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Daily News Analysis

Turkish-Saudi rivalry: the new dynamic

Crescent International

On February 7, the Washington based al-monitor.com published a commentary on how “Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, was recently interviewed by American journalist Martin Smith in Idlib, sparking controversy among the Syrian opposition and activists, especially since he was not wearing his traditional shami sirwel (loose pants) or his turban or carrying his rifle.”

Smith works for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

PBS is the closest thing to a government TV channel in the US which generally reflects Washington’s outlook on global issues.

The channel’s interview of an Al-Qaeda leader rebranded as HTS, in a manner of trying to objectively hear him out is, therefore, an implicit move towards normalizing HTS as a legitimate political player in Syria.

While US cooperation with Al-Qaeda in Syria is an open secret, attempts by the HTS to reposition itself as a political entity first and a militia second is most likely a policy formulated in Ankara.

Wahhabi-oriented militias in Syria’s Idlib province could not have survived without Turkey’s explicit support.

If Ankara were to shut off trade and logistic routes into Idlib, HTS and its ilk would face a tight siege that they would not survive for long.

HTS’s heavy dependence on Turkey ignoring its cross-border activities is adding a new dynamic to Turkish-Saudi tensions.

Prior to the war on Islamic Iran in Syria, the Wahhabi orbit of the Muslim Ummah was a Saudi domain.

After 2015, when Riyadh and NATO regimes understood that their project in Syria has failed, Ankara was left alone in the mess it helped create on its borders in 2011.

This left Turkey with a myriad of Wahhabi militias in Syria.

Their presence on Turkey’s borders remains a serious security threat for it as well as the entire region.

Both parties understood that they will be totally defeated politically in Syria if they don’t forge an alliance.

Ankara and the Wahhabi militias began to actively cooperate.

This cooperation robbed the Saudis of their decades long reliable destabilization tool as Turkey became the primary patron of Wahhabi militias in Syria.

Today, Idlib province is the primary political theater where Wahhabi militias exercise some political control and their enablers are no longer Riyadh or Washington, but Ankara.

This reality gives Ankara the upper hand in Turkish-Saudi regional rivalry, as Riyadh is not seen favorably by the Joe Biden regime.

Turkey is in a far stronger political and military position today than the Saudis.

Once Washington starts exerting pressure on Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the Wahhabi card may be utilized, and it will be done through Turkish assistance.

Like Barack Obama, Biden is focused on altering America’s image rather than changing its aggressive foreign policy.

There is no better PR campaign for the Biden regime than appearing “tough” on the Saudis.

We should, therefore, expect to see closer cooperation between Ankara and the US in the coming months.

Preliminary signs of this are already becoming visible.

On February 9 Turkey hinted that it is ready to compromise with the US over Russian S-400 missiles.

While Ankara will most likely become Biden’s choice of leverage to pressure the Saudis, once the Wahhabi element is thrown into the mix, the entire region will be destabilized further.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s other gambit to become the region’s dominant power with American backing might prove as destructive as his policy on Syria in 2011.

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