Turkey is set to open a new military base near the existing joint command centre in Qatar this fall and significantly expand its troop presence in the Gulf emirate, pro-government Hürriyet Daily News reported on Wednesday.
“A new base has been built,” Hürriyet correspondent Hande Fırat said after visiting Tariq bin Ziyad base outside the Qatari capital, Doha, where Qatari and Turkish soldiers perform joint operations.
“The number of soldiers will increase. I am not giving numbers considering Turkey’s interests and security, but I can say that it will reach a drastic figure,” said Fırat, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to join the Qatari Emir at the base’s grand opening later this year.
Turkish soldiers were first deployed to Qatar in October 2015, to boost bilateral relations. But since Qatar’s Gulf neighbours, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, placed it under a blockade in June 2017, Turkey’s military presence has taken on greater significance.
Among the demands of the Saudi-led bloc was that Qatar end its military cooperation with Turkey and remove all Turkish troops from Qatar. Instead, Turkey sent more troops to Qatar that December, increasing its alignment with Qatar, which has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves.
“When we consider the energy wars in the region, the U.S. agenda oriented at Iran, Iran’s possible manoeuvres using its Shia population and the Gulf countries’, especially Saudi Arabia’s covert or overt operations towards Turkey, we can comprehend the importance of the Turkish military base in Qatar much better,” said Fırat.
Turkey has opened several overseas military installations around the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Persian Gulf that magnifies the country’s regional power projection, according to Hebrew University of Jerusalem fellow Micha’el Tanchum.
Turkey’s alliance with Qatar is of fundamental importance in this strategy, since the 3,000-troop military base opened near Doha in 2016 set a model of Turkish manpower backed by Qatari wealth that is also being used in its expansion.
“Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are uncomfortable with the Turkish-Qatari cooperation,” said Fırat. “In spite of all this, Turkey’s is trying to establish a durable security architecture and a military and political domain.”