Analysis: What’s behind Erdogan-Bin Salman rapprochement?

Analysis: What’s behind Erdogan-Bin Salman rapprochement?

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in 2018 called the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "saw man" and assassination of the outspoken Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi the "biggest threat to the international order after the 9/11 attacks", is set to roll out the red carpet to the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday....

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in 2018 called the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "saw man" and assassination of the outspoken Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi the "biggest threat to the international order after the 9/11 attacks", is set to roll out the red carpet to the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday. On the other side, bin Salman, who paid foreign visits less than before and was in isolation due to Khashoggi case, is concealing his unlimited aversion of his sworn foe behind artificial smiles and thinks about end of difficult days amid regional normalization wave ahead of Biden's visit to the kingdom.

Prince Mohammed was first scheduled to visit Turkey on May 25, but the trip was postponed to this week due to illness of his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Bin Salman's visit comes as Erdogan paid a two-day visit to Riyadh on April 28 and met with the king and him. According to media reports, the main topics of discussion between Erdogan and bin Salman will be regional and international issues, including Yemen war, the consequences of the Ukraine crisis on the region, the strengthening of relations between the two countries, and signing energy and trade agreements.

It is noteworthy that Turkey is the third destination of the Saudi king-in-waiting's regional tour. He visited Egypt on Monday and will visit Jordan on Tuesday. Now the question is that what goals do Erdogan and bin Salman seek behind their détente?

Machiavellianist policy of Erdogan type

Although bin Salman's visit, like many other diplomatic meetings, could be a normal diplomatic one, what makes his visit sensitive is that Ankara and Riyadh in the years following the failed coup in July 2016 that sought to topple Erdogan experienced tense ties, reaching their culmination with the murder of bin Salman's vocal critic Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the hands of a hit squad reportedly sent by bin Salman.

Relations between Riyadh and Ankara reached their nadir after the assassination of Saudi journalist, and even reached the point where Erdogan wrote in an article to the Washington Post that no other event since 9/11 has posed such a serious threat to international order or challenged conventions the world considers basic.

Responding to Erdogan's heavy and vast propaganda campaign against bin Salman, Riyadh banned Turkish goods and cultural products that had gained massive ground in the Arab world, escalating the crisis between the two countries to the highest possible level. However, from the beginning of 2021, this rift began to calm down and Erdogan raised the white flag. The first manifestation of this was observed during the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu to Riyadh in May 2021. With the transfer of Khashoggi case to Saudi Arabia from Turkey in early April, no doubt was left that Erdogan seeks to appease the Saudi crown prince for help to contain the economic crisis and stay longer in power even if it costs him his prestige.

Economic crisis has been Erdogan's Achilles heel in recent years. He and the leaders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are well aware that if the current economic situation in the country lingers, they will not have a place in the political future of Turkey. The slump of the national currency lira, the inflation rate of nearly 20 percent, and the erratic economic decisions have made Turkey more than ever facing the possibility of fleeing of foreign capital. In the past few years, inflation rate of above 15 percent has dissuaded foreign investors from investing in the country. Meanwhile, 19 percent interest rate in Turkey was attractive to foreign investors, but reducing it to 15 percent would frighten away them.

Even recently, the inflation rate in Turkey has touched unprecedented rate of 73 percent, making management of the situation extremely difficult for the AKP. Under such circumstances, Erdogan seems to be trying to ease the economic pressures by mending frayed relations with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and therefore maintain a chance for himself and his party to win the parliamentary and presidential elections next year. For example, after the ruling by Turkish Supreme Court to handover Khashoggi case to Riyadh, the informal boycott of Turkish goods was largely lifted. As a result, trade between the two countries reached $58 million in March, growing three folds compared to the year before.

Although his economic woes and the need to stay in power may have led Erdogan to a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, his political behavior is undoubtedly a disgrace and an example of a Machiavellian approach that is in no way befitting of a political leader who likes to be Muslims' leader and a Sultan of Ottoman grace.

He showed the whole world how he disregards religious and moral values and how he can move past the biggest ethical case of his 20 years in power. Of course, such an approach has precedents in the cases of Yemen and Palestine, and Erdogan did not hesitate to sell the Palestinians and their cause and extended a hand of friendship to the child-killer Israeli regime in order to overcome his home crises.

Bin Salman trying to keep things under control until ascension to the throne

Bearing heavy political and media pressures put on him for assassination of Khashoggi for four years, bin Salman has enough reasons to mend ties with his sworn adversary. Unlike in Trump period, under Biden, bin Salman witnessed entry to the White House of many voices critical of him, jeopardizing his position as crown prince and next king. In addition to lashing out at bin Salman for his human right record, Biden administration scaled down military and intelligence assistance to the kingdom for more pressures on him.

Disappointed with Biden, bin Salman tangibly altered his foreign policy, with its two key faces being regional de-escalation and creeping eastward to China and Russia.

