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Post Turkey and Qatar Crisis
Created by John Eipper on 06/18/17 1:09 AM

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Turkey and Qatar Crisis (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 06/18/17 1:09 am)

Turkey should reconsider the not-so-easy and unfortunately disastrous path it followed in the Syria crisis before indulging in undertaking any sort of mediation in the crisis between Qatar and a Saudi-led block of nations accusing the gas-rich state of supporting and abetting terrorism.

The hasty decision to push through Parliament a bill to establish a 3000-troop military base in Qatar and the repeated statements of the country's sole decision-maker, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of aligning Turkey with Qatar and underlining his government's strong rejection of the alienation of Doha, indicate the problematic course ahead.

There is need for mediation efforts by some regional, and perhaps, international actors. Yet, mediation will not be easy at all. With so many countries joining the "bash the Qataris" move, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates cannot afford to step back without achieving some tangible results from their demands. Similarly, Qatar cannot afford a cave-in to Saudi and UAE demands, which would humiliate the country and effectively turn it into a Saudi vassal.

Could Turkey be a regional power to help diffuse this crisis? As absurd as the idea might sound, can Washington play such a role? In view of the fact that the Qatar crisis evolved immediately after President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, during which fingers were pointed at Doha as a financier of terrorism, Turkey's mediation offer was not definitely as mediocre as the American offer to assume such a role.

One precious opportunity for dialogue came from Kuwait. The Kuwaiti sheikh spared no effort to use his personal influence on the Saudi, UAE and the Qatari leaders, but has no succeeded so far. No one should perhaps expect a quick resolution anyhow. Iran, as this crisis effect might also be a proxy war with Tehran, cannot be a mediator either. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was trying to understand Ankara's perception of the development during a half-day trip on June 7, while terrorists were staging some deplorable attacks back in Tehran. For understandable reasons, Iran is getting worried and even alarmed with the Gulf divide.

If the Trump-instigated Saudi-UAE push against Qatar aimed at forcing the Gulf state 1- to stop being a spoiler of efforts aimed at achieving the isolation of Iran, and 2- to distance itself from Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; or if the current crisis is a product of a concerted effort to at least undermine the rule of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani or force a palace coup there, how could mediation work?

Turkey swiftly getting its parliament approval of deployment of its troops--slated to fight terrorism--would help Qatar stiffen its resolve to resist the Saudi and UAE-led pressure to force it to change its stance regarding groups such as Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. Particularly, as Ankara does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and de facto ignores the presence of Hamas on its own terrorist groups list, how would it be possible for Ankara to play a trustworthy mediator role? Can Ankara's ruling political Islamists advise Qatar to shun Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood while they themselves see both two groups as members of their own family? Secondly, was it not Ankara who objected even to embargoes on Iran, refusing to be part of an anti-Iran campaign?

Well, some people might remember that Bashar al-Assad of Syria was the "brother" of Erdoğan up until a five-hour-long talk in August 2012 between al-Assad and Turkey's then-premier Ahmet Davutoğlu.

With Qatar, Turkey has enjoyed exemplary relations. Qataris are buying whatever possible in Turkey, making huge amounts of direct investment much needed by the economy. Yet Turkey has precious deals with the Saudis as well as the UAE, and of course their big brother: the United States. Thus, the risk of Turkey abandoning either camp to please the other appears to be rather incompatible with Turkish expectations from both sides.

The Qatar test...

What is ethically correct in international relations? Should a country abide by the diplomatic code of conduct, norms and values? Is it an absolute rule to always apply Westphalian principles? What is morality? What is right and what is wrong?

Turkish international relations experts. who are capable enough of unquestioningly subscribing to the policies of the political clan ruling the country, question why Turkey has decided to align itself with Qatar while ignoring that Saudi Arabia and Egypt as the heavyweights of the Arab world. Naturally, Turkey should not feel obliged to take a side in every regional, international or other issue among the family of Muslim nations. Why should it? On the contrary, in order for it to play a role in resolving disputes between other friendly or brotherly countries, shouldn't Ankara avoid taking sides unless it also is part of the problem?

