A Look at the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

As tens of thousands continue to call for the immediate resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the streets of Cairo — despite his promise to enact constitutional reform and not stand for reelection come September — the future of the country’s largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has come under scrutiny.

Although the Brotherhood is formally banned, it has managed to win office by running candidates as independents in the past.

In what is largely a Muslim country, the Brotherhood is not estimated to enjoy mass following. Both the president of the United States and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, now an outspoken member of the Egypt opposition, have put public support for the organization at around 25 percent.

At the same time, the Brotherhood is the only organized opposition platform in Egypt. During the thirty years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, other dissident voices were oppressed. The Muslim Brotherhood could survive because it is both a political and a religious organization and met in mosques.

Observers in the West fear that if the Mubarak regime were to collapse, the Brotherhood could assume power, imperiling the country’s decade-old peace treaty with Israel and creating an Islamist state in the heart of the Arab world.

Yet protesters in the streets, who initially organized online and want Mubarak out, are calling for civil government and democracy. The military, widely respected in Egypt and extremely powerful, is clearly secular.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational organization with offsprings throughout the Middle East. It formally endorses the implementation of Islamic law and some of its most prominent of intellectual leaders, including Egyptian theologian Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwiy, have called for holy war against America and the annihilation of the Jews. Hamas is an offspring of the Brotherhood but Al Qaeda has renounced it.

During the 1990s, then head of the Egyptian intelligence and security services, Omar Suleiman, oversaw an aggressive suppression effort of radical Islamism in Egypt, prompting many prominent fanatics to flee the country. Some found safe haven in Afghanistan and are now part of the Taliban there.

Most experts agree that the Brotherhood that exists in Egypt today is a nonviolent organization that has dedicated itself to humanitarian work. But its principles remain diametrically opposed to Western notions of freedom and equality. As former Dutch parliamentarian and now a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, Ayaan Hirsi Ali told CNN Wednesday night, “whether they work with violence or peacefully, they’re working toward the goal of establishing Islamic law.”

There may be hostility between the Muslim Brotherhood and violent Islamist organizations, including Al Qaeda, but “that hostility should not blind us to the shared objectives,” she added.

Even as Muslim Brotherhood supporters probably comprise but a minority of the Egyptian population, it is a sizable minority nonetheless. It has therefore been party to talks with now Vice President Suleiman about amending the country’s constitution and having free and fair elections later in the year.

The Brotherhood has announced that it will not field a candidate for the presidency. It would likely win many seats in parliament if free elections are held however and play an instrumental role in forming the next government.

David Cameron Lambastes “State Multiculturalism”

David Cameron has criticized “state multiculturalism” and suggested that the United Kingdom need to foster a stronger national identity in order to combat extremism.

At a security conference in Munich, Germany, the British prime minister this weekend announced measures designed to curb Islamic fanaticism. Instead of financing groups that do little to discourage extremists, Cameron said only organizations that adhere to universal human rights, including gender equality, equality before the law and democracy should receive public funding.

“Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,” the prime minister said.

Across the continent, fear of Islamism has propelled populist parties to power. Politicians on the left continue to underestimate the popular resentment however. Labour is no exception. The party’s shadow justice secretary was reported as saying that Cameron might as well have been “writing propaganda material for the EDL,” referring to the far-right English Defense League.

In his speech though, Cameron drew a clear distinction between religion and extremism, the latter of which, he said, is able to attract young people who feel “rootless” in their own countries. “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing,” he stressed.

Cameron worried that the “doctrine of state multiculturalism” has given rise to different cultures living side by side in a single society. A genuinely liberal country, he said, “believes in certain values and actively promotes them.” It says to its citizens: “This is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe these things.”

We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.

The realization that multiculturalism has failed is dawning across Europe. Last October, German chancellor Angela Merkel similarly criticized the concept which she said encouraged people to live blissfully separated without even speaking the same language.

In Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, political parties that are critical of Islam are increasingly popular while in France, the Front national is prospering anew, in part because it has reinvented itself as an anti-Islamist platform.

