The Qatar Turkey knows is no longer there

The Qatar Turkey knows is no longer there

Despite warnings from all three opposition parties in the Turkish parliament, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has given priority to the ratification of two military agreements with Qatar, allowing to send Turkish troops to the Gulf country, mainly for training purposes, late on June 7.

The opposition parties did not object to the content of the agreements since they are the carbon copy of similar agreements with dozens of other countries; they objected to the timing, cautioning the government to not take sides in disputes between the Arab countries and to choose to be a part of the solution, instead of being a part of the problem.

It was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said a day earlier that the sanctions announced by a number of Saudi-led countries against Qatar were wrong and Ankara would continue to improve its good relations with Doha.

But Doha is not likely to remain as the same Doha after the June 5 action. 

A few hours after the military agreement was ratified in parliament, U.S. President Donald Trump called the emir of Qatar, Tamim al-Thani, urging him to “act against terrorism” and offering “help to the parties to resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House.”

In other words, the same Trump who had warned Qatar on May 21 in a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh over claims that it helped radical movements and Iran, and the same Trump who wrote on Twitter on June 6 after the Saudi move in an “I told you” tone was now saying that he would act as a big brother, a referee between al-Thani and the leaders of the four Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, who all want al-Thani to behave as they want or leave.

Qatar’s foreign minister said on June 8 they were looking for a diplomatic solution for a way out of the crisis but they could stand against the pressures until eternity. Those are brave words perhaps in the heroic Arab political literature, but al-Thani, who owes his seat to a bloodless palace coup in 2013 (only a week before a coup in Egypt toppled the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi) after he replaced his father, might have a limit of endurance under the given circumstances, if he resists the pressure from his Arab neighbors and the U.S. Then it would not be a surprise for a new emir to distance himself from Iran, cut links with alleged al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the Syrian civil war and severe relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas leadership, of whom most are residing in Doha.

If al-Thani chooses to come to terms with the U.S. and the Saudi-led countries, the cost of his seat would probably do most of the things listed above.

Either way, the Doha with which Ankara is determined to further improve relations will no longer be the same Doha after June 5. Will the new Doha continue its ambitious investment program in Turkey, which helped the AK Party government a great deal with the flow of hot money from the Gulf? It may or may not be, depending on the quality of relations to be established once the dust settles.