Turkish base in Qatar: Against whom?
“Your enemy is in front of you and the sea is behind you!” This is not the famous quote of the military commander Tariq bin Ziyad to the Muslim army when he conquered Andalusia in 711 AD. But the one who said this sentence this time is a Turkish general supervising the construction of a military base in Qatar. Clearly, the enemy here is Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and behind him, there is nothing but the raging Gulf Sea.
The base will not benefit Qatar in protecting it from Saudi Arabia or Iran, which reflects ongoing Qatari contradictions. Doha continues to run in opposite directions to Tehran, Washington and Ankara.
The garrison is a small scarecrow that may not exceed 2,000 soldiers, and Turkey is not a great military power that can back it up at critical moments. It has limited military logistical support in the region, no battleships in Gulf waters, air supplies can only be sent with the consent of Iraq or Iran, and there is no land corridor. It is a base without a mission, unless Ankara decides to ally with Tehran in a future war against the Gulf states, which is impossible with two US bases in Qatar.
Unlike the Americans, who use the bases of Al-Udeid and Al-Sayliyah to manage the region’s wars, the Turkish presence is a political decoration and a burden on the Qataris. It is a costly alliance, but it fits the Qatari propaganda that supports organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.
The special relationship between Doha and Ankara is not at its best. Qatar had the ambition to make up for its deficiency by making Turkey a major regional country, politically and militarily, and using it to change the region. It wanted Turkey to be a powerful adventurer, like Iran, to share influence with it in Riyadh, Cairo, Baghdad and Beirut.
Unlike the Americans, who use the bases of Al-Udeid and Al-Sayliyah to manage the region’s wars, the Turkish presence is a political decoration and a burden on the Qataris.
Turkey promised to bring about change in Syria and failed because it did not intervene militarily, unlike Iran and Russia. It did not come to the aid of the Muslim Brotherhood after it was overthrown in Egypt and offered exile to its fleeing members. Its intervention in Libya is besieged, and it completely left Sudan.
The setbacks in Doha’s gambles have been heightened by the serious animosity that has befallen Ankara’s relationship with Washington. Ankara has been weakened politically, and Qatar’s financial losses have been enormous due to the deterioration of the Turkish economy and currency.
On the other hand, this relationship has been bad for Ankara. Because of its alliance with Qatar, Turkey lost its most important markets in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and more than half of the Arab world.
When the Turkish military presence in Qatar is raised from a barracks to a base in the coming weeks, its features will become clearer. I cannot imagine that it will add much except perhaps to protect the rule of the Al-Thani family from any internal challenges. This is a double-edged sword. Ankara’s alliances have always changed internally and externally.
It is possible to conclude this article by adding another quote that the Turkish general failed to say to the Qataris from Tariq bin Ziyad’s famous speech to his men as they prepared for their battle with the Goths, "Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master.”
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed