Extending Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement to include Iran

Extending Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement to include Iran

Israel continues committing genocide in Gaza. More than thirty thousand people have been killed so far. However, the responses of the states in the region to Israeli aggression have been limited, without a significant impact over the course of Israel’s actions.

“Limited” moves against Israel

Government officials in Türkiye, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the first place, made statements targeting the Netanyahu government at the beginning of the ground operation in Gaza, normalization process with Israel were halted, but there came no concrete action to pressure Israel. The announcement by the Ministry of Trade about restricting trade with Israel in certain products was merely a declaration that trade with Israel would continue.

Egypt expressed it opposes to the plan to expel Gazans to the Sinai Peninsula following the start of the ground operation in Gaza and increased security measures at the Rafah Border Crossing. Shortly after the statement by the Egyptian Prime Minister at the Rafah Border Crossing and the extensive military exercises of the Egyptian Army in the Sinai Peninsula, the Israeli Army “accidentally” targeted Egyptian tanks on the Egyptian side of the border, and then was hushed up.

Iran, since the beginning of the war in Gaza, has waged a war of attrition against Israel through the forces it supports in the region (Hezbollah, Houthis, etc.), and has been successful to a certain extent, but this couldn’t be enough to stop Israel’s operations in Gaza. Iran’s response to Israel’s attack on its diplomatic mission in Syria will be decisive for the developments in the coming period.

In sum, despite their stances against Israel and actions in different degrees, the three major states in the region –Türkiye, Egypt, and Iran– couldn’t stop Israel’s attacks. It should be noted that the avoidance of Türkiye and Egypt from taking deterrent steps against Israel is largely due to their economic relations with the West.

Danger awaiting Egypt and Türkiye

President Erdoğan and his Egyptian counterpart el-Sisi met for the first time in 11 years in February, and the normalization process between Ankara and Cairo reached its peak.

The increasing threat of war worldwide, the need to address deepening economic crises in both countries and Israel’s reckless steps in the region can be considered as the underlying reasons for this normalization. Besides bilateral relations, there is a wide area of possible cooperation, including natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya and Palestine.

Before moving to the topic of cooperation between Türkiye and Egypt on Palestine, it is worth mentioning an issue of concern for both countries: the increasing presence of the American private security company Amentum operating jointly with the Pentagon in Libya.

As retired Lieutenant-General Ismail Hakkı Pekin of the Turkish Armed Forces and former Head of Intelligence at the Chief of Staff explained in detail in an interview to UWI, the US is using the Amentum company to exert influence over armed elements within the Government of National Accord in Libya and thereby limit Türkiye’s influence. According to Pekin, Washington is waiting for favorable conditions, aiming to control energy resources and is backing the Dbeibah government behind the scenes, pretending as if not though.

Such US moves could jeopardize Türkiye’s gains in Libya and even create an environment that could once again pit Türkiye and Egypt against each other through Libya. A rekindling of civil war in Libya would also pose a great threat to Egypt, which shares a long land border with it. Türkiye and Egypt have the potential to bring together different parties in Libya independently of the US.

The seismic effect of Türkiye-Egypt-Iran cooperation

Let’s return to Gaza.

Türkiye’s influence over different wings of Hamas may be waning but still exists, and there are historical ties between the Egyptian government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Ankara and Cairo could leverage their influence over various Palestinian groups, also include Iran (which has undeniable influence over Palestinian groups, especially Islamic Jihad), to create a structure like “national consensus government” Palestine. The coming together of Palestinian political groups will strengthen resistance against Israel and may even expand towards the West Bank.

Alongside the normalization between Türkiye and Egypt, also steps are being taken to improve relations between Iran and Egypt, which have been at their lowest since the 1979 Revolution.

In addition to bringing Palestinian groups together, a joint statement of Türkiye, Egypt, and Iran as three countries with deep-rooted traditions of statehood in the region against Israel would hit Tel Aviv hard and send seismic waves not only regionally but globally. Such a cooperation would reduce pressure from the US/Israel on these countries and strengthen the determination for complete independence in the region.

We should state, to complete the picture, that building a regional initiative for Palestine through taking the mentioned steps requires willpower and courage.

Onur Sinan Güzaltan
Onur Sinan Güzaltan was born in Istanbul in 1985. He had his Bachelors's degree in Law, from the Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne Universty /Paris XII and a Master's degree in International and European Law. He got his certificate of diploma equivalence at Galatasaray University. Later, he got a Master's degree in International Trade Law, at the Institut de Droit des Affaires Internationales, founded jointly by the Sorbonne Universty and the Cairo Universty. In this process, he had served as the Cairo representative for the Aydinlik Newspaper. He has several articles and television streams within the international press, in such as People's Daily, Al Yaum, Al Ahram, Russia Today FranceAl Youm Al Sabea. In addition to being the author of the Tanrı Bizi İster Mi?, a work that studies the 2011-2013 political period in Egypt, he had also contributed to the multi-author study titled Ortadoğu Çıkmazında Türkiye, with an article that focused on the Turkish-Egyptian relations. While currently working as a lawyer, he also writes a weekly column for Aydinlik Newspaper on the subject of international politics and geopolitics.

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May 2024