Qatar-Iran-Turkey alliance erodes regional security - Arab Weekly

Qatar has quietly formed an alliance with Iran and Turkey, taking a stand against its former Arab allies that undermines regional security, according to The Arab Weekly. 

Qatar made a surprise announcement Dec. 3 that it would pull out of OPEC, a move seen as aimed at provoking Saudi Arabia, the organisation’s top exporter. A week later, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim skipped the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, turning down an invitation from Saudi King Salman.

The moves underlined simmering tension in the Gulf and the risk of Doha breaking away from the Arab-Sunni orbit, the London-based news outlet said. 

Boycotted by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has gradually slid into an unofficial yet open alliance with Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival, and Turkey, one of the few remaining havens for Islamist groups like the Brotherhood. 

The trio struck a deal in late November in Tehran to create a “joint working group to facilitate the transit of goods between the three countries". Intended to streamline trade flow to Qatar, which can no longer access air, land and sea routes to neighbouring Arab countries, the agreement has proven to be a mechanism to further the agendas of Ankara and Tehran, The Arab Weekly said. 

Doha has irrevocably joined with Ankara and Tehran, the news outlet said, positioning itself in a regional alliance that pursues geopolitical dominance by driving instability.

The foreign policies of Iran and Turkey have sometimes collided in recent years. Tehran has tried to resurrect a Persian Shia empire by supporting proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere, according to Arab Weekly, while Ankara has sought to rediscover Ottoman-era glory by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

But economic interests and a shared antipathy to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have brought Iran and Turkey closer together. The two countries’ trade volume topped $8 billion over the May-October 2018 period and is expected to rise to $12 billion by March next year, Chairman of Iran-Turkey Chamber of Commerce Reza Kami said.

Beyond trade, Ankara and Tehran share key political objectives. Both countries view the Kurdish presence near their borders as a threat. They are engaged in fierce competition with Riyadh over primacy in the Arab Gulf and the wider Middle East, a battle that has played out in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Africa.

What is in this power game for Qatar, which has no history of empires or prospects of world dominance? Some say Doha’s rapprochement with Ankara and Tehran is an inevitable outcome of its rift with Arab neighbours.

The truth, The Arab Weekly said, is that Qatar desperately strives to achieve the rank of regional power. It has pursued this unlikely objective since the turn of the century, especially following the events of the “Arab spring,” by funding devious media campaigns, pursuing carrot diplomacy, investing in global sports and ramping up its foreign aid.

Qatar has invested billions of dollars in Islamist groups across the region, despite the chaos and instability they wrought following the Arab uprisings, the London-based news outlet said. This is an indication that Doha is betting on the re-emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Libya.

By continuing this course, Qatar is playing with fire, according to The Arab Weekly, not only because its foreign policy objectives are precarious but because it is antagonising its neighbours and driving the country into isolation.

Qatar faces another conundrum as it moves closer to Ankara and Tehran. Both of those capitals are at odds with the United States and could undermine Doha’s standing with Washington, which it has spent millions on lobbying over the past year ($16.3 million in 2017, a report by the Wall Street Journal stated).

Doha is funneling resources into the hands of unreliable allies that could turn against it at any moment and pushing away its traditional allies, foolishly undermining the country’s national interest, The Arab Weekly said.