Hezbollah Withdraws from Lebanese Government

There was once a time in Lebanon’s history when every major faction in its political system (the Hariri family, the Lebanese Armed Forces, Hezbollah, and the Maronite Catholic community) decided to throw down their weapons in order to forge a national unity government. Hezbollah and the Sunni community led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, bitter enemies in the past, were able to cast aside many of their differences in the pursuit of this goal. In fact, the national unity government that would result from this cooperation boded relatively well for Lebanon. Differences over ideology and policy were still prevalent, but those differences were being played out in the cabinet, not on the streets.

Unfortunately, this era in Lebanon’s history has now eroded. On January 12, Hezbollah lawmakers and Hezbollah sympathizers in Saad Hariri’s administration decided to pull out of the government altogether, giving Lebanon watchers another bout of worry that the entire country may be quickly coming apart at the seams.

The issue that prompted the pullout is one that has hovered over Lebanon like a dark cloud for the past five years: the International tribunal tasked with investigating the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

While the work of the tribunal has proceeded at a slow pace, analysts monitoring Lebanon expect indictments to come out soon. Western and Arab officials are bracing for the ruling, which will probably charge members of Hezbollah with at least partial responsibility for Hariri’s death. Yet the cost of issuing the indictments may in fact come at the expense of Lebanon’s national security: something that ordinary Lebanese are all too accustomed with.

It was quite clear at the beginning of the investigation that Hezbollah would not, under any circumstances, respect the international tribunal. Hezbollah has launched verbal attacks against the tribunal in the past, describing it as an Israeli plot to destroy its movement. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has vowed to “cut off the hand” of anyone who attempts to arrest a member of Hezbollah for Hariri’s murder.

The departure of Hezbollah from the Lebanese government is already being viewed by American officials as a provocation meant to plunge Lebanon into another round of sectarian violence.

But in reality, this move may simply be Hezbollah’s way of demonstrating to the United States and its moderate Arab allies in the region that it has both the power and the influence to rewrite a chapter in Lebanon’s tense political history. Washington may not like what Hezbollah’s political wing is doing, but the fact remains that the White House doesn’t possess any leverage to stop Hezbollah from doing what it wants to do.

How the prime minister and his political allies respond is now the next stage in the game.  Hariri has already been asked by the Lebanese president to remain in a caretaker role, at least keeping some semblance of governance in place — even if the Lebanese government is usually gridlocked on a good day.

Qatar, a tiny Gulf Emirate that negotiated an agreement between rival Lebanese politicians only two years ago, may feel tempted to renew its role as a power broker. Demonstrations in support of Hezbollah and demonstrations in support of Hariri will ensue on the streets of Beirut, which could quickly turn sectarian if the situation is not kept under a modicum of control. (Hezbollah is the main representative of Lebanon’s Shia, while Hariri is often regarded as the de facto leader of Lebanon’s Sunni community.)

Meanwhile, the most the United States can do is sit back, make some telephone calls and hope for the best.

When Religion Meets War

What do you do when you know the exact location of a top level terrorist operative, but dropping a bomb on that location would cause a firestorm that could engulf an entire country into further chaos? Do you suck it up, assess the target and kill the people responsible for numerous attacks? Or do you take the high ground, consider the political context and wait to fight another day?

These are the types of questions that American intelligence analysts are asking themselves in Pakistan today. The target in question is a recruitment and training center of the Haqqani network, an independent insurgent organization responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The American military believes that Haqqani leaders meet at this location on a near weekly basis, training new members and planning for the next operation.

It sounds like a slam dunk case. The only problem is that this Haqqani compound is a mosque; the most potent and influential symbol in the Islamic world.

Therein runs the conundrum which the United States face as its armed forces continue to take the fight to militants in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. In fact, therein lies the microcosm of America’s battle against extremism of the past ten years; what is normally a “no brainer” in conventional military terms quickly turns into a tricky situation in a counterinsurgency environment.

The United States have run into a similar predicament before, when US Marines were heavily engaged with Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. The battle lasted for weeks, Americans were suffering heavy casualties and the Iraqi population of the city was often caught in the crosshairs. But as the Marines cleared the city block by block, they found themselves closing in on Sadr’s whereabouts. At one point, they circled Sadr’s exact location, inside one of Shia Islam’s holiest of mosques.

