SAT 15 - 12 - 2018
Mar 8, 2018
The Daily Star
MBS: Turkey part of triangle of evil
CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud has described Turkey as part of a “triangle of evil” along with Iran and hard-line Islamist groups, Egypt’s Al-Shorouk newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Saudi prince also accused Turkey of trying to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate, abolished nearly a century ago when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
His reported comments reflect Saudi Arabia’s deep suspicion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics, supports the Muslim Brotherhood and who has allied his country with Qatar in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states.
Turkey has also worked with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archrival in the Middle East, to try to reduce fighting in northern Syria in recent months, and Iranian and Turkish military chiefs exchanged visits last year.
Al-Shorouk quoted Prince Mohammad as saying that “the contemporary triangle of evil comprises Iran, Turkey and extremist religious groups.”
He said the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group declared a terrorist organization by Egypt and outlawed in most Gulf Arab states, had taken advantage of democratic elections.
The Brotherhood won a series of free elections in Egypt after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, culminating in Egypt’s presidential election the following year.
But President Mohammad Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure, was overthrown a year later by the military amid mass protests calling for his resignation.
The prince spoke to Egyptian newspaper editors during a visit to Cairo, on his first foreign trip since becoming heir to the oil exporting giant last year.
He said the dispute with Qatar could be long-lasting, comparing it to the U.S. embargo of Cuba imposed 60 years ago, but played down its impact, dismissing the Gulf emirate as “smaller than a Cairo street.”
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar last June, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is home to the region’s biggest U.S. military base.
However, Prince Salman said Qatar would not be barred from attending an Arab summit hosted by Saudi Arabia later this month.
Qatar has long denied funding extremists, though it supports Islamist opposition movements that are considered terrorist groups by other countries in the region, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
It has long had warm ties with Iran, with which it shares a massive undersea gas field.
“We will not accept any resolutions to the crisis [with Qatar] outside an Arab or a Gulf framework, but that does not mean we will bar Qatar from attending the upcoming Arab summit,” said the prince, who flew to London Tuesday night at the end of a three-day visit to Egypt.
Prince Mohammad claimed success in the kingdom’s struggle to counter Tehran’s growing influence in the region, saying that “Iran’s project is collapsing and we are besieging it everywhere.”
An Arab-led coalition has been battling Iran-allied rebels in Yemen since March 2015, but has made little headway.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine, while the Houthi rebels remain in firm control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north.
In Syria, meanwhile, Saudi-backed rebels have suffered a series of setbacks over the past two years as Russian and Iranian support has allowed President Bashar Assad’s forces to make advances on a number of fronts.
Saudi Arabia has sought to rally support against Iran by allying itself with Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, countries that fear Tehran’s growing influence.
A joint Saudi-Egyptian statement released late Tuesday, which apparently referred to Iran, said “the security of the Arab region cannot be realized except through the end of all attempts to interfere by a regional party in the affairs of Arab nations.”
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