Turkey losing regional clout as Egypt crisis flares

Turkey's clout in the
Middle East is taking a beating with the
brutal sidelining of Egypt's Muslim
Brotherhood derailing Ankara's hopes to
lead a regional surge of Islamist political
power, analysts say.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development
Party (AKP) was an early supporter of the
2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak
and subsequently nourished close ties
with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey invested both politically and
financially in the Arab world's most
populous country after Mohamed Morsi
was sworn in as Egypt's first
democratically elected leader in June
2012, aiming to bolster Ankara's influence
and show that Turkey was not the only
country where Islam and democracy
could coexist.
Morsi's overthrow and the brutal
crackdown on his supporters have now
dealt a harsh blow to Turkey's dreams of
playing a leadership role in the broader
Middle East region in the wake of the Arab
Spring, analysts said.
"Turkey hoped the transformation in the
Middle East would work in its favour
because it would gain clout if Muslim
Brotherhood-type governments came to
power in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria," said
Professor Ilter Turan at Istanbul's Bilgi
University.
"This plan did not work in Syria, and it
collapsed in Egypt," he told AFP.
"Turkey is forced into isolation in the
Middle East, losing its control of the
situation in the region."
NATO member Turkey had banked on
expanding its influence in the Middle East
thanks to robust economic growth under
the AKP and an Arab power vacuum
created by the region's popular uprisings.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a
popular leader on the Arab street because
of his angry outbursts over Israel's
treatment of Palestinians, has championed
democracy movements across the region
and sought to position his country as a
role model and moral compass.
After the fall of dictators in Tunisia and
Egypt, his government allied itself with the
Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia's
moderate Islamist party Ennahda, which
heads the country's new coalition cabinet.
And Erdogan has emerged as one of the
fiercest critics of his former ally Bashar al-
Assad as the uprising against the Syrian
leader turned into a fully-fledged civil
war.
Turkey sharply condemned Wednesday's
deadly crackdown on pro-Morsi
protesters, which Erdogan termed a
"massacre" and President Abdullah Gul
called "unacceptable".
"The frustration voiced by Turkey's
leaders stems not only from the pictures
of violence or failure of democracy in
Egypt, but also from the collapse of the
government's dreams to become a
regional player," Turan said.
Morsi was overthrown by the military on
July 3 after massive protests against his
rule, leaving Egyptians divided between
his supporters and those who argue he let
the economy tumble while seeking to
concentrate power in Islamist groups'
hands.
Erdogan condemned Morsi's ouster as a
"coup", a stance that has infuriated the
interim government in Cairo and sharply
curbed Turkey's ability to influence events
in Egypt.
"Turkey has responded morally to the
crisis but politically it's isolated," said
Huseyin Bagci a professor at Ankara's
Middle East Technical University.
Analysts also said events in post-Mubarak
Egypt had strained relations between a
trio of Sunni powers -- Turkey, Qatar and
Saudi Arabia -- that were once united in
their stance.
Bagci argued that Turkey, already
embarrassed by the unprecedented anti-
AKP protests that swept the nation in
June, is now too isolated to claim a
leadership role.
"Turkey has lost its chances of leadership
in the region," he said.
Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie
Europe, said that Sunni split would have
regional implications.
"The Sunni coalition that was going to
make Turkey stronger in the Middle East
has collapsed after the Egypt crisis," he
told AFP.