At the beginning of the increasingly fluid Qatar crisis, Turkey said some of the right things in respect of trying its best to hide its pro-Qatari agenda and it even did many of the right things, namely in respect of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoning Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to work with the wider non-Arab international community in taking a constructive approach to the crisis.
Today, with the announcement that Turkey is to hasten the deployment of troops to Qatar, Erdogan has reverted to form. He is endangering not only stability in the region but also his own Presidency.
In 1804, Serbia fired the first shot in what was to be the final decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire, but it was the Arabs, particularly those in the Persian Gulf who dealt the Ottoman Empire its final blow.
Qatar might need all the help it can get, but Turkey is increasingly an unwelcome player in Arab affairs. Syria and Iraq downright detest Turkey for its illegal wars and occupation of their territories. In Iraq’s case, Baghdad is furious that Turkey is fighting its historic battle with the Kurds on Iraqi soil and Syria rightly considers Turkey an enemy for occupying its land and arming jihadist groups.
Egypt’s President Sisi will never forgive Turkey for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular Tobruk based Libyan House of Representatives is firmly on Egypt’s side. By allying with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are all ready on separate sides vis-a-vis Turkey and outside of the Arab world, Iran’s historical animosity with Turkey has not been helped by Turkey arming anti-Iranian groups in Syria.
What’s more is that Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman desire to play the role of Sultan in and over the Arab world does not sell domestically except with the most radical portion of Erdogan’s central Anatolian base. Most Turks are worried about economic recession, domestic terrorism and increasingly poor relations with Turkey’s most immediate neighbours than they are worried about the wider Arab world.
What’s more is that if Erdogan enters the Qatar conflict head on, he will be going against Russia’s legitimately stated position of neutrality and also against the wishes of fellow NATO member, the United States which based on Donald Trump’s recent Tweets, is aligned with Saudi Arabia against Qatar.
If Erdogan jumps into the Gulf he will at once isolate himself from Wahhabi Saudi, the secular Arab world (which he is all ready largely hated in), Russia and the United States. He certainly will not be making friends with Iran that while anti-Saudi cannot in any way be described as pro-Qatar. After all Qatari and Turkish proxies are fighting against Iranian backed forces in Syria.
Of course all of this happens as Turkish-European relations reach an all time low as Germany finalises its decision to vacate Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.
If there is a recipe for the downfall of Erdogan, intervening in the Gulfi feud is it. Turkey could find itself totally isolated if it does so.
Erdogan’s pride and neo-Ottomanism may yet be his downfall. He has decided to live as a sultan and he may fall as one too.