Haaretz: Erdogan’s controversial support for Hamas rattles regional dynamics

Haaretz: Erdogan’s controversial support for Hamas rattles regional dynamics
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Erdogan’s stance on Hamas is reshaping the balance of power in the Middle East, with far-reaching consequences.

In a recent development that has sent shockwaves across the Middle East, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vocal support for Hamas has stirred significant geopolitical and economic unrest. This stance, highlighted by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz, has not only affected Turkey’s internal financial markets but also redefined its international relations, particularly with key players in the Middle East and the United States.

On a Wednesday marked by Erdogan’s critical remarks against Israel, Turkey’s stock exchange plummeted by 7%, halting trade twice due to steep declines. This immediate reaction underscores a broader unease in the investment community. Turkish economists complain about potential unofficial sanctions and a dampened enthusiasm for Turkey as a regional economic hub, especially in the energy sector.

The Erdogan administration’s decision has broader implications beyond economics. The ongoing sale of U.S. F-16 warplanes to Turkey, already a contentious issue in Congress, may face further hurdles given Erdogan’s alignment with Hamas. Despite resolving a NATO membership dispute involving Sweden, Turkey’s geopolitical choices could jeopardize this significant defense deal.

The complexity of Erdogan’s relationship with Hamas is further illuminated through his past interactions, dating back to 2008. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Erdogan attempted to mediate and leverage his perceived friendship with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This gesture, however, was met with disappointment, leading to a sense of betrayal in Erdogan. Fast forward to the present, Erdogan’s renewed support for Hamas, despite its potential cost, reflects a deep-seated commitment that surpasses mere political strategy.

In the regional context, Qatar emerges as a pivotal mediator, mainly because of its financial aid and asylum offered to Hamas leaders. Despite Hamas being perceived as an Iranian ally, Qatar, with its unique leverage, appears to be the channel of choice for negotiations. Interestingly, Hamas seems to favor Arab mediation over Iranian involvement, possibly reassessing Tehran’s regional strategy and influence.

Saudi Arabia, another key player, remains concerned about the escalating conflict and its potential to disrupt regional stability. The Saudis, while freezing talks on normalization with Israel, are exerting an influence in Washington to prevent a further military escalation. Their concern is not only humanitarian but also economic, as regional unrest could deter investments crucial to the kingdom’s development plans.

This complex scenario has forged an unlikely coalition of countries–including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar–united by the common goal of containing the Gaza conflict. These nations, despite their differences, recognize the economic and security threats posed by an unchecked escalation. The irony is stark, considering Saudi Arabia’s previous aspirations for a more prominent global role, now grappling with the unpredictability of non-state actors in Gaza and Lebanon.

In conclusion, Erdogan’s stance on Hamas is reshaping the balance of power in the Middle East, with far-reaching consequences. From economic ramifications to altered diplomatic ties, Turkey’s position highlights the intricate interplay of regional politics, economic interests, and the enduring challenge of non-state actors in shaping international relations.