants to engage Turkey in this effort.

Turkey would be foolish to involve itself. Firstly, I do not believe that Iran can be crushed, and therefore such a plan would fail and the cost of this would be increased regional instability and a deepening of sectarian polarization.

Secondly, Ankara — a long time NATO ally — should steer clear of sectarian initiatives, particularly given the fact that Turkey has already been accused of having a sectarian policy regarding its approach toward Syria, and does not need to add fuel to this fire. Moreover, such an alliance will include Egypt.

Saudi Arabia wants Turkey to resolve its differences with Cairo. Turkish-Egyptian relations have been in a downward spiral since Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader Mohamed Morsi was removed from office by the current president, Gen.

Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in 2013. While Cairo accuses Turkey of interfering in Egyptand#39s internal affairs and of excessively supporting the MB, which is now listed as a terrorist organization in Egypt, Turkey denounces el-Sisi for overthrowing an elected government through undemocratic means.

The Saudis have been one of the strongest backers of el-Sisi, offering both political and economic support since his first day in office. The fact that King Salman personally greeted el-Sisi when he arrived in Saudi Arabia on Feb.

27, as compared to a day before, when President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan was greeted by the local governor and some aides, demonstrates who Riyadh deems the more important.There is little chance of Turkey mending fences with Egypt.

As ErdoIan was preparing to fly to Riyadh he was asked whether he would meet with el-Sisi during his stay. andldquoAre you joking?andrdquo he replied.

andldquoSuch a thing is out of the question.andrdquo As I have written before, irrelevant of Iran, I do not agree with Ankaraand#39s policy toward Egypt, as there is little chance of Ankara being able to wield much influence in the Middle East region as long as its relationship with Egypt remains frozen.

In this respect, Turkey is less important to the Saudis than Saudi Arabia is to Turkey.Turkey should avoid taking any steps that could result in a confrontation with Iran.

As journalist Murat Yetkin recently wrote: andldquoA Sunni-Arab alliance could harm the delicate and vital ties between the two countries and, furthermore, any Sunni alliance would ignore the fact that the major campaign in the Middle East at the moment is against extreme Sunni organizations such as ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for ISIL] and al-QaedaandrdquoErdoIan may be unhappy with Iran, which he believes is responsible for the failure of Turkeyand#39s regional ambitions, although I would rather say the blame for this lies with Ankaraand#39s own policy. While there is no doubt about the regional rivalry, and over the years there have been many times when Turkey and Iran have failed to see eye to eye, nevertheless Turkey has never strayed from its consistently stable relationship with Iran.

Turkey had a huge crisis on its Syrian border it does not need a second one with Iran or the fallout in the broader region, which would undoubtedly come thereafter.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman