Turkey-Erdogan: Why the spectre of the Ottoman Empire worries even Qatar

Information according to which relations between Turkey and Qatar not to be at their best are creating quite a sensation. The Emirate of Qatar, which has been buttressed Erdogan’s Turkey in the most difficult times, has reportedly begun to worry. The concern is centered on the military involvement of the Turkish Armed Forces, focusing on the base they acquired in the small Gulf country. About a year ago, it was announced that Turkey would augment its presence in the Emirate by acquiring a second base.

Turkey’s military presence in Qatar, which was formally launched by a defense pact signed in early 2015, stipulating that one country’s military might be deployed on another’s military bases, has provoked a strong reaction from Sunni monarchies in the region, with which Qatar is in direct conflict.

The more general annoyance of the Arab regimes with Qatar’s relationship with Turkey focuses, on the one hand, on the relations of both with the Muslim Brotherhood, and on the other, that Ankara’s escalating bid to interfere with goings-on in the Gulf, raises the spectre of the Ottoman Empire activating the most negative reflexes …

The financial support of the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the problematic points in the international presence of the Emirate, directly related to its relations with Turkey. Reportedly, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a member and key supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This issue, however, is thought to have caused friction between Doha and Ankara. Although the Emirate is heavily funding the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkish President Erdogan sees himself as its natural leader internationally. But the Emirati side, despite good relations with Turkey, does not want the organization to acquire “Turkish characteristics”.

Observers of developments in the region believe that Erdogan wants to promote a version of Sunni Islam tailored to the “Turkish idiosyncracies” that will serve the country’s “grandeur” and its ambition to restore -at least its influence in areas once occupied by the Ottoman Empire …

As concerns the apprehensions of at least part of the ruling elite of the Emirate, this has to do with the possibility of the military presence being used by Turkey to seek to extort more lucrative economic benefits from the lucrative liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and trade of the Emirate.

These worries, according to the same information, have reached the level of concern of a possible alliance with some wing of the Al Thani family, which would lead to the overthrow of its current leader. This is the reverse of the situation at the end of 2017, when Turkish forces allegedly prevented a coup d’état against the Emirati leadership

Consequently, a defense cooperation agreement between Turkey and Qatar, which was primarily intended to strengthen the deterrence of militarily weak Qatar vis-a-vis its rivals and to reduce its security dependence on the US whose regional policy is considered “controversial”, because of its special relationship with other Sunni monarchies in the Gulf, is now revealing its potentially negative consequences for the country.

Qatar’s military weakness is a given, despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the supply of state-of-the-art weapon systems to all branches of the armed forces and the introduction of compulsory military service in 2015.

Indicatively, their inventory includes German Leopard 2A7 tanks, American M142 HIMARS artillery systems, US THAAD (ordered in 2014) and Patriot anti-aircraft systems, top F-15 fighter aircraft (USA),  EF-2000 Typhoon (European), Rafale (France), while it has modern warships of main French and British shipbuilders, etc.

It is recalled that during the last sharp financial crisis in Turkey in mid-August 2018, due to the collapse of the value of its national currency, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, promised that his country would proceed directly to a $ 15 billion investment in Turkey to support its economy.

However, this information must be treated with all caution, although the rationale behind it is not unreasonable. The economic relations between the two countries are very close and on multiple levels, directly involving the financial interests of both leaders …

The Erdogan family, for example, is reportedly the owner of a number of LNG carriers, while an Emirati company is included in the final scheme of the companies that will produce the Turkish Altay tank. At the same time, the two sides have signed a number of defence and equipment cooperation agreements.

If one looks for possible “thorns” in the two countries’ relations, Qatar Petroleum is involved along with American ExxonMobil in exploiting potential hydrocarbon reserves in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The relationship between Turkey and the Emirates of Qatar is also of interest to Greece, as it is one of the countries that have funds seeking investment opportunities. Very recently a high-level delegation was in Athens on this subject.

As a result, Athens’ relations with Doha are traditionally viewed in Greece as potentially much broader than simple and mutually beneficial economic cooperation. And this must continue.