But certainly by visiting Turkey, bin Salman considers a reality and it is that by stretching a hand of friendship to Erdogan, he takes the biggest revenge of him: what revenge could be higher than Erdogan's dishonor?



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The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in 2018 called the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "saw man" and assassination of the outspoken Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi the "biggest threat to the international order after the 9/11 attacks", is set to roll out the red carpet to the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday. On the other side, bin Salman, who paid foreign visits less than before and was in isolation due to Khashoggi case, is concealing his unlimited aversion of his sworn foe behind artificial smiles and thinks about end of difficult days amid regional normalization wave ahead of Biden's visit to the kingdom.

Prince Mohammed was first scheduled to visit Turkey on May 25, but the trip was postponed to this week due to illness of his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Bin Salman's visit comes as Erdogan paid a two-day visit to Riyadh on April 28 and met with the king and him. According to media reports, the main topics of discussion between Erdogan and bin Salman will be regional and international issues, including Yemen war, the consequences of the Ukraine crisis on the region, the strengthening of relations between the two countries, and signing energy and trade agreements.

It is noteworthy that Turkey is the third destination of the Saudi king-in-waiting's regional tour. He visited Egypt on Monday and will visit Jordan on Tuesday. Now the question is that what goals do Erdogan and bin Salman seek behind their détente?

Machiavellianist policy of Erdogan type

Although bin Salman's visit, like many other diplomatic meetings, could be a normal diplomatic one, what makes his visit sensitive is that Ankara and Riyadh in the years following the failed coup in July 2016 that sought to topple Erdogan experienced tense ties, reaching their culmination with the murder of bin Salman's vocal critic Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the hands of a hit squad reportedly sent by bin Salman.

Relations between Riyadh and Ankara reached their nadir after the assassination of Saudi journalist, and even reached the point where Erdogan wrote in an article to the Washington Post that no other event since 9/11 has posed such a serious threat to international order or challenged conventions the world considers basic.

Responding to Erdogan's heavy and vast propaganda campaign against bin Salman, Riyadh banned Turkish goods and cultural products that had gained massive ground in the Arab world, escalating the crisis between the two countries to the highest possible level. However, from the beginning of 2021, this rift began to calm down and Erdogan raised the white flag. The first manifestation of this was observed during the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu to Riyadh in May 2021. With the transfer of Khashoggi case to Saudi Arabia from Turkey in early April, no doubt was left that Erdogan seeks to appease the Saudi crown prince for help to contain the economic crisis and stay longer in power even if it costs him his prestige.

Economic crisis has been Erdogan's Achilles heel in recent years. He and the leaders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are well aware that if the current economic situation in the country lingers, they will not have a place in the political future of Turkey. The slump of the national currency lira, the inflation rate of nearly 20 percent, and the erratic economic decisions have made Turkey more than ever facing the possibility of fleeing of foreign capital. In the past few years, inflation rate of above 15 percent has dissuaded foreign investors from investing in the country. Meanwhile, 19 percent interest rate in Turkey was attractive to foreign investors, but reducing it to 15 percent would frighten away them.

Even recently, the inflation rate in Turkey has touched unprecedented rate of 73 percent, making management of the situation extremely difficult for the AKP. Under such circumstances, Erdogan seems to be trying to ease the economic pressures by mending frayed relations with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and therefore maintain a chance for himself and his party to win the parliamentary and presidential elections next year. For example, after the ruling by Turkish Supreme Court to handover Khashoggi case to Riyadh, the informal boycott of Turkish goods was largely lifted. As a result, trade between the two countries reached $58 million in March, growing three folds compared to the year before.

Although his economic woes and the need to stay in power may have led Erdogan to a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, his political behavior is undoubtedly a disgrace and an example of a Machiavellian approach that is in no way befitting of a political leader who likes to be Muslims' leader and a Sultan of Ottoman grace.

He showed the whole world how he disregards religious and moral values and how he can move past the biggest ethical case of his 20 years in power. Of course, such an approach has precedents in the cases of Yemen and Palestine, and Erdogan did not hesitate to sell the Palestinians and their cause and extended a hand of friendship to the child-killer Israeli regime in order to overcome his home crises.

Bin Salman trying to keep things under control until ascension to the throne

Bearing heavy political and media pressures put on him for assassination of Khashoggi for four years, bin Salman has enough reasons to mend ties with his sworn adversary. Unlike in Trump period, under Biden, bin Salman witnessed entry to the White House of many voices critical of him, jeopardizing his position as crown prince and next king. In addition to lashing out at bin Salman for his human right record, Biden administration scaled down military and intelligence assistance to the kingdom for more pressures on him.

Disappointed with Biden, bin Salman tangibly altered his foreign policy, with its two key faces being regional de-escalation and creeping eastward to China and Russia.

But certainly by visiting Turkey, bin Salman considers a reality and it is that by stretching a hand of friendship to Erdogan, he takes the biggest revenge of him: what revenge could be higher than Erdogan's dishonor?

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