While the rage over the bloody crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters by the Egyptian security services is growing among the Turkish public and government, angry Turkish officials are pointing to the “wrong man” to blame for inertia in the face of the mass killings of anti-coup protesters in the world’s largest Arab nation.
Except for Qatar, most Gulf nations, which happen to be Muslim-majority countries, have passionately thrown weight behind Egypt’s army-backed interim government, while the army ruthlessly murdered hundreds of protesters in cold blood. They also immediately jumped to bankroll the crippled Egyptian economy shortly after the army removed former President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.
Despite the support of some Gulf countries, which are also the influential members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the latest bouts of anger by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and spokesman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Hüseyin Çelik were directed at the chief of the world’s largest Islamic body.
Anger toward OIC Secretary-General Ekmelleddin İhsanoğlu showed that the Turkish government expected too much from the Turkish diplomat, who has been at the helm of the organization for eight years.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, secretary-generals of international organizations are generally picked intentionally among the ones who are not capable of setting agendas, making passionate speeches, condemning violations of human rights on behalf of the entire organization. This is mainly because of the fact that modern states do not want to share their sovereignty since the 1648 Westphalian Peace, which separated church, and hence pope, from the state.
To make it more concrete, let’s begin with the largest international organization, the UN. The past four secretary-generals of the UN were from Peru, Egypt, Ghana and South Korea. These countries are not strong enough to put pressure to set agendas and make critical speeches that are respected and considered by every member of the UN. On the contrary, the secretary-generals from less effective states are seen as civil servants, diplomats or CEOs, if we think of UN as a company with a huge budget. It is not likely that we will see someone like Bill Clinton in this post in the near future. Because this act is likely to be understood as an American domination within the organization and may alienate other members of the Permanent Five. As the states are not ready to transfer their sovereignty, they choose ineffective or less effective people for these posts.
The EU is a more striking example. Today the EU has a president not a secretary-general, but this president doesn’t have power like the president of the US. This is more a symbolic post without enough power to set foreign policy agendas. That’s why Herman Van Rompuy from Belgium was elected as president, not Tony Blair or some other more effective politician from a more powerful member of the EU such as France, Germany, etc. Still, we cannot talk about a Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU despite the huge steps taken. We always look at what Germany, France and England say on foreign policy issues and we don’t hear so much about Van Rompuy.
NATO is also headed by someone who doesn’t have enough power to set agendas and mostly serves as the face of the organization in front of the public and media. NATO also sets its goals mostly according to the interests of the US, the main contributor, as who pays the piper calls the tune.
To get back to the issue at hand, the OIC is institutionally less effective than the above-mentioned organizations. Firstly, the member states cannot meet on a common ground as their regimes range from democracy to authoritarian regimes and even monarchies. However, EU and NATO members can take decisions more easily as they are all democracies. Secondly, the number of the member states are too many (the second-largest international Organization after UN with 57 members) and they are geographically dispersed from the Middle East to South-east Asia. However, the EU and NATO are concentrated in a specific area. Finally, with respect to Egypt, it is premature to expect the OIC to announce full support to the MB or at least condemn the attacks on civilians, while even the EU and US are not able to change the mind of the Egyptian army. When we consider all these, it seems unfair to demand that İhsanoğlu resign from his post. The OIC still needs time and radical reforms to become more effective in the international arena.
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