Al Jazeera .. Qatar, Turkey and Syria .. Whats next!

[10-10-2011 12:00 AM]

By Amer Al Sabaileh

The coverage of Al Jazeera over the last few months gives us food for thought on how issues and alliances are changing in the Arab world, particularly in regard to relations between Turkey, Syria and Qatar. Taking the example of Syria, it was somewhat strange to note that despite the supplications of protestors to cover their story, Al Jazeera acted as if nothing were happening at first. It was only after the withdrawal of the Qatari Ambassador from Damascus and the negative outcome of Ahmet Daoud Uglu’s visit to Syria that the channel changed tack and the Syrian issue became its hottest headline news.

Then there is the interesting question of the slant Al Jazeera took on the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The channel played a major role in getting the Arab world to see him in a positive light. The starting point was when the Prime Minister walked off stage after an angry exchange with Shimon Peres during a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum Davous 2009.

However, since then, any attentive follower of Al Jazeera would have notice the well directed propaganda that has surrounded the image of Erdogan. The increase in his popularity in Arab countries could well be due to the way the channel had orchestrated his appearances, making sure that he was constantly in the news and focusing on what the Arabs may have missed or more pertinently, by pointing out what they have never seen in their leaders.

Today, it seems that Qatar and the gulf monarchies are starting to realize that behind the new Turkey there is a project which is not at all like the one they had in mind. The imminent scenario will not be a Sunni crescent to face the proclaimed Iranian threat. Some have started to apprehend that in the oncoming climate, not even the Sunni monarchies will be safe and change for everybody will be the operative phase. This brings us to the question of “who is good and who is bad”? Turkey or Iran? Another new dilemma that many are starting to question is whether Turkey is a real enemy of Israel. Many are doubtful, especially after the decision of the Turkish government to deploy a missile defense system aimed at protecting NATO members from the threat of Iranian missiles, according to the Iranian explanation.

Since Wadah Khanfar, the former director, left Al Jazeera, not only has news output about Erdogan dropped, but it has also changed its slant and the channel doesn’t promote his hero image anymore. Reading between the lines this could mean a new era for Al Jazeera and Turkey where the channel will seek new allies and give its backing to old friends. Maybe they think Qatari-Saudi relations would be a better bet. One hypothesis is that new alliances will start to appear as many have recently started to worry that Erdogan’s ambition is somehow incontrollable. Some have even said that he already sees himself standing on the Castle of Aleppo, delivering a speech to what is called the Sunni’s world (a symbolic reference to the era of the Ottoman Empire).
This would justify the latest doubts regarding the Turkish desire to back up the Islamic parties to catch power in most of the Arab countries.

The imminent future will be filled with new moves, tactics, politics and behavior. Maybe there will be less pressure on the Syrian regime. Perhaps we’ll see a convergence of Iranian-Qatari relations? Some critical voices to the Qatari role in Libya could represent a foreshadowing of a coming conflict in the future among many protagonists of the political arena.
It’s possible, but above all, we Jordanians should analyze changes carefully in order to guarantee a vital role, solid position and rebuilding of our political alliances based on our national interests.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh

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