GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Turkey and Qatar: the Birth of a Brotherhood
Paper Proposal Text :
Before the military coup in Egypt in the summer of 2013, and accelerating after it, Turkey and Qatar forged a mutually special relationship. By the time of the 2013 coup, they had already aligned their policies on many critical and controversial issues: for example, both fully supported the anti-regime opposition in Syria, developed working and even cordial relations with Iran, recognized and treated Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and supported Egypt financially and diplomatically during the presidency of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi.
After the coup in Egypt, the two sides were drawn even closer together. They exchanged numerous high-level visits. Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, was the highest-ranking statesman from the Arab World to attend Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration dinner in August 2014. Erdoğan soon reciprocated with a high level visit to Qatar the next month. This was Erdoğan’s first visit to the Middle East after being elected President. At the end of the visit, Sheikh Tamim drove Mr. Erdoğan to the airport in his own car. Turkey and Qatar declared 2015 the ‘Year of Culture.” More critically, the two have recently signed an agreement to not only increase cooperation in military training and defense, but also to deploy Turkish troops to Qatar.
If it is not blocked by new domestic, regional, or international developments, there is a potentially powerful Turkey-Qatar axis forming in the Middle East. In the 1990s and even in the 2000s, no one would have anticipated this. The two countries were then worlds apart and in many ways they still are. Turkey is an electoral democracy while Qatar is a monarchy. Turkey is among the largest countries in the Middle East, both in territory and population, while Qatar is among the smallest. Turkey calls itself secular while Qatar does not.
Although Qatar is an energy rich country, and Turkey an energy-dependent country, they had not developed strong economic relations prior to the 2000s. In 1996, for example, the total trade volume between Turkey and Qatar was a meager $13 million and only 674 tourists from Qatar visited Turkey. To see how much relations have improved since then, in 2014, the total trade volume between the two countries was around $739 million, having increased more than 50 times from 1996 to 2014, and 29,743 tourists visited Turkey from Qatar.
What happened in between? This paper addresses this question. In a nutshell, it argues that Turkey and Qatar forged a special relationship in order to break the state of regional isolation that each found itself in after the military coup that overthrew Mohammed Morsi in Egypt in July 2013. This isolation was the outcome of the efforts of both actors to remain bipartisan throughout the 2000s, in a Middle East increasingly marked by bipolarity between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and to form an alternative pole to balance these two countries with the onset of the Arab Spring.
The paper argues that the Arab Spring changed the regional context in the Middle East as it brought to power Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political parties and leaders, who assumed new roles in major Arab countries, including Egypt and Tunisia. Unlike other Middle Eastern states, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, Turkey and Qatar saw little threat in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, as both had developed cordial relations with the movement throughout the 2000s. Rather, they saw it as an opportunity to turn this new regional context to their own advantage. Turkey and Qatar became the major financial and diplomatic supporters of Egypt under the presidency of the Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi.
In April 2013, King Abdallah of Jordan remarked, “I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey.” Yet, the July 2013 military coup in Egypt cut short this development. In the post-coup regional environment Turkey and Qatar became increasingly isolated, and as a result turned to each other and strengthened their mutual ties.