The U.S. and the West, which officially declared China an ‘enemy’ at the NATO summit, took action to defuse tension in the Middle East before pivoting to Asia. Now, the plan is to bring together Syria with Turkey and Iran with Saudi Arabia around the same table.
The leader behind this initiative is Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
Al Kadhimi sent Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Ankara two weeks ago. Hussein’s meeting with President Erdogan was officially announced by Ankara, but what they discussed was never disclosed. The information about the meeting came from Iraq. The Iraqi Foreign Minister officially invited President Erdogan to a summit meeting with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, and Jordan and some European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron.
The summit is planned to be held in Baghdad this month or in September at the latest.
In fact, Fuad Hussein paid a visit to Tehran after Ankara and delivered the same invitation to Iran’s new President Ibrahim Raisi.
SUMMIT PREPARATION STARTED AFTER BIDEN TOOK OFFICE
Al Kadhimi’s efforts to convene a summit to defuse tensions in the Middle East are not new.
In fact, these steps started soon after the Biden administration came to power in the U.S. Al Kadhimi was one of the first leaders to receive a call from Biden after he moved to the White House. This wasn’t a coincidence.
Al Kadhimi took the first step in April. He gathered delegates from Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad in order to defuse tensions between the Tehran administration and Arab countries. The two countries hadn’t had direct contact since a Shiite cleric was executed by Saudi Arabia in 2016. The first meeting hosted by al Kadhimi was held in Baghdad after five years.
Another summit meeting attended by President of Egypt and King of Jordan was held this time in Baghdad in June. Al Kadhimi also worked in a White House visit in the summer months. It was stated that defusing tension in the Middle East was discussed at that meeting.
WILL ERDOGAN, ASSAD AND SISI ATTEND THE SAME SUMMIT?
Apparently, it’s time for the inter-Arab coordination to reconcile Turkey and Syria after it brought Iran and the Saudis to the same table. Turkey has taken a few successive steps to restore relations with Egypt recently. But relations haven’t reached yet a level where El- Sisi and Erdogan have come to the same table.
The relationship between the Assad administration and the AK Party government is much worse in Syria. Since the beginning of the civil war, only the intelligence heads of the two countries have been in contact. Will the Ankara-Damascus relationship move from the ‘intelligence’ dimension into the ‘diplomacy’ dimension? The goal of Iraqi Prime Minister seems to be this.
The hush-hush atmosphere surrounding the summit invitation delivered by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Erdogan in Ankara is interpreted favorably. The AK Party government is considered to be open to dialogue as Ankara didn’t refuse the invitation outright and Erdogan hasn’t resorted to delivering speeches about Syria or its President starting with the combative “Eyyy” recently.
Actually, circumstances are precipitating this shift. The AK Party government, which is under pressure from the economic crisis and widely criticized for the way it has fought wildfires, is also struggling with the isolation is created for itself in the international arena. Efforts to contact Egypt, Erdogan’s congratulatory phone call to newly-elected President of Israel, and his congratulatory phone calls for Ramadan to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are all interpreted as efforts to end this isolation.
Nowadays, the AK Party government is being targeted due to the refugee policies it has pursued both after the Syrian civil war and now Afghanistan.
A possible detente with Syria mediated by Iraq can offer some breathing room to the AK Party government.
COUNTER MANEOUVRE FROM CHINA AND RUSSIA
Meanwhile, as al Kadhimi works to gather leaders and countries for his summit, at the other corner of the world, Moscow-Beijing relations are deepening at an unprecedented pace.
China and Russia launched a joint military exercise that ran until August 13. AN estimated 10,000 troops were involved. And now we’re hearing news that Russian troops used Chinese weapons for the first time in the military exercise.
Russia and China also seem to be aware that the peace initiatives in the Middle East will mean an increase in tensions in Asia.
The world appears to be rapidly heading toward another Cold War.
Both fronts are trying to ‘close the ranks.’ Let’s see if the AK Party government can adapt itself to this new wave, if Erdogan comes to the same table with El- Sisi first, then with Bashar Assad. If he does, how will this reflect on domestic politics?