The Americans, faced with a choice of bombing the shrine or leaving it alone, wisely decided that the latter was the more plausible strategy. Surrounded from all sides, Sadr negotiated a ceasefire with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) at the time, promising to halt attacks against Americans. The United States withdrew and many conservatives became highly critical of the decision. Yet the ceasefire agreement saved the Unites States a lot of aggravation with the Muslim world (to put it mildly) at a time when the military was still grappling with the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib detention center.

Six years later, the United States are in much the same situation, this time in a country that has a nuclear weapons stockpile and a heck of a lot more people (approximately 170 million). Thus far, the CIA has concluded that bombing the madrassa in Miranshah is not the best approach, fearing a violent backlash from ordinary Pakistanis. Instead drones have taken another approach to the problem, bombing the suspected militants coming too and from the site.

Coalition commanders who are eager for success in Afghanistan may be itching to pull the trigger on the mosque. But showing restraint, as the CIA is currently doing, may in fact be more effective in the long term rather than killing a few Haqqani militants now. If counterinsurgency depends on the support of the local population, the last thing the American image needs is another wave of angry protesters in South Asia.

Showing restraint, on the other hand, is the best essence of what General David Petraeus so often refers to as “strategic patience.”

Al Qaeda’s Civil War Strategy in Yemen

Something disturbing is happening in Yemen. And unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the country’s declining oil reserves, dried up water resources, nor the Yemeni government’s problems with the Houthis to the north and the secessionists in the south.

Rather a new internal conflict is arising in Yemen that could have devastating consequences, both for the country’s weak government and for American interests: a potential civil war between Yemeni Shiites and Yemeni Sunnis.

At first glance, you may be wondering why this is news. Indeed, for those watching the small Gulf Arab state closely, it’s no surprise that Shiites and Sunnis have many disagreements. Yemen’s Zaidi Shia population, which comprises close to 45 percent of the people, is disenfranchised politically and is often subjected to harsh repression from the government’s security services, particularly in the northern province of Sa’da. (President Ali Abdullah Saleh is ironically a member of the same Zaidi sect.) It isn’t that big of a surprise to learn why Shiites in northern Yemen are staging an insurgency — the disconnect between those living in the capital and those living in the countryside is extraordinarily wide.

Yet the conflict between Yemen’s Shiites and Sunnis may be taking a violent step into further escalation. Late last month, November 24, close to thirty people attending a Shia religious procession were reported killed in an Al Qaeda suicide attack. It was the first time in the history of the organization’s Yemeni branch that the group mounted an operation deep in the Shia heartland of the country. And while only a single attack by a single Al Qaeda franchise, it should serve as a warning to both the United States and its fledging Yemeni partner. In an attempt to further destabilize the country, Al Qaeda may be trying to foment the same sectarian violence that the group so effectively orchestrated in Iraq.

Al Qaeda hasn’t been wasting time. A mere two days after the first operation, its operatives killed two more Shiites en route to a religious funeral. Two deliberate attacks in two days against Shiite targets is quite significant, even by Yemen’s standards.

Thus far, there has not been much from the White House and the State Department in response to the attacks. In fairness, President Barack Obama has a lot on his docket right now, including a war in Afghanistan that he is attempting to salvage and nuclear talks with Iran that his administration is desperately trying to steer in a productive direction.

But the White House, and the region in particular, should be wary of these two cases. Al Qaeda has indiscriminately targeted Shiites before. The result — a deep division between Shiites and Sunnis and a two year Iraqi civil war — was nothing short of horrific. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula may be taking a page from the Iraqi experience, hoping to make the Yemeni government even weaker than it already is. The last thing Yemen needs is another conflict that could become unmanageable, if not chaotic.

Radical Islamism on the Rise in Tatarstan?

Even if youngsters in Tatarstan are becoming islamic, the authorities in this Russian republic have little reason to fear a surge in religious extremism. Persecution of pious Muslims would in fact only spur violence, not prevent it.

