Qatar, Iran, Turkey: New Alliance?

The Youth Journal has covered the Qatar crisis extensively here.

Qatar, Iran, and Turkey have been widely discussed in the media over the last few days. Can these three countries become allies in the near future? Why are Iran and Turkey helping Qatar? What will this relationship yield on a global scale?
To answer these questions, we need to take a deep look at each country’s relation with each other.

Qatar-Iran

Because of Qatar’s geographical location, its relatively smaller surface areas, and shared oil fields, Qatar needs to keep positive relations with Iran. Any tensions between these two countries can be dangerous. Compared to other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region, Qatar has one of the best relationships with Iran, and Qatar seemingly wishes to continue this partnership. The two countries have a close economic relationship, particularly in the oil and gas industries. A big portion of Qatar’s oil comes from a field that is related to Iran, which is jointly controlled by the two countries. Qatar’s motivation is largely influenced by their economic ties with Iran. In addition to ties in the oil and natural gas arena, Iran and Qatar also cooperate in the shipping sector.

Qatar has a difficult time when it comes to maintaining a good sustainable relationship with Iran, as well as adopting the policies set by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) towards it. They are treading lightly on both sides in pursuance of their own self-interests. However, trying to maintain a good relationship with both the GCC and Iran has led to tensions. Both Iran and Qatar have been of assistance to each other, especially in January 2014 and in the recent Qatari diplomatic crisis.

According to Middle East Eye and FirstPost, after Saudi Arabia and  its allies blocked Qatar economically, Iran sent food supplies in the form of approximately 600 tons of fresh produce to Qatar.

Another important factor is Saudi Arabia. With Saudi Arabia and Iran’s relations on a tipping point, Iran wants to use this opportunity to help Qatar as much as they can.

But as can be noticed, although Qatar welcomes Iran’s help, Qatar is not openly suggesting that they are allied with Iran. Qatar needs assistance from Saudi Arabia and they don’t want their relationship with them to get worse, at least for now. So although both countries are probably going to have better relations than ever, Qatar is far from being Iran’s ally.

Qatar-Turkey

Layla Etesami, the United Nations’ Middle East Analyst, explains Qatar and Turkey’s relations in her answer perfectly.

As written in Ms. Etesami’s answer, although Turkey and Qatar both benefit from their political partnership, Turkey needs to be on better terms with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Basically, even though Turkey’s position in the recent Qatar diplomatic crisis is pro-Qatari, it wouldn’t exactly be described as being anti-Saudi. Turkey and Qatar’s political relations will likely be very strong in the near future, but the two countries are far from being allies.

Iran-Turkey

Iran and Turkey are major trade partners. They have heavy mutual influence on each other, due to geographical proximity, linguistic and ethnic relations, common cultures, and shared empires. Despite this, they also have their disagreements.

Turkey, the largest NATO member in the region, hosted the establishment of a NATO missile shield in September 2011. The establishment of the NATO defense shield has caused a crisis between Turkey and Iran. Iran claimed that the NATO missile shield is a US plot to protect Israel from any counter-attack should Israel target Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Turkey should rethink its policies over Syria, the NATO defense shield, and promotion of secularism over the Arab world following the Arab Spring. Iran’s relations with Turkey have occasionally soured over the AKP government’s active involvement in regional disputes between Shia and Sunni groups since the dawn of the Arab Spring. Iran firmly backs the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, while the AKP government in Turkey supports the Syrian opposition. During the military intervention in Yemen, Iran and Turkey supported rival groups, which led to official arguments between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mohammad Javad Zarif. Erdoğan stated that “Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw” and Zarif replied, “Turkey makes strategic mistakes”. However, a few days later, Erdoğan went to Tehran for talks on improving Turkish-Iranian trade relations and was received by Khamenei and Rouhani.

But they also have a lot of common ground and interests, for example Iran and Turkey also have very close trade and economic relations. Both countries are part of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Turkey imports about 10 billion cubic meters a year of gas from Iran, about 30 percent of its needs.Turkey plans to invest $12 billion in developing phases 22, 23 and 24 of South Pars gas field. Two-way trade is now in the range of $10 billion (2010), and both governments have announced that the figure should reach the $20 billion mark in the not too distant future.

Can these three be allies in near future?

In short- it’s not likely. Qatar, Turkey, and Iran have major problems with each other when it comes to Syria, terrorist groups and in general foreign policies, the only thing that is keeping them together is that they need each other. Iran needs Qatar because of the rivalry they have with KSA, Iran is heavily dependent to Turkey when it comes to the economy. On the Other hand, Qatar needs Iran both for economical reasons and common interests, and Qatar needs Turkey because they want to become an independent country from KSA. Turkey needs Qatar because they want to become the super power of middle east and the only way to do it is to have good relations with Persian Gulf countries, and Turkey needs Iran due to economical reasons. Although they have good relations with each other, they are far from being allies.

Why are Iran and Turkey helping Qatar?

For Iran, right now, the most important issue is KSA. They will do anything to gather allies against KSA or at least not in favor of KSA. With helping Qatar they can have some kind of influence on them in near future, or even maybe Qatar will be able to help them economically as they did in January 2014.

For Turkey however it’s more about gaining more power in the region, As Layla said in her answer, which was mentioned above, Turkey has strong relations with KSA and Iran too, for them this is more about gaining influence in Qatar without making KSA upset and also showing that they want a peaceful region and will not keep quiet over KSA’s action to heavily influence Arab countries. They are trying to keep the balance in the region.

What will happen next?

Qatar, Turkey, and Iran will have better relations than ever, but they will not become allies, it is almost certain that Qatar and KSA will have normal relations again, but what happens after that is not certain. In my idea, Qatar will try to become a power in the region, with a moderate point of view between KSA and Iran, but leaning towards KSA. Turkey, Iran and Qatar relations will definitely be an obstacle for KSA, and their aim to become the biggest country in the region. How they will react, depends on how strong the ties are, and how willing is USA to back KSA. We still need to wait and see.

 

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