Turkey's deployment of troops to Qatar was, of course, an issue decided long ago. An agreement was signed between the two countries and the issue has been on the agenda of the Turkish parliament for a long time. But why did Turkey move the issue to the front of parliament's agenda and get it approved immediately after the beginning of the Saudi-Egyptian drive to isolate Qatar? This is difficult to understand. Was it necessary? Could the 3,000 Turkish troops deployed there help any cause? Can Turkish troops in Qatar, for example, be an important element in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) terrorist group? Could the Turkish military presence in Qatar, for example, deter ISIL from staging some dastardly attacks anywhere in this region or elsewhere? Can Qatar, after all that has been said and done during the past days since a web of Arab states severed their diplomatic relations, closed their airspace to Qatar and asked the Qatari diplomats and civilians to pack up and return to their country, still play a role and put aside the fight against ISIL in any civilian international campaign?

Well, the 2022 FIFA World Cup may still be on, as it might be too early to decide whether there is a need to look for another venue. However, if this crisis cannot be resolved soon, would it be a surprise for anyone if a decision to cancel the venue is delivered soon?

Qatar is accused of supporting, financing and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and such organizations considered by the Saudis, Egyptians and many other countries to be terrorist groups. Turkey refuses to accept the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and deals with Hamas, which indeed is just the Palestinian wing of the same group, though it still is on Turkey's official terrorist organizations list. The Turkish president and his political clan might still love to salute the crowds with the Rabia sign of the Muslim Brotherhood. All these, as well as sending troops and launching a food assistance program for the Qataris, could only serve those anti-Turkish dens across the world that believe that Turkey has also been aiding and abetting terrorism. This is not an acceptable policy, and at least the Turkish opposition parties must have the honorable courage to stand up and declare that "this is wrong."

The United States, particularly since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, has abandoned the "mild Islam" hallucination. Political Islam cannot be acceptable, and Washington has finally realized this. Europe, scared of political Islamist elements on its streets, has been mellowing for a long time, but it has also started to acknowledge that a firm decision must be taken against the exploitation of Islam with the aim of achieving some political targets. Naturally, excluding Turkey, Qatar and some other isolated members of the Muslim league of nations, there is also a growing realization of the importance of secular governance for the progress of democracy in Muslim territories. Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, parted with democratic governance and eventually landed in a sui generis one-man rule attempting to portray itself as presidential governance.

The friends of Turkey in Europe and across the Atlantic should remember what a valuable example the Turkish model was, and how bad of a decision it was to try to nourish "mild Islam" in Muslim societies--be it Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, or elsewhere. ISIL and such threats are not primarily directed against Christian, Jewish or other belief groups, but against Muslim societies trying to adhere to the fundamental and peaceful teachings of Islam. These radical groups have existed all throughout Islamic history from the very early period, and unless the fundamental teachings of Islam are inculcated in Muslim societies, this problem will continue to exist.

Embracing the principles of democratic governance, starting with the right to disagree, is a must for democracy to nourish in any country. How could people exercise the right to disagree if the holy Quran is the constitution or prime law? At that point, there comes the need to have secular laws, secular governance and respect for religion. Turkey's previous exercise in secularism was deficient, as the state ignored the importance of religion in the private sphere. Now, it is time to think about Muslim illumination and renaissance.

JE comments:  A valuable analysis.  The Qatar crisis took us totally by surprise (OK, it took me totally by surprise). I'd welcome Yusuf Kanli's response to this question: How significant has Al-Jazeera's eternal gadfly role been in the breaking of relations with the Peninsula?

Also, I'm still in the dark as to why Qatar has been singled out as the Big, Bad sponsor of terrorism.  Is this fundamentally a "diversion" by the Saudis, who hate Doha's close relations with Tehran?  And finally, why is Egypt getting involved?


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  • Qatar Diplomatic Crisis and Turkey's Role (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/20/17 3:23 AM)
    My factual knowledge of the spaghetti salad representing the social/political /military situation in the Middle East is quite limited compared to WAIS experts like Yusuf Kanli. Nevertheless my intuition is speaking loudly to me, thus my statements are to be considered hypotheses to be tested and criticized for the sake of further knowledge.