I recently came across an article that argues that Tatarstan is facing an Islamization scenario akin to what has already occurred in Ingushetia and Dagestan. It reports on a talk given at a conference on ethnic and religious tolerance recently held in Kazan. Rais Suleimanov, the deputy director of the Center for Eurasian and International Studies at the Kazan Financial University, points out that youth comprise 40 percent of people who regularly attend mosque in the region. Yana Amelina, the head of the Caucasus department at the center and another conference participant, notes that radical Islam has over the last few years replaced ethnic separatism as the dominant anti-state ideology in the Caucasus and is now spreading into the Volga region.

When I was last in Kazan two years ago, I was struck by the sheer number of young women wearing “Islamic” clothing and young men with those beards that act as markers of Islamic identity in the former Soviet Union. This was in stark contrast to previous visits, when everyone (and especially young people) wore European style clothing and hair styles. The number of people with such Islamic markers was also much higher in Kazan two years ago than in my visit to Baku last week.

Of course, wearing traditional clothing or a beard is not a sign that one is a Wahhabi extremist (though it might be interpreted as such a sign by the local authorities). But I think there is no doubt that young people are more religious now than they were five to ten years ago and that the religion they are following is not the “traditional (Hanafi) Islam” of the area but less moderate imports from the Middle East.

But this does not mean that they are all ready to take up arms against the government or support some kind of Islamic Caliphate. The authorities would take that interpretation at their own peril — if they start repressing religious Tatars, they may end up promoting more violence than if the people were left alone to worship as they please.

The proposal in the article that the government should reject any attempts at dialog with the “Wahhabi lobby” in Russia and instead ban all “Wahhabi activity” seems to be particularly counterproductive in this regard. This is the kind of thing that was tried in places like Kabardino-Balkaria five, six years ago and only led to more people taking up arms against the authorities, because of a desire for revenge against the very people who humiliated them or repressed their relatives. Those who follow this topic may well remember the story about Russian Interior Ministry operatives going into mosques and forcibly shaving people or carving crosses into their hair. The net result of these actions was a rapid increase in anti-government attitudes, followed by Islamic radicalism, then a spike in violence in the region.

The regional authorities could shoot themselves in the foot by taking excessively harsh measures against nonviolent but pious Muslims who reject the traditional Islamic leadership in the region in favor of strands of Islam imported from the Middle East. In that case, one could see the formation of violent bands whose goal is revenge against those who humiliated or hurt them.

If, on the other hand, followers of Salafi Islam in Tatarstan are monitored but not persecuted, the chances for a significant surge of religiously based violence in the region is pretty remote.

Violence in the Caucasus is due to a combination of religious extremism, a hopeless economic situation, and a perception that the local authorities are all crooks. Tatarstan may have more religious extremists than it used to, but its economic situation is pretty good by Russian standards and its authorities are less blatantly corrupt than those in the North Caucasus. Unless we start seeing massive unemployment among young Muslim men in the Volga region, I don’t think we should worry about the kind of violence and instability that we see in Dagestan or Ingushetia spreading to Tatarstan.

There will be occasional disenchanted Tatar extremists who want to fight, but they will continue to do what they have been doing for the last decade — they’ll go off to the Caucasus, or to Afghanistan, and fight there. Tatarstan itself, as well as the entire Volga region, will become more religious, to be sure, but will nonetheless remain fairly stable and non-violent for the foreseeable future.

Who’s to Blame for the Arabs’ Troubles?

Those interested in the politics and culture of the Arab world may want to check out this short blog post from Tom Ricks over at Foreign Policy. Granted, Ricks doesn’t exactly contribute anything himself in terms of substance; his post merely highlights a debate between two scholars about the state of the Middle East today. But this is precisely why Ricks is one of the most knowledgeable journalists in international relations today. He knows when to step back and share the spotlight with other perspectives. Read more “Who’s to Blame for the Arabs’ Troubles?”

