Qatar’s tactical Turkey policy
QATAR’S deepening ties with Turkey could have significant consequences for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the US and US-Gulf relations. Doha is trying to drive a wedge between Turkey on the one hand, and GCC states and the US on the other.
Doha has eased the rules on Turkey’s exports to Qatar, which are up roughly 84 percent. It has also allowing Ankara to set up a military base in Qatar, Turkey’s first in the Arab world.
Qatar is a major hub for the US-led air campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, but Doha’s policies could endanger the American air base there.
They could also significantly undermine Turkey’s national interests and damage its ties with other Arab states, which would further inflame regional tensions.
While Qatar projects itself as a staunch ally of Turkey, the former’s policies toward the latter are contradictory when meticulously examined. For example, Qatar’s state-funded media has repeatedly provided a platform for Turkish opposition groups and figures such as Fethullah Gulen, and Al Jazeera appeared to praise schools funded by him.
Doha’s stance on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) seems to differ from that of Ankara. “In its English and Arabic broadcasts, Al Jazeera does not call the PKK ‘terrorists’ as they are generally referenced to in Turkey,” said news website Worldcrunch. “Instead, Al Jazeera prefers the term ‘insurgent’.”
Qatar’s deepening ties with Turkey may push Ankara to drop its backing for Syrian opposition groups in an attempt to appease Doha’s allies, specifically Iran. In that case, Qatar and Turkey would strengthen Tehran’s hand in Syria while weakening the West’s.
Qatar’s actions and policies could also negatively affect how Arabs view Turkey.
By trying to drive a wedge between Turkey and the GCC, Doha appears to be signaling that it is not committed to the council’s joint security. This will likely inflame tensions and regional instability. Turkey needs to recalibrate its Qatar policy in order to serve its national interests.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvardeducated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh