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Thread: Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels

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    Default Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels


    Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels

    June 5, 2017

    Long-standing tensions among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that intensified over the past two weeks have culminated in several Arab governments suspending relations with Qatar. The current crisis has roots in multiple areas in which GCC states do not see eye to eye, including in their attitudes toward Iran, their manifold perspectives on supporting political Islamists and the degree of economic and strategic rivalries among them.

    On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced they would suspend diplomatic relations with Qatar, which has long bucked the Saudi line on condemnation of Iran and support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Their declarations were followed by those made by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives government in Libya, which has close ties to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt; the Saudi-backed government of Yemen led by President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi; and the Indian Ocean island nations of Mauritius and the Maldives, which have close ties to the Saudi and Emirati governments.

    The countries said they would halt sea trade with Qatar as well. Saudi Arabia — the only country with a border with Qatar — has also blocked land transport across that border, according to reports. Several regional airlines such as Emirates, Bahrain's Gulf Air, Flydubai and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways have canceled flights into Qatar, while Qatar Airways has canceled its flights to Saudi Arabia. Likewise, GCC airspace is off-limits to Qatari flights. The countries that scrapped diplomatic relations with Doha have given Qatari citizens in their territories two weeks to depart, while diplomatic staff were given until June 7 to leave. Because of the diplomatic disruptions, Qatar has also been removed from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, though Qatar filled only a token role in that operation.

    In announcing the diplomatic and travel freezes, the countries cited Qatar's alleged support for groups that they consider terrorists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and Hamas, as well as others, including al Qaeda. Qatar hosts a significant number of delegates from groups such as Hamas or the Taliban and has fashioned Doha into a neutral zone that allows for negotiations to take place. Qatar's willingness to host these organizations, of course, has been met with disapproval in the past. Saudi Arabia has also blamed Qatar for allegedly supporting Shiite militants in eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    Meanwhile, reports have emerged that after Qatar urged them to leave the country, several Hamas leaders are relocating to Turkey, Malaysia and Lebanon. This echoes moves Qatar made to try to defuse a similar crisis in 2014. However, Qatar has not indicated any willingness to soften its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban or Hamas. Backing such groups has broadened Qatar's regional legitimacy and granted Doha some leverage with the United States and other countries that seek to control the behavior of the Islamist groups.

    The Spark of a Crisis

    The current deterioration in relations between the Arab states and Qatar was sparked by the remarks of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who was quoted expressing support for Iran, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood at a military graduation speech on May 23. The statements triggered a response from other Gulf states that started banning Qatari media outlets, including Al Jazeera. A flurry of accusations then flew through media outlets on both sides. The decision by a hacking group calling itself GlobalLeaks to release emails purportedly from Yousef al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the United States, also suggested strong ties between himself and a neoconservative pro-Israel think tank, further roiling the media environment. The toxic back-and-forth that built momentum for Qatar's estrangement could suggest a concerted move by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to pressure Doha by portraying it poorly.

    Closing the land border and halting air and sea traffic is intended to put economic pressure on Qatar. Between 40 and 50 percent of its food imports, including most fresh dairy, vegetables, fruit and processed cereals, are shipped overland from Saudi Arabia. But when considering overall imports, the blockade will not have as much of an effect on Qatar, which receives only 8.8 percent of its imported goods (including construction materials) from the United Arab Emirates, and only 4.3 percent from Saudi Arabia. The air travel ban will pile more problems on a struggling Qatar Airways, which immediately lost its right to serve 19 destinations in the countries that issued the bans. The state-linked airline was already dealing with a 38 percent loss in its brand value over the past year (it is now worth $2.2 billion). If the trade and travel blockades continue, Qatar may experience food price inflation, though food aid pledged by Iran could mitigate that. In the highly competitive banking and financial services sectors, prolonged economic sanctions could undermine Qatar's competitiveness with other GCC states.