Fear of Change Propels Populists to Power

Throughout Europe, fringe movements have been able to maneuver themselves into the political spectrum, rallying anti-immigration forces and a renewed sense of nationalism with considerable electoral success. While the world is globalizing and Europe becoming one, millions of people, from Finland to Italy, want to have no part of multiculturalism and change. Read more “Fear of Change Propels Populists to Power”

Iran’s Internal Power Struggle

Although the international sanctions imposed upon Iran this summer have hardly been as “crippling” as intended, internal concern about the country not heading in the right direction is mounting. In Tehran, the very clerical class that brought Iran’s thirty year-old revolutionary order to power worries about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s saber rattling and his apparent unwillingness to compromise in the face of worldwide opposition. Even President Barack Obama said in August that his administration had picked up “rumblings that there is disquiet about the impact” of the latest round of sanctions in Iran.

Iran is gradually deteriorating into a military dictatorship. Having successfully suppressed the widespread opposition that ensued from last year’s disputed presidential election, Ahmadinejad and his allies in the Revolutionary Guard are now set to oust the conservative elements from the regime which have accused him of pursuing an “extremist” agenda. As the president distances himself from the theocratic roots of Iran’s Islamic Republic, the mullahs who once gave it legitimacy are increasingly sidelined.

Clerics and parliamentarians from the older generation, who were part of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, fear that Ahmadinejad is squandering religious principles in favor of a messianic cult that rejects the intermediary role of the clergy. Ahmadinejad has referred to the divide among conservatives, warning that “the regime has only one party” while his supporters refer to the opposition in parliament as a “conspiracy” — the same rhetoric as was deployed during last year’s protests.

The latest attack was launched via the website Mashanews which is run by Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and advisor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. “Iran needs to remove the mullahs from power once for all,” the site proclaimed, “and return to a great civilization without the Arab style clerics who have tainted and destroyed the country for the past 31 years.”

The president’s office now claims to favor a separation of Church and State, or one between dīn and dowla. The executive, according to Ahmadinejad, “is the most important branch of government,” a statement that would seem to challenge the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council which he elects. The president’s his allies are also stressing Iran’s unique Persian and Shiite character compared to the Arab Sunnism of its neighbors, attempting to frame Ahmadinejad as something of a benign, secular leader.

Neither faction is likely to attract the sympathy of last year’s protesters however whose calls for democracy and human rights may have gone underground but can impossibly be rooted out. Rather a power struggle among conservatives could only strengthen them in their resolve.

Turkey’s New Place in the Middle East

In a referendum held last Sunday, a majority of Turks voted to enact a series of constitutional amendments that will reform the country’s judiciary and limit the influence of the military in the legal sphere. The vote is being hailed as a victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP which claim to champion modernization and liberalization along Western lines.

Members of the opposition — and many Westerners with them — fret about the country’s supposed Islamification meanwhile, alleging that Erdoğan is attempting to turn Turkey into a full fledged Islamic state. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Robert Pollock forcefully characterizes recent developments in Turkey as nothing short of “a national decline into madness.” The AKP, he believes, has “traded on America and Israel hatred” while Turkey’s foreign policy is now aimed as loosening ties with the West and seeking its “own sphere of influence to the east.”

In Turkey, which has witnessed three separate intervals of military dictatorship since 1960, democracy may be relatively untested but it’s hardly precarious. For decades, the country has been enacting reform after reform in order to quality for European Union membership only to realize today that it will probably never be admitted into this continental club of wealthy nations.

Turkey’s secular establishment, still gazing across the Bosporus with high hopes, is terrified at the prospect of a conservative Muslim majority, supportive of Prime Minister Erdoğan, becoming more assertive. The AKP government may have only partly succeeded in repealing a ban on women wearing headscarfs in public spaces but its intentions are clear. The ruling party pretends to uphold religious freedoms; the opposition sees signs of orthodox Islamism. Whatever Erdoğan’s agenda, he has profoundly shifted Turkey’s outlook.

Ankara is turning eastward, intensifying trade relations with neighboring Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; enacting partnerships across the region with Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf Cooperation Council states; negotiating a nuclear fuel exchange agreement with Iran and cozying up with Russia. Turkey is, in short, awakening as a regional power.

