Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Eyad Abu Shakra

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Two Different Silences In Iran And Türkiye

Turkish voters head to the polls today as Türkiye’s parties compete in local elections. This political "test" in Türkiye (one of the three powers competing for regional dominance in the Middle East, with the permission of the United States) comes at a time when eyes are on the two other powers, Israel and Iran, and what they are doing to the fragile entities of the region.
The tragedy in Gaza, with all its ugliness and horror, is likely to spread to the Palestinian territories, as well as large parts of Lebanon and Syria, and potentially Jordan, as Israel’s genocidal war of displacement intensifies.
Despite the idle chatter about "mediation efforts" to end the genocide and of "disagreements" between Tel Aviv and Washington regarding the "scenario" for the next few hours and days, the persistence of US arms and ammunition supplies affirms that there are no disagreements whatsoever between the two capitals regarding the broad strategy for the Middle East.
The truth is that plans for displacement and redrawing maps are moving forward.
In several areas of Iraq, the displacement is clear. In fact, Iraq had been on the brink of partition after 2003. It would have indeed been split into several different entities if it were not for Türkiye’s refusal to allow the Kurds to unilaterally decide the fate of the Turkmen minority, specifically in Kirkuk and its surroundings.
In Syria, too, it would be absurd to ignore the de-facto fragmentation of the country, which has been split into no less than five entities, each controlled by different local authorities supported by a regional or international ally:
● The coastal region, including the Alawite Mountains and the Valley of Christians, where most of the Alawite minority resides and Russian naval facilities are located
● The region north of Aleppo, where Türkiye dominates
● The region east of the Euphrates, where the Kurds and the Americans have come to an "understanding"
● The central strip that extends from Al-Bukamal to Lebanon, which is known as the "Iranian corridor," and what remains of the regime-controlled areas, from which most residents have been displaced
● The South, from the Eastern Badiya (desert) to the occupied Golan Heights to the West, whose fate is expected to be decided in the near future, against the backdrop of the "armed bargaining" between Israel and Iran.
Then there is Lebanon. Lebanon has entered an unprecedentedly tense phase as it grapples with a political vacuum and gridlock that have been aggravating since the Israeli war machine “brought down” what had been “rules of engagement” that set predetermined restrictions on attacks between the two sides.
The collapse of the "rules of engagement" is being affirmed by the expansion of Israel’s targets. It has bombarded and conducted assassinations across Lebanon. In contrast, Hezbollah is attempting to cool the situation and avoid escalation, as the visit of Hajj Wafiq Safa, the party's senior security official, to the Gulf indicates. In addition, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah postponed his discussion of political matters to "Quds Day" (next Friday) instead of addressing them in the speech broadcast the evening before last...
On another note, leaks suggesting that - contrary to the previous threats by its Secretary-General - Hezbollah is reluctant to escalate have emerged over the past few days. It seems that the party’s hesitance comes against the backdrop of a "message" from Tehran in which it made clear that Iran would not play a role in any upcoming confrontation in the region. That means the "unity of the front" strategy has collapsed, at least in the Lebanese arena.
The question now is whether Iran has decided to deal with Lebanon and Hezbollah in the same way it has dealt with Gaza and Hamas. If a deal has been concluded, what are its limits? And what are its costs?
Any change in Iran's role in the region will inevitably reflect, in one way or another, on Türkiye’s role. While Tehran's regional strategy explicitly leverages Shiite communities politically and demographically," Türkiye has sought to do the same with the Sunnis quietly during the "Erdogan era, portraying itself as the Sunnis’ protector and the defender of their interests in Syria and Iraq.
However, "Erdogan's Ankara" did not replicate Tehran's success in imposing its influence over four Arab states. Indeed, while Washington refused to halt the Iranian expansion - turning a blind eye to it and pushing back with words alone - it refused to support Ankara when the latter needed it, despite Türkiye being a NATO member!
After that, US policy further undermined Ankara's credibility when it forced Türkiye to walk back on the public support of the Syrian revolution it declared in 2011 as soon as Ankara was threatened by Russia, which declared its full backing of the Assad regime.
The Turkish leader thus agreed to cooperate with the Iranians and Russians and engage in the "Astana Process" aimed at quelling the Syrian revolution. He then found justifications for his retreat in the positions of his rivals, led by the Republican People's Party, which is extremely hostile to Syrian refugees and launched a spiteful racist campaign against them.
Today's elections in Türkiye are local elections. That's true. At the same time, however, they serve as a test of credibility and popularity for the country's two largest political forces, namely the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Erdogan, and the Republican People's Party, which considers itself the "true historical heir" to Ataturk's secular legacy.
The Justice and Development Party currently controls 39 municipalities, while the Republican People's Party controls 21. The other municipalities are shared by three other parties. Control over urban "political centers of gravity" is more consequential than the number of municipalities each party controls. Istanbul, the country's largest city, is the most prominent of these urban centers, followed by the capital, Ankara, and then Izmir.
The two largest political parties consider Istanbul the ultimate battleground... Either Ekrem İmamoglu (from the Republican People's Party) retains his mayoralty, solidifying his position as the opposition's most prominent candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, or the Justice and Development Party regains control of the historic "Ottoman capital" from which Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his rise to power.
And so, both Iran and Türkiye have gone quiet... While the Israelis beat the drums of war. This silence, though it suggests that the positions of Tehran and Ankara have weakened, comes down to different reasons and carries different costs in each country... in light of Washington's monopoly over global decisions.