‘Facing common enemies’: Turkey’s Qatari military base

Both Turkey and Qatar agree on a significant amount of current issues extending across the Middle East. With increasing amounts of upheaval in the region, and a need for both countries to diversify their allies, Ankara and Doha have decided on a Turkish military base to be set up in Qatar that will be used to confront shared enemies and strengthen both countries’ historic ties.

Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries in the world and home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, has seen a major recent development in its relations with Turkey – one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Meetings between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, took place at the beginning of December 2015, and on the 2nd of the month, it was announced that a Turkish military base would be set up in Qatar.

The establishment of the base is a part of an agreement that was signed between both countries in 2014, focusing on cooperation in military training and aims of confronting common enemies. The establishment also comes at a time of rising instability, terrorism, threats and a perceived decrease of U.S. interest in the Middle East region.

Not only are Qatar and Turkey both important economic powers in the region, but they have both also provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, backed rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, antagonised over Russia’s intervention in Syria, and opposed Iran’s growing regional influence. Both countries are also members of the recently announced, Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism – making them ideal allies for one another.

Amid perceived disengagement by the United States from the Gulf, rising regional threats, and Turkey’s crisis with its main gas supplier, Russia, both Turkey and Qatar have been looking to diversify their potential allies. In order to provide both countries with increased security, and increased costs for any potential attackers, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar, Ahmet Demirok, announced that Ankara will have its first Middle East Military base set up, with approximately 3,000 troops to be stationed in Qatar.

Turkey will also install aid, naval units, military trainers and special operational forces in Qatar – with the base also serving as a venue for joint training exercises between both countries. It is not clear when the new Turkish base will be completed, but 100 troops are already in Qatar training the Gulf State’s military.

Although relations between Turkey and Qatar seem to be rapidly developing, it has been argued that their relationship may lack the stability needed for long-lasting and strong cooperation. Since current agreements are mostly based on common enemies caused by a number of crises in the Middle East, it has been suggested that in order for Turkish-Qatari relations to remain strong, both countries must increase their political and economic dependency on one another.

However, in spite of this view, relations between Turkey and Qatar are undoubtedly evolving. President Erdoğan’s visit to Qatar and the agreement for a military base is a significant advancement, and in the future could lead to higher levels of mutual interdependency between both countries.