    Some Qatari media outlets could feel more intense pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well. The Saudis have already blocked the Doha-based Al Jazeera, and Qatar will feel pressure to shut down the outlet along with other smaller channels like Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Those media outlets, which routinely contradict the GCC's heavily Saudi-influenced positions, have afforded Qatar the ability to have an outsized influence on policy debates.

    Echoes of the Past

    Parallels can be drawn between the incidents of the past week and the 2014 conflict that pitted the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia against Qatar. That spat arose from Doha's continued embrace of regional Islamist groups that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi deemed a threat, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. Both disputes stem from the same root: Qatar lacks the demographic and sectarian diversity with which other GCC states must contend, freeing Doha to support regional groups that help it expand its influence without stirring up trouble at home. However, the diplomatic and trade cutoffs of the current dispute are unprecedented.

    As its ties with its immediate neighbors erode, Doha could turn to Iran, Turkey and Iraq for help. A June 5 meeting in Baghdad among Turkey, Iran and Iraq called by the head of Iran's Expediency Council highlights that possibility. Qatar and Turkey have built close and ever-growing ties, and Iraq's powerful Sunni parliament speaker met with al-Thani on June 4, a sign of the countries' positive relationship. While none of these countries could supplant the support that Qatar has enjoyed from the GCC network for decades, or from the United States, Saudi Arabia's efforts to punish Qatar could spur deeper cooperation between Qatar and other non-GCC countries.

    The actions of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and others are part of a coordinated effort to push Qatar to align with the Saudi-led consensus on the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Strong support by the United States for the Saudi-led coalition likely bolstered those countries' confidence in making the move to isolate Doha to this degree. However, that rift also complicates the United States' mission, since it counts on a tight Sunni coalition to manage regional threats like the Islamic State. Even as Riyadh tries to undermine the trust Washington has placed in Doha, it will not be easy as Qatar hosts the second-largest U.S. military presence in the region, including the U.S. command center coordinating the fight against the Islamic State. Additionally, a substantial percentage of its regional air sorties stage from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. For its part, the U.S. military announced that it does not plan to adjust its posture in response to the diplomatic row, which will provide immediate reassurance to Doha that its key backing is assured and prolong Qatar's ability to hold out under GCC pressure. Meanwhile, though the United States routinely maintains military ties with countries that are at odds with one another, the severity of the intra-GCC split this time around only underscores the weaknesses of its effort to stand up a viable "Arab NATO."

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    Default Re: Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels


    Gulf Plunged Into Diplomatic Crisis As Countries Cut Ties With Qatar

    Qatari diplomats ejected and land, air and sea traffic routes cut off in row over terror and regional stability

    June 5, 2017

    The Gulf has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.

    The countries said they would halt all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, eject its diplomats and order Qatari citizens to leave the Gulf states within 14 days. Shoppers in the Qatari capital, Doha, meanwhile packed supermarkets amid fears the country, which relies on imports from its neighbours, would face food shortages after Saudi Arabia closed its sole land border.

    Social media reports from Doha showed supermarket shelves empty as nervous consumers began to worry that stocks of food and water would run out. As much as 40% of Qatar’s food comes over the Saudi border.

    The small but very wealthy nation, the richest in the world per capita, was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

    The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and its perceived tolerance of Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, Iran. The dispute is the worst to hit the Gulf since the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council in 1981.

    Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry said the measures were unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions. As the Qatari stock market tumbled and oil prices rose, it accused its fellow Gulf states of violating its sovereignty.

    “The state of Qatar has been subjected to a campaign of lies that have reached the point of complete fabrication,” a statement said. “It reveals a hidden plan to undermine the state of Qatar.”

    Saudi Arabia said it took the decision to cut diplomatic ties owing to Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region”, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Islamic State and groups supported by Iran in Saudi Arabia’s restive eastern province of Qatif.

    Egypt’s foreign ministry accused Qatar of taking an “antagonist approach” towards the country and said “all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed”. It gave the Qatari ambassador 48 hours to leave Egypt, and ordered its own chargé d’affaires in Qatar to return to Cairo within 48 hours.

