As Turkey winds down its diplomatic ties with Israel, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan is planning a tour of the “Arab Spring” nations where grassroots populations overthrew their local government leaders this year -- in some cases, expressing preferences for radical Islamic leadership even while claiming pro-democracy motives.
According to a government official who requested anonymity, Turkey's prime minister plans to visit Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. His first stop will reportedly be in Egypt on September 12, the source said.
Protesters in all three countries overthrew their governments in a region-wide conflagration ignited by one despairing, impoverished vendor who committed suicide by lighting himself on fire in Tunisia after authorities confiscated his wares. The 23-year reign of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forfeit in the resulting Jasmine Revolution that swept through the country in January. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.
The 31-year regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, followed, toppled by the Tahrir Square Revolution in Cairo less than a month later, in February. Mubarak, who retired to his summer home in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh, was later arrested and is currently being tried in a Cairo courtroom despite suffering with advanced stages of cancer and heart disease.
Libya has taken longer, but less than two weeks ago rebel forces finally succeeded in capturing the capital city of Tripoli, and the Bab Azizia compound of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, effectively ending his 41-year regime. Qaddafi's wife, three of his children and several grandchildren made their way to Algeria. His son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam is still at large, as is the former strongman himself, who allegedly disappeared. Rebel forces reported Wednesday they had him surrounded, but did not say where.