The recent bilateral agreement signed between Turkey and Qatar, the first of its nature in a century, could signal danger and the possible escalation of an already hostile conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf and the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is already surrounded by Iran-trained and backed Houthi rebels on the Yemeni border in the the south of the Kingdom. To the north, Saudi Arabia is bordered by Iraq, which is essentially under the control of Iran.
In September, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of the American consulate in Basra after a series of attacks by militias that are supported by the Iranian government’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Forces (IRGC-Quds) and under the control of the Shiite nation’s powerful commander, Qasem Soleimani.
And with Qatar to its west, Saudi Arabia will be essentially surrounded as Turkish troops have free reign in the Gulf nation over the recent military agreement that was signed between them—a significantly hostile act considering the longstanding conflict between the Sunni Saudi Kingdom and the Shiite-run Iranian government. (RELATED: Qatar Allegedly Hacks Eight Soccer Players)
This is Qatar’s opportunity to bring a Turkish force and put it on their border with Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, thereby escalating the conflict between the rivals.
Some have argued whether the U.S.-Israel-Saudi alliance could face trouble over an entente with the Turkey-Qatar-Iran axis.
The world will be watching closely to see how the State Department and National Security Council react to Turkey’s placement of troops into Qatar, which hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.
Many have questioned the United States’ decision to sell Qatar $12 billion of 36 F-15QA fighter jets mere days after accusing it of funding terrorism. However, if the United States had not closed in on that contract, France or another nation could have. Considering the U.S. has its largest military base in the Gulf nation, the decision could be seen as a logical one.
The agreement between Qatar and Turkey, designated as the “Implementation Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the State of Qatar on Deployment of Turkish Forces into Territory of Qatar,” which was signed on Apr. 28, 2016, signifies the first time in 101 years that there will be a Turkish military presence in the Gulf.
It essentially gives Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan free reign in the use of Qatar’s territory to advance his ideological interests while using the power of NATO as the international alliance’s second-largest army. The United States is NATO’s number-one military force. (RELATED: Erdogan Cracks Down On Onions In Turkey)
Qatar is a strategic nation for Turkey. According to the Sweden-based monitoring site “Nordic Monitor,” the Turkey-Qatar pact can be “misused for military missions” in the Gulf.
Specifically, Nordic Monitor author Abdullah Bozkurt writes: “If not checked, the agreement carries huge risks of escalation of Turkey’s involvement in potential conflicts that may have nothing to do with protecting or promoting Turkey’s national interests. This further confirms the view that the vagueness in the agreement provisions were deliberate and systematic to allow Erdogan to use them as he sees fit.”
First, the agreement does not provide a defined timeline for how long Turkish troops will be permitted to remain and operate in Qatar, nor does it set the criteria under which Turkey will be allowed to operate there.
Article 1 ambiguously states:
This Agreement shall determine the principal provisions and requirements that regulate the long term, as well as temporary, presence and activities of Turkish Armed Forces, the status of Turkish Armed Forces in Qatar and Host Nation Support (HNS) of Qatar for the deployment into territory of Qatar.
This was reportedly incorporated into Turkish law on June 9, 2017.
As a follow-up to this, Article 17 of the agreement states the duration of the agreement “shall remain in force for a period of 10 years from the date of its entry into force,” and adds that it will be renewed automatically for an additional term of five years for each extension. However, it is not clear whether this applies to the presence of Turkish troops or if it applies to something else.
Furthermore, Article 4 of the contract allows for Turkish troops to be deployed for “any other missions,” which essentially means Erdogan can bypass his own nation’s Parliament and the Turkish Constitution and personally authorize overseas missions.
The first point of Article 4 reads:
“The main mission of the unit is to support enhancement of defense capabilities of Qatar through joint/combined exercises and training, and subject to approval by both parties, execute training/exercises with other nations’ armed forces and contribute to counter-terrorism and international peace support operations and any other missions mutually agreed upon by written consent of both parties.”
Additionally, the agreement does not indicate that a third party will be used to settle disputes. Instead, in Article 16 of the agreement, it says that “shall be resolved by negotiation between the Parties, without referring to the jurisdiction of any third party, establishment, or national or international tribunal.”
“The Turkish military presence in the Gulf isn’t about regional stability. It’s about the projection of Ottoman-esque power that Erdogan is trying to fulfill as part of his sort of call it the ‘Turkish manifest destiny’ of what he’s trying to promote as part of a grander vision of Turkey’s role, or Turkey’s role under his auspices as the new Sunni heavyweight in the Middle East,” Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum (MEF), told the Daily Caller. “He’s trying to transfer the Sunni polarity from Egypt.”
Roman suggested this agreement essentially grants Turkey the ability to assert its own regional agenda, virtually unchecked.
Roman said this is all part of the “Turkish Manifest Destiny of his grander vision of Turkey’s role under the auspices of being the new Sunni heavyweight in the Middle East. Turkey is acting like a fulcrum and as the diplomatic veneer for allowing Turkey to project its power beyond Syria, beyond Iraq and sort of hop over these counties to get into the Gulf.” (RELATED: Experts Claim Al Jazeera Is The ‘Mother’s Milk’ Of Islamist Movements)
Ronald Sandee, the co-founder of Blue Water Intelligence, said of the Turkish-Qatari agreement, “It is a very strange agreement one way or another. It is made up by the people there, and it is not on our Western terms, so we have to admit that some peoples are playing us.”
Sandee, a former senior analyst with Dutch Military Intelligence and a vocal critic of Qatar, was one of over 1,200 people who were hacked as part of an elaborate hacking scheme that was carried out by Qatar.
Sandee said Qatar and Turkey “are really trying to work together to further their influence and I think at a certain point Iranians are really outstretching it. The Russians just want to get back in the Middle East, and the Turks just want to get rid of all three. That’s basically it. And Assad, well, he tries to survive.”
He added, “Qatar doesn’t have a lot going for it besides its wealth being the richest country in the world per capita and being able to meddle in other countries’ politics.”