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UAE official: Turkish military base in Qatar seen as a threat to regional stability.

Turkish troops in the Turkish military base in Doha, Qatar. Image Credit: Reuters.

A United Arab Emirates official for foreign affairs said that Turkish military presence in Qatar is a cause for concern for stability in the Gulf.

The Turkish military presence in the Arab Gulf is an emergency. It reinforces polarization, and it does not take into account the sovereignty of states and the interests of the Gulf countries and its people.

UAE FM Anwar Gargash

Qatar hosts a Turkish military base which houses around 5,000 troops. UAE and other Gulf states have boycotted Qatar for its support for Islamists back in 2017, and also demanded the military base to be closed. Turkey has been having frequent clashes with several countries over territory and influence. Turkey is believed to be trying to expand its influence over its former subjects in the East. Just ten years ago, Turkey begged the European Union to be let in. This than changed after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to project regional strength, and expand its influence far away. Initially, Turkey had allies, – Egypt and Syria- but fast forward to today, and both countries are enemies of Turkey. It seems that Turkey has lost a lot of allies in its quest to expand its influence.

Recently, Turkey clashed with Greece over the exclusive economic zones (EEZ). Infuriating the European Union, and several other countries, Turkey still went ahead to search for oil and natural gas in the disputed zone. This quickly led to several naval military drills from both sides. Greece had the support of countries like France, where it sent several frigates and fighter jets to the area. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that all EU countries will have to support Greece. United States also supports Greece, but has a separate issue with Turkey.

Last year, Turkey bought S-400 missile systems, which go against the CAATSA US law. United States have threatened Turkey with sanctions over the purchase of the Russian made surface-to-air missile systems (SAM). Undeterred, Turkey used the systems’ radar to track their own F-16s, which infuriated the US even further due to the possibility for Russia to access NATO’s technical data link 16 to spy on US allies. They also than used the S-400 radars to track F16s in the Eunomia joint exercise that was carried out in the Eastern Mediterranean. The joint exercise headed by Greece meant to send a message to Turkey regarding the EEZ dispute. Turkey’s tracking of foreign countries’ F16s urged Mike Pompeo to head to Greece to discuss the situation.

Turkey also has problems with the Gulf states, with the exception of Qatar, where it has a military base. Yesterday, the UAE official denounced the Turkish military base in Qatar, as a source of instability in the region. The Saudi Arabia Prince Abdulrahman Bin Musa’ad was infuriated, when President Erdogan tweeted that the Turkish military base in Qatar brings stability to the whole region. The Saudi Prince than retweeted Erdogan’s tweet and added,

Therefore, I call for a full popular boycott for the Turkish products in order to protect the stability of the Turkish economy and strengthen it.

Saudi Arabia Prince Prince Abdulrahman Bin Musa’ad.

The head of council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce Aljan Al-Ajlan tweeted,

Boycott everything Turkish -imports, exports, investment and tourism.

Saudi Arabia Head of Council Aljan Al-Ajlan.

Turkish journalist Kateb Oglu was quick to tweet back,

Saudia is the loser of this boycott because commercial relations between the two countries are not strong. The total annual Turkish exports are around $176 billion, only six or eight billion to Saudi Arabia.

Turkish Journalist Kateb Oglu.

Turkey also got involved in the Azerbaijan-Armenia border clashes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, where President Erdogan announced that their support for Azerbaijan, both diplomatically and militarily. Armenia, an enemy of Turkey was quick to get support from other countries such as Greece and Egypt. Armenia accused Turkey of destroying an Armenian Su-25 jet two weeks ago, an accusation that both Turkey and Azerbaijan quickly denied. Turkey’s involvement in the Armenia and Azerbaijan’s conflict worried the European Union, as the risk of a proxy war in the region became a possibility. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Armenia, quickly said that they are under no obligation to aid Armenia, if it is fighting in territories that is not theirs. Russia attempted to calm the situation, in an attempt to prevent it from spiraling out of control. Russia has recently established warm relations with Azerbaijan, and did not want to involve itself in a way that damages the ties they have with the country.

European countries, Arab and Gulf countries are also worried about Turkish’s involvement in Libya. Recently, sources have revealed that Turkey sent hundreds of Turkish soldiers to Western Libya, and withdrew around 1500 Syrian mercenaries. The sources informed Sky News Arabia, that Turkey is trying to deceive the international community by withdrawing the Syrian mercenaries, complying with the orders given, but than replaced them with regular soldiers. France and several other regional powers expressed its opposition to Turkey’s involvement in beefing up Tripoli-based government. Turkey has also been criticized for its campaign against Kurdish fighters in Syria, where they attempted to wipe them out from Syria, while also attacking Syrian government forces that went to Kurdish fighters’ aid.

Turkey’s attempt to dominate over Muslim-majority states in the Middle East seem to have failed. Soner Cagaptay, a director of Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said,

Erdogan’s slogan was that Turkey was going to rise by and through leadership over Muslim-majority states in the Middle East. But now with the exception of Qatar, Somalia and half of the government of Libya, it has good ties with no Muslim majority country nearby.

Soner Cagaptay.

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