    Yusuf stated on June 18th, "The United States, particularly since Donald Trump, [now holds]... [that] political Islam cannot be acceptable... Europe, scared of political Islamist elements on its streets, has been mellowing for a long time, but it has also started to acknowledge that a firm decision must be taken against the exploitation of Islam with the aim of achieving some political targets... [Also there is] growing realization of the importance of secular governance for the progress of democracy in [many] Muslim territories... The friends of Turkey in Europe and across the Atlantic should remember what a valuable example the Turkish model was, and how bad of a decision it was to try to nourish 'mild Islam' in Muslim societies--be it Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, or elsewhere. ISIL and such threats are not primarily directed against Christian, Jewish or other belief groups, but against Muslim societies trying to adhere to the fundamental and peaceful teachings of Islam. These radical groups have existed all throughout Islamic history from the very early period, and unless the fundamental teachings of Islam are inculcated in Muslim societies, this problem will continue to exist. Embracing the principles of democratic governance, starting with the right to disagree, is a must for democracy to nourish in any country. How could people exercise the right to disagree if the holy Quran is the constitution or prime law? At that point, there comes the need to have secular laws, secular governance and respect for religion. Turkey's previous exercise in secularism was deficient, as the state ignored the importance of religion in the private sphere. Now, it is time to think about Muslim illumination and renaissance."


    I totally agree with these words, and will include the last few lines in the next version of my book God for Atheists and Scientists as a negative impact of organized religion. However, I bring to Yusuf's attention that democracy as a concept is itself being threatened in Western nations by rampant and increasingly overwhelming capitalism run amok. In fact its god is money, which will be as unacceptable as communist atheism to the devout Islamic peoples. I encourage Yusuf to carefully read the very recent WAIS posts on corruption and dictatorship. Further, unless the politically and militarily powerful Western nations find a more balanced and stable way to treat the Palestinian nation and stop killing so many innocent Muslims, they will not have enough moral capital to convince the majority of the Muslim population that their goals and aspirations are worth following.


    Venturing on to thinner ice, Yusuf mentioned the "hasty decision to push through Parliament a bill to establish a 3000-troop military base in Qatar." This seems to me as potentially a brilliant move by Turkey in playing both sides against the middle for the benefit of making Erdogan/Turkey the biggest of the big players in the Middle East. In the eyes of the Muslim downtrodden and fundamentalists, Turkey becomes the prodigal son coming home from its foray into becoming a corrupted undemocratic westernized Islamic nation like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, etc. Three thousand troops don't sound like much (fairly cheap), but in this case it is a decisively strong symbol of physical support to today's Islamic pariah nation which has been sneakily peeing on the boots of Western powers and their minions in general, and on the current world villain, Donald Trump. In a way Qatar is playing the liberal-minded role surviving in the middle of the Middle East political/military "spaghetti salad."


    We are all living in very interesting times indeed.


    JE comments:  Stand by for a further comment from Yusuf Kanli.  He sees the Qatar crisis as a de facto proxy war.  I understand this to mean the puppetmasters are Saudi Arabia and Iran, but as Tor Guimaraes rightly observes, it's a spaghetti salad.  (In Spain they'd call it a Russian salad--ensaladilla rusa.)

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  • Qatar Crisis as Proxy War (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey 06/20/17 4:07 AM)
    If we look further at the Qatar problem, it is obviously a proxy war.

    Consider the probable role Al-Jazeera played in building up this crisis, and the bribe-purchase of billions of dollars worth of death machines from the United States by the Saudis and later by the Qataris. Where should Iran be placed in all that has been going on? Which countries are sponsoring terrorism? Who are the terrorists? Who are the "good guys"? Who are the freedom fighters?


    Are we facing a war of perception?


    Was the Qatari purchase of F35 fighter jets from United States some sort of bribe? If so, a bribe for what? American permission for Qatar to continue as a state? Was the Qatari sheikh scared of a palace coup, like he did to his father or his father did to his grandfather? Why is he not leaving the tiny sheikdom presently? Will the Saudis indeed settle down if the Qataris undergo a leadership change?


    What about Al-Jazeera? The Saudis hate the network, a rare source of accurate and pro-human rights and liberties news in the Arab world. Would closing down Al-Jazeera stop the genie and force it back in the bottle? Of course, many people might ask whether what was let out of the bottle some years ago with the start of the so-called "Arab Spring" was indeed a genie to carry out good, or was it an agent of the "Great Satan"?


