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BEIRUT – While Turkey played an outwardly minimal role in establishing a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the latest Gaza flare-up, its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and recently elected Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi appear to be forging an Islamist alliance that could reshape the political order in the Middle East, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Both leaders are action-oriented but are undertaking a more moderate Islamist perspective in light of the Arab Spring that began two years ago.
Out of this development appears to be what observers believe could be a diminishing of U.S. influence. For years the nation backed pro-Western autocrats but nations in the Middle East and North Africa increasingly have been rebelling against them.
Both leaders have a different perspective of the new Islamic political order for the region but, at the same time, their efforts for now appear complementary.
Economically and financially, Turkey is considerably better off than Egypt, which is facing major economic difficulties. However, Turkey is in a position to aid Egypt financially while Morsi can help Erdogan continue to assert his influence in the region and beyond.
Erdogan recently offered Egypt a $2 billion in financial aid.
Both leaders are Sunni. However, Turkey is more secular while Egypt, under the new influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, seeks a more traditional Muslim effort to bring the nation under Shariah law. In that, the Quran is the law of the land.
While Morsi professes a form of democratic reform for Egypt, his latest move to bestow on himself wide-ranging powers just days following his internationally recognized accomplishment of establishing the Israeli-Hamas cease-fire has resulted in major demonstrations.
“The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal,” his spokesman, Yasser Ali, said on state television.
Such unilateral action without any judicial oversight is being branded a “coup” and a “power grab.”
Morsi can make decrees that cannot be challenged by law. The Egyptian president says the reason is to “fulfill the revolution.”
Others take exception. Liberals and secular groups alike are wondering what the difference is between him and his predecessor, ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi’s actions have prompted protest movements and massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, and he’s now being dubbed the “new pharaoh.”
Erdogan, however, wants to see more of a democratic approach patterned after his own country’s model of democracy. He also wants to extend this to other Arab countries. However, Turkey continues to face critics who complain of human rights violations, particularly among one of Turkey’s largest minorities, the Kurds.
Both countries, in their own way, can assert a particular stature that can form an example with the other Arab countries.
However, Turkey has run into difficulties with neighboring Syria. where Erdogan has threatened military action against the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Erdogan also has begun to form a competition with Shiite Iran, especially over influence with Iraq where its Shi’ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has come under increasing Iranian influence.
On the other hand, Morsi recently has sought to improve relations with Iran after communications between the countries largely shut down following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. At that time, Mubarak welcoming the then Shah-of Iran, who had to go into exile once Iran was taken over by the conservative Islamic clerics.
Another uniting factor between the two countries is the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi headed the Brotherhood before being elected Egypt’s president. And the Brotherhood has been a growing influence on various Islamist organizations, including Erdogan’s Islamic Justice and Development Party.
While the leaders of both countries may appear to be in competition with each other for regional influence, they more likely will act in a more complementary fashion.
Turkey certainly can bring to Egypt a more modern, Western orientation to stabilize the economy. It is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and is close to the European Union, although some EU members still resist Turkey’s membership request. which has been languishing for the better part of two decades.
Both countries appear to be trying to set aside strong religious ideologies in favor of a greater orientation toward economic policies and reform.
This is something the more conservative Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists in Egypt will need to do to meet Egypt’s pressing internal needs, while Turkey will continue to try and project its own brand of democracy and more Western-oriented economic wealth – not only on Egypt but also to Syria and the other Arab countries – something that will be challenging, at best.
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