The country’s rhetoric has changed simultaneously. Erdoğan and his government pretended to be outraged when Israel attacked a small fleet of blockade runners headed for Gaza this summer. After decades of maintaining stable relations with the Jewish state, it appeared as though Turkey were suddenly in the Islamic camp, lambasting the country for its suppression of Palestinians in their own territories. Pictures of Erdoğan embracing Iranian Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran and describing him as a “good friend” have only added to mounting concern in Europe and the United States about Turkey’s newfound allegiances.

To the ignorant observer, it may seem as though Turkey is moving down the path of radical Islamism, hijacked by a party of conservative Muslims dedicated to shaping a formerly moderate and secular society in their own image. Reality, as is so often the case, is rather more complicated.

Turkey is frustrated that after years of dancing to Europe’s tunes, even the union’s two most powerful national leaders — German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy — now take issue with the notion of Turkish membership. Turkey is finding a place for itself in a region that embraces it instead. But no matter its policy of “zero problems” with neighbors, Turkey’s active diplomacy is redefining the Middle East.

Critics may point to Ankara’s bellicosity toward Israel but as Thomas Barnett explains in his World Politics Review column, there is good reason for the Turks to suddenly appear to stand up to Israel and the United States. After all, if it simply “fell in line” with American foreign policy, the country would lack credibility among Muslim nations. The ideal Western ally in the region should be “just Islamist enough to be seen as preserving the nation’s religious and cultural identity, even as it aggressively modernized its society and connected its economy to the larger world.”

It would have an activist foreign policy that emphasized diplomacy, multilateralism and regional stability, while also maintaining sufficient independence from America to demonstrate that it was not Washington’s proxy, but rather a confident great power navigating the currents of history. In sum, it would serve as an example to its coreligionists of how a Muslim state can progressively improve itself amid globalization’s deepening embrace — while remaining a Muslim state.

According to Barnett, with every step it has taken in recent years toward enhancing its engagement with the Middle East — which was made possible by the demise of Egyptian and Iraqi influence and prestige — Turkey has improved its ability to serve as a gateway between East and West. Many Arabs see Turkey as both a moderate counterweight to Iran and as a window to the West while it has proven itself quite capable of operating as intermediary between Western interests and those of regional power brokers in negotiations with Tehran.

Sadly, Barnett notes, “officials and experts on both sides of this longtime military alliance describe America’s current relationship with Turkey as suffering serious decline and even suppressed hostility.” Washington was outraged when Turkey voted against renewed United Nations sanctions on Iran after its own negotiation efforts had been dismissed by the Americans.

Now, the White House is threatening to punish Ankara for the infamous “Gaza peace flotilla” dust-up with Israel — and its lingering aftermath — by downsizing our historically strong bilateral military cooperation, in particular by torpedoing promised arms sales and boycotting Turkey’s biggest annual military exercise. Stunningly enough, while perennially double-dealing Pakistan is rewarded with blank checks by the Pentagon, Turkey is taken to the woodshed.

The Obama Administration shouldn’t maintain such an incomprehensible double standard nor fret too much about Turkey’s choices. Its strategic redefining is an opportunity to reshape the Middle East altogether into a safer, more coherent region.

For one thing, while America is about to abandon Iraq, neighbors, Turkey included, are left to live with the consequences. In anticipation, it is gradually increasing defense spending, planning to acquire, among other things, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, attack helicopters, tanks and four submarines. That is, unless Washington makes a fuss and forgets that Turkey is still a committed member of NATO with the third largest air force in the alliance.

On another front, Turkey is expecting Iran to eventually acquire the bomb. Unless that prompts an immediate war with Israel, what will follow, Barnett predicts, is a new security architecture for the entire Middle East. “The advent of nuclear rivalries in the region — first Israel-Iran, then Iran-Turkey, and possibly Iran-Saudi Arabia — will incentivize the world’s energy dependent great powers to force just such a diplomatic accommodation on the region’s capitals.”

“When those negotiations,” he writes, “tense as they will be, are finally called to order, America will be glad to see Turkey sitting at the table, balancing both Iran’s fantasies and Israel’s fears” — and possibly, Iraq’s pretensions. To get to that point where it is able to act as regional arbitrator, Ankara will have to distance itself from old friends and allies a bit. Though painful, in the end, it will all be worthwhile.