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What Caused the Rift between Qatar and Turkey?

November 15, 2019

 

The sudden decision to relocate American troops in northeastern Syria came as a shock to the Turkish President Erdogan, who instantly flew to Washington, DC to negotiate the decision with President Trump. The US forces that is currently located at the southern border of Turkey are preventing Erdogan from resuming his illegal affairs with Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

To a great extent, the US decision to redeploy military forces in this critical region, rather than waiting for composing a multinational peacekeeping force to take charge, is couned as an indirect punishment to Erdogan. It is clear that Washington could not tolerate Erdogan’s abuse of the vacuum caused by earlier withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria. He did not only attack and kill the Kurds, but also established a new agreement with Russia, regarding the border area between Syria and Turkey.

Even worse, Erdogan abused his newly found power in northeastern Syria to terrorize neighbor European states by threatening to send ISIS militants, now under his control, back to their home countries in Europe and beyond.

Nevertheless, the US armed presence in northeastern Syria is expected to control the Syrian petroleum resources and prevent them from being abused by Assad regime in favor of Russia, or being stolen by ISIS and sold to Turkey. It is not a secret that ISIS thrived, for years, on stealing Syria’s oil and giving it to Erdogan’s regime in exchange for Erdogan’s political and financial support.

Ironically, Erdogan may not be able to continue providing financial support to ISIS if the recently broken rift between Turkey and Qatar grow larger.

The tension between the Turkish and Qatari regimes reached its peak, last week, as the media institutions representing both regimes exchanged accusations of Tamim’s and Erdogan’s corruption and violation of human rights. The media duel between Turkey and Qatar was strong enough to attract Middle Eastern public opinion’s attention away from major headline news like US success in killing Al-Bughdadi, the founding commander of ISIS.

Observers found a great difficulty in understanding the underlying causes of the unanticipated rift between Qatar and Turkey, given the strong political interests and personal sense of “brotherhood” that brings Erdogan and Tamim together. Erdogan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Tamim is the biggest supporter to the Muslim Brotherhood and its jihadist ideology.

Together, Tamim and Erdogan formed a satanic coalition, abusing their state powers, to spread that jihadist ideology all over the Middle East and the world, and accordingly enable terrorist organizations to attack and disturb neighbor states, in the Arab Gulf, the Levant, and Europe.

In fact, Turkey and Qatar have more in common than the shared vision of their leaders regarding political Islamism and Islamic Jihadist organizations in the Middle East. Both countries suffer from a historical identity crisis and self-imposed marginalization in their regional contexts.

Turkey has always suffered from the dilemma of identifying itself as a European state or a Middle Eastern state. This problem exacerbated even more when Erdogan and his Islamic party took power, marginalized military’s political power, and shut secular opposition.

Likewise, Qatar’s governing family has never seen Qatar in light of the collective cultural and political identity of Arab Gulf states. Since the founding fathers, Qatari regime has been in constant conflict with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, for a malicious attempt to prove its power and existence.

Despite the current tension, Prince Tamim of Qatar and President Erdogan of Turkey realize that they cannot lose each other as political allies. The political interests - domestic and regional - and the national security of both countries may be dramatically hurt by breaking their coalition.

That is especially true for Turkey that is eagerly awaiting the opening of its new military base inside Qatar, a few kilometers away from Tamim’s throne in Doha. According to the Turkish army, the new military base will hold a “huge” number of armed forces and equipment, even bigger than the US Air Base in Al-Udeid, in the southwest of Qatar. Given Turkey’s controversial relationships with Russia and Iran, this prospected Turkish military presence in the Gulf is considered a threat to United States’ interests in the region.

This particular fact raises the question whether the United States is the actual, though indirect, ignitor of the heat between Qatar and Turkey, with the purpose to postpone or completely undermine the growing military presence of Turkey inside Qatar. The recent meeting between Qatar and US military leaders, in Pentagon, two weeks ago, enhances this argument. In this meeting Qatar and US Ministers of Defense discussed the expansion and improvement of the infrastructure of the American Air Base in Al-Udeid.

For Qatar, the United States is way more important of an ally than Turkey. That is despite Washington's continued work on strengthening ties with the Arab quartet (UAE, Saudi, Bahrain, and Egypt), which diplomatically and economically boycotted Qatar, since 2017, on the background of Qatari regime’s support to terrorism.

However, it is highly unlikely that Qatar may terminate its relationship with Turkey to please the US. The Qatari regime may choose to ignore Erdogan for a while, and postpone the opening of the Turkish military base beyond the scheduled deadline before the end of this year. Meanwhile, the media fight between the two regimes may continue, but with a softer tone.

 

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