    The tiny island nation of Bahrain blamed its decision on Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities, and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain”.

    In a sign of Qatar’s growing isolation, Yemen’s internationally backed government – which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the country – joined the move to break relations, as did the Maldives and the government based in eastern Libya.

    There effect on air travel in the region was immediate. Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers, said it was suspending all flights to Saudi Arabia. Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier, said it would suspend flights to Qatar “until further notice”. Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier, announced it would suspend Qatar flights starting on Tuesday, and Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai said it would suspend flights to and from Doha from Tuesday.

    Egypt announced its airspace will be closed to all Qatari airplanes from Tuesday.

    Monday’s diplomatic moves came two weeks after four Arab countries blocked Qatar-based media over the appearance of comments attributed to the Qatari emir that praised Iran. Qatar said hackers had taken over the website of its state-run news agency and faked the comments.

    A senior Iranian official said the decision to sever ties with Qatar would not help end the crisis in the Middle East. Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff for Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted: “The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders is over … it is not a way to resolve crisis. These countries have no other option but to start regional dialogue.”

    The US military said it had “no plans to change our posture in Qatar” amid the diplomatic crisis. Qatar is home to the sprawling al-Udeid airbase, which houses the US military’s central command and 10,000 American troops.

    Qatar has long faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists and Doha has long welcomed senior figures from Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The Saudi’s chief worry is the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational Sunni Islamist political movement outlawed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which regards it as posing a threat to their system of hereditary rule.

    Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia fell out with Qatar over its backing of the former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member, and in March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the rift.

    Diplomatic relations resumed eight months later when Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country and quieted others but the 2014 crisis did not involve a land and sea blockade, as is threatened now.

    The Qatar Council issued a fresh statement on Monday afternoon seeking to reassure its citizens that it had taken the necessary steps to ensure normal life continued, including by keeping sea ports open for trade and making sure that air space with countries not involved in the boycott remained open. It said it would not expel the 300,000 Egyptians working in Qatar as a reprisal.

    Saudi Arabia however kept up the pressure on Qatar by saying it was withdrawing al-Jazeera’s media licence and closing its Saudi office, saying the Qatar-funded broadcaster had promoted terrorist plots and supported the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

    It also banned all Qatar flagged vessels from is ports and lorries due to enter Qatar over the Saudi border were blocked from doing so.

    The Saudi aim is to apply pressure to make Qatar change its foreign policy, but questioning the legitimacy of a fellow monarch could prove to be a double edged sword for any Gulf ruler.

    Since 2014, Qatar has repeatedly and strongly denied that it funds extremist groups. However, it remains a key financial patron of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has been the home of the exiled Hamas official Khaled Mashaal since 2012. One of the first signs of any compromise will be the withdrawal of Hamas leaders from Doha.

    Western officials have also accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

    The row comes only two weeks after the US president, Donald Trump, visited the Middle East to seal major defence contracts with Saudi Arabia worth $110bn, set up an anti-extremist institute in Riyadh and urge the Gulf states to build an alliance against Iran.

    The Saudis are in part countering the allegation of funding extremism, frequently made in Washington and in the past by Trump himself, by pointing the finger at Qatar for backing terrorism.

    Speaking in Australia, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, played down the seriousness of the diplomatic dispute and said it would not affect counter-terrorism efforts.

    “I think what we’re witnessing is a growing list of irritants in the region that have been there for some time, and they’ve bubbled up so that countries have taken action in order to have those differences addressed,” he said.

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    Default Re: Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels


    Qatar Crisis Grows As Arab Nations Draw Up Terror Sanctions List

    Qataris denounce list, which includes politicians and members of ruling family, as ‘baseless and without foundation in fact’

    June 9, 2017

    Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have sanctioned a dozen organisations and 59 people it accuses of links to Islamist militancy – a number of them Qataris or with links to Qatar – escalating the diplomatic crisis in the region.

