Erdogan Defends Turkey’s Military Expansion into Fifth Country: Qatar

“No one except for those making plans of chaos should be disturbed by Turkey and the Turkish military presence in the Gulf,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview published by the Peninsula, a Qatari newspaper.

The interview took place one day after the president met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha for diplomatic talks. Turkey and Qatar maintain strong relations, “particularly since the Gulf crisis erupted on June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar and severed diplomatic relations. … Turkey sent cargo planes full of essential items to Qatar within less than 48 hours of the start of the blockade,” according to the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera.

Speaking to the Peninsula on Thursday, Erdogan described the military alliance between Ankara and Doha, as expressed through the Turkey-Qatar Combined Joint Force Command, as “a symbol of brotherhood, friendship, [and] solidarity between the two countries.”

Outside of the Persian Gulf, Turkey’s military is currently involved in conflicts within four other regions: Syria, Iraq, Libya, and the South Caucasus.

The country remains engaged in wars in Syria and Libya and mounted its latest military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq in June. Turkey joined another conflict late last month, voicing public support for Azerbaijan in its clashes with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. World leaders, including those of France, Armenia, Russia, and Syria, have accused Turkey of sending Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan to bolster its ground forces in the reignited dispute. Ankara, which supplies military weapons and training to its Turkic ally, Baku, denies these accusations.

In addition to these land-based conflicts, Ankara has recently ventured into a maritime dispute in the eastern Mediterranean with Greece and Cyprus, who oppose Turkey’s aggressive exploration of the sea’s oil and gas reserves over the past few months.

Some observers believe that Erdogan has ramped up Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy as an attempt to distract the Turkish public from less favorable domestic issues, such as the country’s declining economy.