By Joseph Puder:
In an interview with Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria, U.S. President Barack Obama named Recep Tayyip Erdogan as one of his five top international friends, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak, and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Neither Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was included.
Although Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey and King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia are both Sunni-Muslim states, their national interests and political aspirations are at odds with one another. Erdogan has become President Obama’s trusted ally in the Middle East, while the Saudis are mistrustful of Obama and seek to lessen their dependence on the U.S. To show its displeasure with the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia renounced the UN Security Council seat it worked hard to get. Erdogan supported President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, while the Saudis were the first to congratulate General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s military chief, for overthrowing the Morsi-Muslim Brotherhood regime. In Syria, Erdogan supports the Muslim Brotherhood elements within the Syrian Sunni opposition, while the Saudis back the likes of radical al-Qaida affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Perhaps most interesting is the position of the two Islamic states on Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza. Erdogan has recently divulged to Iran the identities of ten Iranian spies for Israel. He also pushed to exclude Israel from NATO military exercises, and has been a major supporter of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas. The Saudis, on the other hand, have had and continue to have contacts with Israel, albeit, under the radar. Israel and Saudi Arabia share core issues, which include the dangerous prospect of a nuclear Iran, concern over the recent advances made by the Muslim Brotherhood since the “Arab Spring” began, and exasperation with the Obama administration over the handling of the Syrian crisis, and particularly with its naïve assessment of Iran’s “charm offensive.”
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