Times change’. Iranian leaders may not be fans of Bob Dylan, but his words are likely to resonate as they ponder their next steps in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon and Azerbaijan.
The same applies to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president’s luster as a bitter defender of Muslim concerns has been tarnished by allegations of lax defense against money laundering and economic mismanagement unless there is an economic price to pay, as in the case of China’s brutal crackdown on Turkish Muslims.
The setbacks come at a time when Mr Erdogan’s popularity in opinion polls is falling.
Turkey expelled the ambassadors this weekend United States, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden for demanding the release of philanthropist and civil rights activist Osman Kavala in accordance with a decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
Neither Turkey nor Iran can afford setbacks, which often result from hubris. Both have bigger geopolitical, diplomatic, and economic fish to fry, and compete with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia, for religious soft power, if not the leadership of the Muslim world.
This competition takes on added importance in a world where Middle Eastern rivals seek to resolve, rather than resolve, their differences by focusing on economics and trade, and soft rather than tough power and proxy struggles.
In a recent incident, Hidayat Nur Wahid, deputy spokesman for the Indonesian parliament, said against the naming of a street in Jakarta after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the general who became statesmen who carved modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Mr Wahid suggested that it would be more appropriate to refer to the Ottoman sultans Mehmet the Conqueror or Suleiman the Magnificent or 14. to commemorateNSCentury Islamic scholar, Sufi mystic and poet Jalaludin Rumi.
Mr. Wahid is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and a board member of the Muslim World League run by Saudi Arabia, one of the main promoters of the kingdom’s religious soft power.
More importantly, Turkey’s integrity as a country vigorously fighting the funding of political violence and money laundering has been challenged by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international oversight agency, and a potential trial in the United States that could cause further damage The picture of Mr. Erdogan.
A U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that Turkish state lender Halkbank can be prosecuted on charges of helping Iran evade American sanctions.
Prosecutors have accused Halkbank of converting oil revenues into gold and then cash to further Iranian interests and documenting counterfeit food deliveries to justify transfers of oil revenues. They also said Halkbank helped Iran secretly transfer $ 20 billion in frozen funds, with at least $ 1 billion laundered through the U.S. financial system.
Halkbank has pleaded not guilty, arguing that it is immune under the Federal Law on Immunity to Foreign States because it is “synonymous” with Turkey, which enjoys immunity under that law. The case has complicated US-Turkish relations, with Mr Erdogan supporting Halkbank’s innocence in a 2018 memo to then-US President Donald Trump.
The FATF graylisted Turkey last week. It joins countries like Pakistan, Syria, South Sudan and Yemen who do not adhere to the group’s standards. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned earlier this year that it would be greylisting affect a country’s ability to borrow in international marketsand cost him the equivalent of up to 3 percent of the gross domestic product as well as a decline in foreign direct investment.
Mr. Erdogans The management of the economy has gotten into trouble the recent layoff of three central bank policymakers, an unexpectedly large rate cut that plunged the Turkish lira, drove prices higher, and an annual inflation rate of just under 20 percent last month. Mr. Erdogan regularly blames high interest rates for inflation.
A public opinion poll in May found that 56.9% of those questioned would not vote for Mr. Erdogan and that the president would lose in a runoff election to two of his rivals, Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas and his Istanbul counterpart Ekrem Imamoglu.
As more bad news for the president, polling firm Metropoll said its September poll showed that 69 percent of those surveyed saw secularism as a necessity, while 85.1 percent rejected the use of religion in the election campaign.
In the case of Iran, a combination of factors is changing the dynamics of Iran’s relations with some of its allied Arab militias, challenging the internal positioning of some of those militias, fueling concerns in Tehran that its critics are encircling it, and the way how Iran wants to project itself.
A just published report from the West Point Counter-Terrorism Center concluded that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was facing “growing difficulties controlling local militant cells.” Hardline anti-US militias are grappling with the contested needs to de-escalate US-Iran tensions, meet their base’s demands for anti-US operations, and at the same time develop non-kinetic political and social wings. “
Iran’s de-escalation of tensions with the United States is a function of efforts to revive the expired 2015 international agreement to contain Iran’s nuclear program and talks to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, even if they have not yet yielded tangible results.
Furthermore, the Iranian soft power in Iraq, as in Lebanon, has been challenged by the growing public opposition of the Iraqi people to sectarianism and Iranian-backed Shiite militias, which are at best only nominally controlled by the state.
Worse still, militias, including Hezbollah, the main Iranian-backed armed group in the Arab world, have been identified with corrupt elites in Lebanon and Iraq. Many in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah as part of an elite that has allowed the collapse of the Lebanese state in order to protect its own interests.
Hezbollah did little to counter these perceptions when the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Lebanese Christians after fighting broke out earlier that month between the militia and the Lebanese armed forces, a Maronite party, along the Green Line that separated the Christian East and the Muslim West of Beirut during the 1975-1990 civil war.
The two groups fought each other for hours when Hezbollah held a demonstration Put pressure on the government to conduct an investigation last year devastating explosion in the port of Beirut. Hezbollah fears the investigation could expose the group’s interests at the expense of public safety.
“The greatest threat to the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces Party and its boss,” warned Nasrallah, fueling fears of a return to sectarian violence.
It is a warning that undermines Iranâs claims that its Islam respects minority rights, as evidenced by the reserved seats in the countryâs parliament for religious minorities. These include Jews, Armenians, Assyrians, and Zoroastrians.
Similarly, an alliance of Iranian-backed Shiite militias emerged as the biggest loser in Iraqi elections this month. The Fateh (conquest) alliance, so far the second largest bloc in parliament, has reduced its seats from 48 to 17.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has brought forward the 2022 vote to appease a youth-led protest movement that erupted two years ago against corruption, unemployment, crumbling public services, sectarianism and Iranian political influence.
A bright spot from the Iranian point of view is the fact that in September there was an attempt by activists in the USA Engineering support for Iraqi recognition of Israel backfired.
Iran last month targeted facilities in northern Iraq run by Iranian opposition Kurdish groups. Tehran believes they are part of a tightening US-Israeli noose around the Islamic Republic that includes proxy and covert operations on the Iraqi and Azerbaijani borders.
Efforts to reduce tensions with Azerbaijan have failed. An end to a battle of words that turned out to be short-lived in military dueling maneuvers on both sides of the border. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, encouraged by Israeli and Turkish support in last year’s war against Armenia, appeared unwilling to suppress the rhetoric.
Faced with a dubious nuclear revival, Iran fears Azerbaijan could become a stage for covert US and Israeli operations. These doubts were heightened by calls for US support for Azerbaijan by scientists from conservative Washington think-tanks, including the Hudson Institute and the Inheritance.
Eldar Mamedov, a political advisor to the Social Democrats in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, warned: âthe US government should resist calls from hawks to be drawn into a conflict where there is no vital interest at stake, and much less on behalf of a regime that is so inconsistent with US values ââand interests. “
He stated that Mr. Aliyev had forced large US NGOs to leave Azerbaijan, trampled on human and political rights and anything but tolerant of the country’s Armenian heritage.