    As John E asked, "How significant has Al-Jazeera's eternal gadfly role been in the breaking of relations with the Peninsula?" In this information age, didn't the people of the Arab countries learn the importance of unbiased, objective, trustworthy information? Even in the absence of Al-Jazeera, would they tune in en masse, let's say, to the Al-Arabiya channel constantly preaching and promoting Saudi nationalism? Do we indeed face a split in Sunni Islam, or at least among the Salafists and their offspring?


    Was John wrong when he asked why Qatar has been singled out as the "big, bad sponsor of terrorism"? Was this fundamentally a "diversion" by the Saudis, who hate Doha's close relations with Tehran? And finally, of course, why was Egypt involved in all these developments?


    Lots of questions. Perhaps one set of questions, among a myriad of others, might be selected and included in this batch: Can anyone trust the United States of President Donald Trump? What is the role played by Washington directly or through its Saudi and Egyptian proxies? Where is Israel in all this, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other political formations across the Muslim geography, including Turkey's Justice and Development Party? Was it a coincidence that during the Neocon rule in Washington, "justice and development" parties mushroomed over a large geography--Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Jordan and Djibouti? Was it abnormal to expect a surge of Muslim Brotherhood or similar Muslim groups in the democracy-illiterate Arab nations, if and when oppressive regimes were forced to provide a glimpse of freedom in their countries? That was how the "Arab Spring" turned into an "Arab Fire" that devastated not only the established political setup, but also the lives of millions of people across the region. Was it abnormal for the Muslim Brotherhood to emerge victorious in elections anywhere in that geography, where the only non-state organized political force apart the parties of the dictators was the Brotherhood or such groups exploiting religious sentiment?


    The problem is not limited or confined to this anomaly either. Iran was gradually becoming re-accommodated in the international community it was cut off from since the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent crisis with the United States. But to achieve a total catastrophe in an Arab world already devastated by the Iraq War and the Arab Spring, the last thing wanted was perhaps another crisis, the Syrian civil war. The cyclone of devastating developments left the Sunni world without a proper deterrent power against the advance of Shia Iran, which since the Islamic Revolution, anyhow, was obsessed with exporting its revolution.


    As if they had sufficient men in their military for a fight with the Iranians, the obsession of the Saudis as well as the Qataris and others to buy sophisticated war machines was perhaps a type of psychological refuge. The real fight will be a sectarian one within Islam. Saudis no longer have the Ottomans or the Egyptians as "protector" of the Sunnis, and Iraq was badly devastated by the liberator US. Egypt, the muscle of the Arabs, turned so much inwards during the final years of the Hosni Mubarak era, and since the ouster of the Morsi government it has been busy building up a sustainable sui-generis democratic governance that can be of no remedy to anyone. Yet Egypt suffered so much from the Muslim Brotherhood during the one-year rule of Morsi that it can ally itself with virtually everyone to erase the fundamentalist Islamist group from the Muslim lands.


    Turkey and Qatar have been supporting Muslim Brotherhood and other groups considered by the Wahhabis to be "worse than infidels." Thus, the war is one for survival, domination and for the oil wells... No one should forget that most oil and gas fields of the Gulf statelets are in Shiite-populated areas. If advance of Shia, that is Iran, has to be stopped but there is no army to fight the Iranians, a proxy war might send a message both to Iranians and to countries like Qatar who refuse to go along with efforts aimed at isolating Tehran.


    JE comments:  To further complicate matters, Qatar has (had?) the reputation of being a "moderate" Gulf state which embraces secular modernity.  Yusuf Kanli's post should be required reading for anyone seeking to disentangle the crisis.  How do we explain the 1001 plot twists in the Qatar narrative?  For example, that the US sells its most advanced fighter planes to Qatar, all the while egging on Saudi claims that Doha is sponsoring terrorism?  (The Saudis are buying F35s, too--consider the imminent possibility of mano-a-mano combat between rival F35s.)


    Or can we simplify, and see this quagmire ultimately as an existential struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam?  Not only in the spiritual realm, but if we consider the oil and gas fields, the economic realm as well:  God Allah, and God Mammon.


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