If push comes to shove, will Turkey defend Qatar against Iran?

Al Monitor | Fehim Tastekin: Turkey’s parliament will soon consider a plethora of military agreements proposed with other countries as Ankara seeks to expand beyond its “soft-power” influence and restore its stature in areas where it used to be influential.

Turkey already has a presence in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq with humanitarian, educational, construction and peacekeeping missions. It is adding a military dimension with a proposal to expand its presence at its base in Doha, Qatar, and with a training facility set to open this year in Mogadishu, Somalia.

These moves indeed warm the hearts of Justice and Development Party (AKP) members who dream of Ottoman times. Nationalist circles may be feeling exalted, but the political opposition in Turkey is asking: Why is Turkey building a security cover for Qatar? In return for what? Is Iran our target?

On May 4, parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved a Military Training Cooperation Agreement with Mongolia, a Security Cooperation Agreement with Albania, a Protocol for Gendarmerie Training Cooperation with Qatar and an Accord for Deployment of Turkish troops in Qatari territory. The draft bills of all these agreements, among others, will soon be put to a vote in the full parliament. The pact providing for deploying Turkish troops to Qatar has attracted the most attention.

Brig. Gen. Ihsan Bulbul, the deputy undersecretary of the Defense Ministry, provided some details from the commission meeting. Under the pact, Qatar and Turkey agreed to form a joint tactical division headquarters with 500-600 Turkish soldiers stationed at the base. The division commander will be a Qatari major general and his deputy will be a Turkish brigadier general.

 

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