Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of special reports by Joseph Farah in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin on the gravest global threats facing the world in 2018. A future report will deal with the North Korean-Russian-Chinese axis.
By Joseph Farah
WASHINGTON – One day, it’s going to happen.
Don’t be surprised. It’s inevitable. In fact, it will be a shock if it doesn’t happen sometime in 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is going to declare himself the global Caliph, having set up alliances with most Middle Eastern Muslims – Sunni and Shia alike.
How is that possible? The biggest divide in the Muslim world today is between Sunni and Shia. Just look at mortal enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia. How could any personality bridge that split?
Erdoğan has found a path – and it’s one that could set the world ablaze, not just the Middle East.
In fact, while it’s true that Sunnis and Shiites have some serious disharmony, Erdoğan, a Sunni himself, has already demonstrated his ability to work with Shia Iran. And Erdoğan has his sights set on a Caliphate that will, at least temporarily, bring together most of the Muslim world around common enemies – namely Israel and the U.S.
The Sunni-Shia conflict was 1,400 years in the making, dating back to the years immediately after Mohammad’s death in 632 when the two sides clashed over naming a successor. In the Middle East Sunnis outnumber Shiites five to one. Erdoğan is a leader who has demonstrated his ability to straddle the divide.
To bolster his international strength and alliances, he has increasingly good relations with Russia and China. Nothing would make either of those countries happier than a friendly caliph who could bring an end to terrorist attacks within their borders. Yes, both Russia and China have Islamic terrorist problems, too.
The biggest holdout left in the Muslim Middle East is Saudi Arabia, even though in terms of Islamist ideology they have been the closest. What caused that rupture? Two words: Donald Trump. That’s who has turned the Saudis around.
What makes Erdoğan such a formidable force to be reckoned with is his ability to deftly change positions in focusing on his long-term goal to re-establish the Caliphate, which only Turkey, the center of the Ottoman Empire, has been able to manage historically over the last 1,000 years.
Look for Turkey and Erdoğan to work some magic early in 2018 by plotting with Russia and Iran on the future of Syria – a deal that will make those players and allies happy.