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Are The Persians, Ottomans And Arabs Setting The New World Order?

The peace agreement between UAE and Israel has shredded the myth of Arab or Islamic unity. Today, the Islamic world stands divided as never before
23 Aug 2020 15:15
Are The Persians, Ottomans And Arabs Setting The New World Order?
Headline in The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia, from the very beginning, has wielded the mantle of leadership of the Islamic world due to its immense oil wealth and being the custodian of Islam’s two holiest shrines.

Through its oil wealth and spiritual leadership, Saudis exported the Wahabi brand of Islam, which did not go well with other Muslim countries who practised different strands of Islam.

The emergence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman popularly known as MbS, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, rapidly changed not only the landscape of the kingdom, but also of the Islamic world. But in the process Saudi Arabia surrendered its role of leader of the Islamic world by abandoning ‘sensitive and emotional’ issues like Palestine and Uighurs.

The city hall building in Tel Aviv, Israel lit up in the colours of the United Arab Emirates’ national flag.

The city hall building in Tel Aviv, Israel lit up in the colours of the United Arab Emirates’ national flag.

The drift between Saudi Arabia and non-Arab Muslim states

The cracks started appearing even among the Arab world when Saudi Arabia and the UAE snapped ties with Qatar for its refusal to toe their line in Syria, Egypt and Yemen.

Non-Arab Islamic states started pursuing the ouster of Saudi Arabia as the religious leader of the Ummah (Islamic community).

There are many perceptions but the main reasons behind the annoyance of non-Arab states were (a) Saudi Arabia is close to the US while the US gives no importance to the broader interest of the Muslims. (b) On the behest of the US, Saudi Arabia has adopted a middle and conciliatory attitude towards Israel. (c) The Saudi dominated OIC (Organisation of Islamic Co-operation) has become ineffective in protecting the interests of the Muslims on the global level.

As the Saudis started cosying up to Israel, two main contenders – Iran and Turkey – joined hands along with Malaysia, Qatar and Pakistan to grab the most emotional issue – the Palestinian cause – among the Islamic world.

Turkey, after failing to get into the European Union turned its attention towards the Middle East and under the strongman, President Tayyip Erdogan, pitched its qualifications to lead the Islamic world.

At the 2016 Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) summit in Ankara, Erdogan said, “My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” something, which no Saudi leader could say because of their serious religious differences with Shiite Iran.

Pakistan’s claim that the refusal of the Saudi monarch to call OIC foreign ministers to meet to discuss Kashmir as the real cause of deepening fissures in the Ummah is far-fetched.

A group of Palestinians protest against the United Arab Emirates in East Jerusalem’s Old City on August 14, 2020.

A group of Palestinians protest against the United Arab Emirates in East Jerusalem’s Old City on August 14, 2020.

The reality as per Middle-East experts is, the Saudis asked Pakistan why the OIC should not consider the issue of Baluchistan, Pukhtoonistan, Turkish Kurds, Yezidis and the Uighurs of Xinjiang if the issue of Kashmir Muslims is to be taken up? The narrative came as a bolt from the blue for Pakistan.

Frustrated with the organisation’s fecklessness and its effective takeover by Arab leaders, many Muslim countries feel the need for a stronger and more active OIC to defend the interests of the broader Muslim world, something akin to NATO.

The new Islamic Syndicate

The new bloc, though still at the conceptual stage, is pushed mainly by Turkey and Pakistan. Iran, the lone Shia Muslim State and traditionally not friendly with the Sunnis, would be an odd man in the contemplated syndicate. Malaysia, after the ignominious exit of Mahathir Mohamad, is almost on the horns of a dilemma. The divide is the Arab Muslim states versus non-Arab Muslim states.

The latter category is of people of non-Semitic stock who were converted to Islam after the rapid expansion of Islam among the non-Semitic races, particularly the Aryan and the Turkic. Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia all of whom are of non-Semitic stock.

Speculations are rife who between Pakistan and Turkey will replace Saudi Arabia as the epicentre of the Islamic world.

Iran is out of the question because it is considered the odd man in the Islamic fraternity.

Despite having possession of nuclear weapons, the extreme poverty and dwindling economy does not allow Pakistan to stand as a role model for the Islamic world.

Turkey has already opened the bombast of the Ottoman Empire and is more than willing to fantasise with the dream of Ottoman glory with the ability to produce advanced military hardware.

The two deals which widened the gap

China drafted an agreement with Iran in July 2020, the pact proposed deep economic co-operation between Iran and China, inviting US$400 billion (FJ$853.08bn) of Chinese investments into key Iranian sectors. Intelligence co-operation and Chinese assistance with Iran’s missile programme has intensified the threat Iran poses to the Middle East and forced Saudi Arab and UAE to go for stronger alliances in the region.

The deal in August 2020 between UAE and Israel is significant because the UAE is the first Gulf state and third Arab nation to have full diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

These two pacts in West Asia further polarised the Islamic world.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi talks to Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a meeting at the Diaoyutai state guest house on December 31, 2019 in Beijing, China.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi talks to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a meeting at the Diaoyutai state guest house on December 31, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Global powers pulling the strings

The triangular contest in the Middle East —is a modern replay of older rivalries between the Persians, Ottomans and Arabs.

Although experts think that the reason Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel are collaborating is due to common enemy – Iran.

As the existing OIC leadership has been enjoying strong relations with the United States, there is an opening for China to make inroads in the Muslim world and to expand its influence through this emerging new bloc.

Initiators hope Russia will be on board, though Moscow will have to think twice about the impact of its cooperation with the syndicate on the Muslim majority republics of Central Asia which have already rejected Islamic radicalism.

The way ahead

The sweeping geopolitical changes are not new to anyone but now, no state across the continents can deny the fact that this fissure in the Islamic world is further polarising global politics.

Despite the exploration of new energy sources, major global powers are not ready to move out of the Middle-East.

With China in the centre, a new bloc is emerging strongly involving Russia, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan which stands parallel to the US centric alliance with the EU, Israel, India, Australia and Japan.

Despite having good trade ties with states in both the blocs, several countries across the continents have to play a more balancing act to maintain peace, prosperity and stability in their region.

Jai Kumar Sharma is Fiji Sun’s Consultant Editor based in New Delhi. He has held senior positions at some of India’s biggest newspapers and now runs his own international news media consultancy company Asia Media Design.

Jai Kumar Sharma is Fiji Sun’s Consultant Editor based in New Delhi. He has held senior positions at some of India’s biggest newspapers and now runs his own international news media consultancy company Asia Media Design.

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