    The publication of the sanctions list comes amid increasing efforts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to diplomatically and physically isolate the tiny but wealthy Gulf state of Qatar, which has been subjected to a series of co-ordinated measures in the past five days

    The move was announced as Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, approved new legislation – rushed through the Turkish parliament the day before – for increased military cooperation with Qatar, including the potential deployment of Turkish troops.

    Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported that the initial deployment would be a military assessment team arriving in the coming days to consider reinforcing a 90-strong mission already based in Doha.

    On Friday, Qatar’s foreign minister described the blockade as a violation of international law and said there was an attempt to mobilise international opinion against the Gulf emirate.

    “These procedures that were taken have clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law. They will not have a positive impact on the region but a negative one,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a joint news conference with his German counterpart during a visit to Germany.

    The previous day al-Thani gave a defiant interview with al-Jazeera, repeatedly denying that his country funded extremists and vowing not to back down in the face of the Saudi-led campaign.

    “We are not ready to surrender, and we will never be ready to surrender the independence of our foreign policy,” he said, adding that Qatar’s residents need not fear food shortages.

    Al-Thani also rejected any notion of shutting down the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite news network, suggested as a demand of the Arab nations.

    Included on the sanctions list – which was denounced as “baseless and without foundation in fact” by Qatar – are the Qatari-funded Qatar Charity and Eid Charity and several prominent figures including businessmen, politicians and senior members of the ruling family, one a former interior minister.

    The list also includes the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Doha, and individuals in Libya as well as Shia groups in Bahrain seen by some Gulf Arab governments as linked to Iran.

    The Qatari government said on Friday: “We do not, have not and will not support terrorist groups. The recent joint statement issued by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a ‘terror finance watchlist’ once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact.

    “Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement – a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors.”

    The sanctions list further tightens the screws on Qatar, home to a key US military base and the host of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

    It also strongly suggests a widening of the aggressive Saudi-led campaign beyond Qatar itself – not least against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – where Youssef al-Qaradawi was tried and sentenced to death in absentia following the 2013 military overthrow of the elected president Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member.

    Although Qatar has long denied supporting or funding terror groups, western diplomats have accused it of allowing the funding of some Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaida’s branch in Syria. The same accusations have been levelled against individuals in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    A leading diplomat from the UAE told the Guardian on Thursday that the Gulf states had lost all trust in Qatar.

    Omar Saif Ghobas, the UAE’s ambassador to Russia, said: “There is no trust, it has gone. So when the Qatari foreign minister says, ‘Listen, we need to engage in dialogue,’ we have done that for many years – that’s just a statement for western consumption.”

    The crisis has provoked anxieties in Qatar, a leading gas exporter as well as an international travel hub, whose flagship carrier Qatar Airways has been forced to fly circuitous and expensive routes over Iran and Turkey after being blocked elsewhere in the Middle East.

    It has largely played out in diplomatic moves and via the pages of competing Middle Eastern media organisations, but it has also been marked by hacking attacks.

    On Thursday, al-Jazeera said it had been targeted in a sustained cyber-attack. Al-Jazeera’s offices have been shut down by authorities in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

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    Default Re: Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels


    'There Is No Trust': Gulf States Give Up Hope On Qatar

    United Arab Emirates ambassador says: ‘We have reached the end of the line in discussing with Qataris how things can get better’

    June 9, 2017

    The Gulf states have lost all trust in Qatar and have reached the end of the line in discussing how things can get better, one of the leading diplomats from the United Arab Emirates has said.

    The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, is mounting an unprecedented diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, alleging ties to terrorism. Qatar has dismissed the charge as cover for an attempt to rein in its independent foreign policy and economy.

    Omar Saif Ghobas, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Russia, said a verification system would have to be put in place to ensure Qatar stuck to any future deal not to nurture or fund terror.

    “There is no trust, it has gone,” Ghobas said. “So when the Qatari foreign minister says ‘listen, we need to engage in dialogue’, we have done that for many years – that’s just a statement for western consumption.”

