The Qatar Crisis and Turkey’s Balancing Role

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The Qatar Crisis reminded that Turkey needs to follow a balance policy in the Middle East. The fact that Turkey is a country that is able to establish communication with all parties without being party to the problems in the Middle East reveals once more that Turkey is the primary soft power in the region. Likewise, the proactive diplomacy initiatives of Turkey with the parties of the crisis when it emerged provided a successful outcome and the first stage of the crisis were overcome. It should be emphasized that Turkey did not do it alone and that the joint diplomacy particularly with Iran and the support of Pakistan and Azerbaijan were effective in the process. Therefore, it is observed that Turkey stood out again as a balancing power in the Middle East.

The Qatar Crisis emerged both as a result of Trump’s policy to weaken Iran with the Sunni block and as a product of the Iran – Saudi Arabia rivalry.  In this context, it can be argued that Turkey played a role in the Qatar Crisis as a play spoiler, not a playmaker as it was claimed. In other words, it is understood that Turkey plays a spoiler role in the game of the Trump administration to weaken Iran with the Sunni block. Furthermore, Turkey’s moves in Qatar diplomacy became a game changer for the new great game in the Middle East. The success of the spoiler role of Turkey was seen particularly when the Maliki government in Iraq was weakened. Therefore, its rising soft power and smart power role in the regional policy was consolidated by the fact that Turkey manifested itself both as a spoiler and a balancing power over the Qatar crisis.

Turkey as a Spoiler and Game Changer

The spoiler role of Turkey in the Qatar Crisis is actually based upon the plan of the Trump administration to build a Saudi-led Arab NATO in the Middle East against Iran under the leadership of Saudi Arabia. Thus, the Qatar Crisis is a regional reflection of the conflict between the Islamic NATO plan of Turkey and Pakistan and the Arab NATO plan of Trump and the Saudi administration. In this context, the demand to close Turkish military base in the country among the list of 13 demands conveyed to Qatar revealed the Turkey link of the crisis. Therefore, it can be suggested that the Turkish military presence in Qatar spoiled the plans of both the US and Saudi Arabia. In this sense, the Qatar Crisis is an initiative to remove the military presence of Turkey in the region.

Based on the fact it emerged just after the Middle East visit of Trump, the President of United States, one should keep in mind that the crisis was a product of the attempt of the Trump administration to wear away and weaken Iran by creating a Saudi-led Sunni block in its new Middle East policy focusing on Iran. At this point, it was expected that the weakening of Iran would take place by engaging the policies to be implemented over Syria and Yemen. In other words, the plan was to switch to make the Syria and Yemen crises Iranization. The plans of the US in the region were ruined for now when Iran acted jointly with Turkey after the terrorist attack of DEASH, while it was expected to fall into the trap of USA and attack the Gulf countries. Javad Zarif, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran paid a surprise visit to Ankara during the Qatar crisis. After that, Pakistan got involved in the Qatar Crisis to support Turkey and find a solution to the problem. Therefore, Turkey played the balancing power role by intervening to the Qatar Crisis through proactive diplomacy. Turkey as a smart power diplomacy created a balance with Iran and Pakistan against the US-backed block of Saudi Arabia and the minor and weak Gulf Countries.  In this sense, the key importance of Turkey in the Qatar Crisis was understood and that the Middle East policy of USA without Turkey would be completely defeated even in the beginning.

Turkey as a Peacemaker/Mediator

The fundamental reason of the attention of the Saudi-led Gulf countries on Qatar was the absolute hegemony of Saudi Arabia on the Gulf Countries before starting the weakening policy against Iran. The Qatar Crisis emerged after the rise of Qatar as a soft power against the leadership of Saudi Arabia and its rapprochement with Iran. Unexpected here was the substantial backing of Turkey to Qatar. The diplomacy of Turkey during the Qatar Crisis prevented Qatar from falling prey and ruined Trump’s plan to weaken Iran under Saudi leadership at least for now. On the other hand, the Qatar Crisis enabled Turkey to follow a proactive policy in the Middle East again. Likewise, Turkey had the opportunity to overcome the obstruction it had due to the Syria Crisis since 2011. Intense telephone talks of President Erdoğan and the shuttle diplomacy of Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu provided Turkey with the ground to rise as a soft power in the region again with active diplomacy like the period before 2011. This is demonstrated by the successive visits of the parties of the Crisis to Turkey.

In conclusion, the Qatar Crisis continues to be deepened, let alone ending. Therefore, Turkey needs to continue its support to Qatar like in the first stage of the crisis. On the other hand, it is considered to be more appropriate that Turkey continues its contact with the other actors of the crisis insists on its peacemaker and mediator role and keeps its spoiler and game changer move being aware of the fact that Turkey is the objective of this crisis. In this concept, it could be argued that the inclusion of Russia by Turkey to the Qatar Crisis as a balancing power and thus following a balance policy is the most optimal option. In the final analysis, it is recommended that Turkey will be able to maintain its balancing power position with smart power role only by following an active balance policy based upon deterrence.

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