Partners constantly change in the dance of influence and power

With many visits to Russia recently by Turkish, Qatari and Iranian military officials to discuss purchasing Russian air defense systems, regional geopolitics are changing as this triangle grows closer to Moscow.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party last month that Turkey had signed an agreement with Moscow to buy the S-400 anti-aircraft weapons system, which will cost Ankara $2.5 billion. The S-400 has a range of up to 400 km and has been described as one of the best air-defense systems currently made. Iranian and Qatari officials are also making visits to Moscow with the aim of acquiring the same system.
Meanwhile, with the issue of Qatar on the rise, Iran and Turkey have sought to use the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors to boost their regional influence and presence, with a tendency to adopt a position closer to Doha. Since the outbreak of the crisis, Iranian and Turkish officials have had extensive meetings in Ankara and Tehran. This leaves the door wide open to the possibility of changing regional alliances and the shift of priorities of some countries, including Turkey and Iran, and not excluding Israel. Turkey quickly became involved in the Qatar dispute; the Turkish Parliament passed legislation allowing the deployment of troops at a Turkish military base in Qatar in accordance with a defense agreement signed between the two countries in 2014. Although Erdogan criticized the decision to boycott Qatar and refused to accuse Doha of funding terrorism, he avoided directly criticizing the countries in the other camp. Turkish companies also announced their readiness to organize food and water supplies for Qatar. Turkey’s support for Qatar is rooted in the economic and political interests of Doha and Ankara. Turkish companies have won contracts worth more than $13 billion in Qatar’s infrastructure projects linked to the football World Cup in 2022. Turkey believes it should benefit from current opportunities rather than wait for an unknown future. If the relationship between Turkey and Russia, which is for Ankara an oscillating ally, is aggravated or strained for any reason, Ankara could obtain Qatari gas at lower prices than Russia charges. Turkish involvement in the Qatari crisis may also increase the influence of Turkey militarily after the concentration of its forces in Somalia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria, despite the end of Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria in March. On the other hand, there may be a decline in Ankara’s relations with other Gulf states. There was speculation that Riyadh would end its largest bilateral arms deal with Turkey, worth $2 billion, to buy military vessels and attack helicopters. Saudi investment in Ankara is also expected to decline, although the two countries have made significant progress in terms of trade, which has reached about $20 billion. Ankara’s position on the Qatari crisis may have contributed to the emergence of calls by some Saudi citizens on social media to boycott Turkish products. However, while the relationship between Ankara and Riyadh may worsen, it will not deteriorate too far because that would weaken the Sunni camp that Riyadh is actively seeking to strengthen in the face Iranian expansion. As for Iran, Tehran at the official level committed itself to a cautious stance on the Qatari crisis, and stressed its keenness to continue to strengthen relations with all parties, rejecting measures taken against Qatar. As relations between Gulf states and Qatar became more strained, Iranian officials announced their rejection of punitive measures against Qatar. “The era of sanctions, the severance of diplomatic relations, the closure of borders and the siege of countries have come to an end, and expulsion from blocs is not a way out of the crisis,” said the Iranian president’s political adviser Hamid Abu Talibi.

Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub).

Source : Arab News


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