    Ghobas, one of the most eloquent exponents of UAE thinking, insisted the new anti-Qatar alliance was not planning a military invasion or externally enforced regime change. Instead, he said Qatar had a history of internal regime change, implying the UAE would welcome the removal of the emir.

    “I have heard rumours and a couple of articles suggesting military invasion, but Qatar has a fine history of regime change on its own. It is up to the Qatari people and the royal family to decide if that is the right approach or not. We are not looking at military options at all. It is Turkey that is militarising the position.”

    The Turkish parliament this week cleared a bill giving the go-ahead for pre-existing plans for its troops to go to a new base in Qatar.

    “We believe we have reached the end of the line in discussing with Qataris how things can get better,” Ghobas said. “They have known for a very long time we have issues with the funding of extremists.”

    The UAE and Saudis, seen as the driving force behind the push for a change in Qatar’s foreign policy, claim they were let down in 2014 when, after a previous démarche, Qatar allegedly reneged on a commitment to rein its support for political Islam.

    Asked if Qatar could say anything to reassure its Gulf opponents, Ghobas replied: “It is true it will be difficult in the long run if they agree to sign another document and then decide to drag it out for many months or years and to continue to fund extremist groups. This will require a tremendous verification system.

    “Qatar’s policy is a dead end and it will only lead to destruction, so essentially what we are asking is for the Qataris to give up on their foreign policy which calls up for an an alliance between a tremendous amount of wealth and extremely radical Islam.”

    Speaking to reporters in the capital, Doha, on Thursday, Qatar’s foreign minister said the move by its fellow Arab states to isolate it was endangering stability in the oil-rich Gulf region.

    “We are not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender, the independence of our foreign policy,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said. “We have been isolated because we are successful and progressive. We are a platform for peace not terrorism ... This dispute is threatening the stability of the entire region.”

    Qatar insists it does not fund extremism and says the presence of leading figures from Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood in Doha is in part an effort to increase mediation efforts and try to achieve peace in the Middle East. It questions whether other more traditional Gulf monarchies are interested in Middle East peace and points to the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia, given widespread accusations that it too is a funding source for Islamist jihadis.

    Ghobas claimed that Qatar’s rulers were not motivated by ideological reasons: “They are not devout Muslims promoting a version of Islam. They are taking a bet. They are being very opportunistic; they are making a bet that political Islam will allow them to be the paymaster of the Arab world and they can reap economic benefit.”

    Many observers say the evidence of direct funding by the Qatari government to extremist groups is thin and that the dispute really turns on the future governance of the Middle East, including the threat that political Islam might pose to authoritarian regimes.

    Ghobas said: “The idea that there is an Islamic solution to Middle East’s social and economic problems is not something we are persuaded of.”

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    Default Re: Qatar's Feud With the Gulf States Reaches New Levels


    Turkey Marches Ahead With Its Military Plans in Qatar

    June 16, 2017

    Though Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have cut ties with Qatar, touching off a diplomatic crisis in the Middle East, one friend has refused to abandon the small country on the Persian Gulf. Turkey's steadfast support of Qatar has stood out since the dispute began June 5. Not only has Ankara provided diplomatic and trade assistance to Doha, but it also has moved to expedite the deployment of Turkish forces to Qatar, a decision that will fortify the common ground forming between the two countries.

    Building Stronger Security Ties

    Though Turkey's parliament agreed to the deployment last week, the decision to base Turkish forces in Qatar dates back to a 2014 agreement between the two states. Turkey has already sent a limited number of troops to Qatar; according to several reports, between 100 and 150 troops have been stationed at a Qatari military base since October 2016. But these forces are only the vanguard of what is intended to become a more meaningful and permanent deployment. The Turkish military dispatched a three-person delegation on June 12 to coordinate the arrival of additional forces. The latest available information, however, indicates there are practical issues relating to the facility intended to host the Turkish troops that need to be resolved before they can arrive.

