Notice how incredibly quiet Iran has been in this whole flotilla fiasco? Surprising, considering its history of rhetoric and hysterics towards Israel, no?
As far as popularity is concerned, Turkey has scored major points with its Muslim allies in the region, and is undoubtedly reasserting its presence in the region.
Iran is getting edged out for three reasons. One, its domestic politics is no doubt still in turmoil from last year’s mess.
Two, it doesn’t have the economic resources nor power to compete with Turkey.
And three, its relations with its neighbours is nowhere as good as as Turkey’s, making it difficult to make demands on a rival that’s more or less tuned it out.
The flotilla incident and Turkey’s role have catapulted its status in the Muslim world as the defender of Muslim rights. This most probably includes members of Hamas, whom Iran has been spending millions on in an effort to buy their support and loyalty.
Which other Muslim country has enough credibility, power and self-confidence to do what Turkey did? It promised to dispatch the flotilla and it went through with its promise.
The icing on the cake came when prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a very clear ultimatum to the Israeli government: free every single Turkish citizen, including those who assaulted your soldiers, otherwise our relations will suffer. Within three hours, Binyamin Netanyahu had accepted. Had this been an Arab country, including those that Israel has relations with, such as Jordan and Egypt, the Israelis would probably have stuck to their guns. The same for Iran.
But not Turkey. There is a new player in town and Israel takes it very seriously. Unlike Iran, Turkey has a powerful economy. Its GDP is the 18th largest in the world – one place above Iran. This is a major achievement for a country which is not a gas and oil exporter. It sits on the border of Europe and its relations with the EU and the US are astronomically better than those of its Iranian neighbour. Its power is expanding in the Caucasus, and relations are improving with its old foe and rival, Greece.
It’s the same in the Middle East, where Turkey, unlike Iran, enjoys good relations with Sunni-ruled countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, as well as among Iran’s friends Iraq and Syria. If current trends continue, Turkey could do what the Islamic Republic of Iran has been trying to do for the last 32 years: become the most powerful and credible political and military force in the Islamic world.
There’s a lot of political manipulation from Turkey here. The fact that the ship pressed on at all despite repeated calls to abandon course makes it a willful participant in this conflict. But orchestrated or not, Turkey made the point it wanted to, based on many years of purposeful economic and political maneuvering.
Now it’s payoff time.