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Turkish base in Qatar: Securing peace or fuelling War?

The two head of states meet in Turkey today to discuss bilateral relations. The two sides have been particular close ever since the Gulf countries imposed a land, air and sea blockade of the tiny Gulf state. However, the assessment of the links between Doha and Ankara depends on which publication you read. MUSLIM EYE has published two opposing views of the relationship. One published in the Saudi-back Arab News and the other a view from Turkey’s premier think tank SETA.

Arab News

“Your enemy is in front of you and the sea is behind you!”

Clearly, the enemy here is Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and behind him, there is nothing but the raging Gulf Sea.The base will not benefit Qatar in protecting it from Saudi Arabia or Iran, which reflects ongoing Qatari contradictions.

The garrison is a small scarecrow that may not exceed 2,000 soldiers, and Turkey is not a great military power that can back it up at critical moments. It has limited military logistical support in the region, no battleships in Gulf waters, air supplies can only be sent with the consent of Iraq or Iran, and there is no land corridor. It is a base without a mission, unless Ankara decides to ally with Tehran in a future war against the Gulf states, which is impossible with two US bases in Qatar.

SETA - Turkish Think Tank

The two countries strengthened military and security relations. Turkey has had a military base in Qatar since 2015 and expanded the base recently. President Erdogan visited the newly completed site of the Turkish military base, which was named after the famous Muslim commander Khalid bin Walid who lived during the time of Prophet Muhammad.

Some 5,000 soldiers have been stationed at the military base since the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and some other regional countries. The base is under the control of the Turkey-Qatar Combined Joint Force Command. Erdogan pointed out that the military base will provide stability and peace for not only Qatar but also the Gulf region. President Erdogan claimed that the base will be “the symbol of brotherhood, friendship, solidarity and sincerity.”

Arab News

Turkey promised to bring about change in Syria and failed because it did not intervene militarily, unlike Iran and Russia. It did not come to the aid of the Muslim Brotherhood after it was overthrown in Egypt and offered exile to its fleeing members. Its intervention in Libya is besieged, and it completely left Sudan.

The setbacks in Doha’s gambles have been heightened by the serious animosity that has befallen Ankara’s relationship with Washington. Ankara has been weakened politically, and Qatar’s financial losses have been enormous due to the deterioration of the Turkish economy and currency.

On the other hand, this relationship has been bad for Ankara. Because of its alliance with Qatar, Turkey lost its most important markets in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and more than half of the Arab world.

SETA - Turkish Think Tank

The trade volume between the two countries has accelerated rapidly since the Gulf crisis in 2017. Turkey’s exports to Qatar increased to $1.1 billion in 2018 from $650 million the previous year. That is, the annual increase was 69%. Turkish imports from Qatar increased by 27%, from $264 million to $335 million, during the same period. The amount of total Turkish investments in Qatar are worth $17 billion, and they have increased further during the preparations for the football World Cup in 2022. Furthermore, according to local media outlets, the state of Qatar intends to buy 100 Turkish tanks. On the other hand, Qatari investments in Turkey have reached $22 billion.

Arab news

When the Turkish military presence in Qatar is raised from a barracks to a base in the coming weeks, its features will become clearer. I cannot imagine that it will add much except perhaps to protect the rule of the Al-Thani family from any internal challenges. This is a double-edged sword. Ankara’s alliances have always changed internally and externally.

SETA - Turkish Think Tank

Turkey and Qatar are determined to continue their quest for autonomy in their foreign policy. Both states have denied the accusations of other regional actors such as the blockading states. While Turkey is determined to pursue an independent foreign policy in the Middle East, Qatar is determined to follow an independent foreign policy in the Gulf; however, Ankara and Doha will continue to emphasise “mutual respect and full sovereignty of state and noninterference in their internal affairs.” That is, they will not accept the conditions proposed by other Gulf states.

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