    Before the Turkish parliament and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially ratified the decision to send troops to Qatar, both countries had already agreed on the command structure of the Turkish base there. From that agreement, it would appear that Turkey is not simply looking for a base to run its own operations from, but is rather seeking a joint structure that will intertwine its activities with those of the Qatari military. While the Turkish forces will have their own facility, it will be under the command of a joint headquarters based in Doha, with a Qatari general at the helm supported by a Turkish general as his second in command.

    Initially, Turkey planned to send about 600 troops to Qatar. While this number likely remains true for the next phase of Turkey's deployment, the vote in parliament and several statements by Turkish officials have generated talk of a much larger deployment that may follow, eventually totaling about 3,000 troops. Turkey is also considering sending fighter aircraft and warships to Qatar. Such a deployment would give Turkey a significant presence in Qatar, though it may not necessarily sound like one compared with the 11,000 U.S. forces currently stationed there.

    Turkish forces would primarily be in Qatar to assist and train Qatari forces, though they would also use the base to launch their own military operations. In theory, the Turkish military could also defend the Qatari government against internal or external threats. A deployment of 3,000 Turkish troops, along with fighter aircraft and warships, could prove a considerable boost to Qatar's active military, which numbers about 11,800.

    Depending on how the political crisis between Qatar and other Gulf states develops, Turkey could choose to deploy more troops than the 600 it plans to initially send as a sign of support for Qatar, or even to guarantee the security of the Qatari government if new risks emerge. While Turkey's deployment remains a work in progress and will build incrementally, it cannot be ruled out that the deployment may eventually reach a level that elevates it beyond its current position as a symbol of military cooperation and political unity.

    Shared Goals in the Middle East

    Strategically, the Turkish and Qatari governments have seen some of their interests align in recent years. Both have identified opportunities to extend their influence within the Middle East by supporting Islamist groups. This aid increased substantially after the Arab Spring, when long-suppressed political Islamists found footholds in crumbling political systems. Doha and Ankara justify their support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other such groups by claiming they are supporting democratic values and self-determination in the region. While Turkey and Qatar have some ideological alignment with Sunni Islamist groups, their backing is more about cultivating influence with popular movements that have millions of followers and adherents across the region.

    Doha's efforts over the years to build stronger security and trade ties with Turkey were similarly designed as a means to broaden Qatar's influence beyond what its small size should allow, and to provide it with an extra layer of support for its security outside the Saudi and U.S. umbrellas. Doha has watched Riyadh's efforts to circumvent its independence over the years, and resentment over being treated like a vassal state of the Saudi kingdom has helped prompt the Qatari government to diversify its alliances, even by developing ties with a Saudi rival like Turkey.

    Critically, Qatar's liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector — one of the largest in the world — allows Doha to maintain an independent economy. Because of its wealth, Qatar is not forced to fall in line with Saudi Arabia's policies to keep economic aid flowing, as is Bahrain. The health and independence of Qatar's LNG sector depends on the nation maintaining a balanced relationship with Iran, too, which bothers Saudi Arabia. And it is a relationship Qatar will not be willing to give up.

    Turkey's presence in Qatar gives Ankara another means of challenging Saudi efforts to dominate the Middle East and lead the Sunni world. Saudi Arabia has a positive relationship with Turkey, but Riyadh sees Turkey's military presence in Qatar as an irritant and a challenge to its authority.

    Meanwhile, despite its rift with Saudi Arabia and its growing security relationship with Turkey, Qatar's military cooperation with the United States remains robust. In no way does Turkey's military presence in Qatar give Doha the option to switch from its U.S. security guarantor to a Turkish backer. After all, the U.S.-Qatar military partnership goes back many years, and it doesn't rub Riyadh the wrong way. So even as it receives more support from Turkish forces, Doha is highly unlikely to discard the security and diplomatic strength that the U.S. presence in the country provides.

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