- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stand back and watch John McCreary analyze a minor news event and detect the deep historical trends underlying it:
Turkey-Saudi Arabia: On 9 March, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan received the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Saudi Arabia, according to Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency today.
The King Faisal International Prize is presented to scientists and others who make contributions to Islam and a positive difference in the world. At the award ceremony, Erdogan said Turkey has strived to establish peace, stability and security in the region and the world.
Comment: To recap the action, the Saudis gave the supposed leader of a secular state — Turkey — an award for his service to Islam. That would seem to clinch the argument in Turkey’s constitutional court about Erdogan’s service to Turkey’s secular constitution and history. The Saudis openly encouraged Erdogan’s erosion of the legacy of Ataturk.
STRATFOR’s thesis is the Saudis are looking to Turkey to act as an ally in restraining Iranian pretensions to regional hegemony. The Turks have their own leadership aspirations which involve pursuing a neo-Ottoman strategy that joins Sunnis and Shias under enlightened, of course, Turkish leadership.
Even if the Turks do not cooperate much with the Saudis, the Turkish-Persian rivalry for regional dominance is rooted in thousands of years of history. The Arabs are clever enough to revive that old dispute while sitting on the sidelines. Erdogan and the Iranian Ayatollahs are arrogant enough to fall for the bait.