BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
Turkey was the rising star in the international arena during US President Obama’s term. In the 200s, the coming to power of an Islamist party in secular Turkey was seen an opportunity for the West to access the Muslim world. As the American President, Obama made his first foreign visit to Turkey. The AKP government emphasized that it would play an active role in the Middle East Plan designed by the US. Then prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said, “We are the co-chairmen of the greater Middle East project.”
The establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood administration in Egypt, the fact that Zeynel Abidin bin Ali escaped from the country and became a partner in the administration of Ennahda from the Ikhwan movement, and the destruction of Syria and Libya, which resisted bringing the Muslim Brotherhood into the government, by civil war all combined to complicate US policy in the region. However, it is clear that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East did not play out as the West expected. And the Ikhwan Movement’s threat was cut, so to speak.
CRITICAL “HONOR” GRANTED QATAR BY PRESIDENT BIDEN
Many leaders from the Middle East are eagerly awaiting invitations to the White House. Qatari Sheikh Al Thani hit the lottery after abandoning his Hamasi rhetoric, bit by bit. The Sheikh of Qatar was hosted in Washington by President Joe Biden.
Biden announced that Qatar has been officially declared an “important non-NATO ally” by the US. This means that the path to high-level arms and technology exchange between the US and Qatar has been opened. Regardless of the 100,000soldier military base the US has maintained in Qatar for years, it’s clear that the real prize has been granted now. It’s obvious that the Biden administration, while directing its energy to those countries that can help it counter China and Russia, has decided to settle its Middle Eastern problems through Qatar.
The first steps of this have already begun.
For example, in Afghanistan, the US administration’s meeting with the Taliban was mediated by Qatar. The US also used Qatar as an evacuation base when withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Qatar is also involved in the issue of American nationals detained in Iran. Simultaneous with the Sheikh’s visit to the White House, the country’s Foreign Minister also went to Tehran. The main topic on the agenda of the meeting was the extradition of four American citizens detained in Iran on espionage charges.
Nuclear talks between Iran and the US are also on the table. Iran wants to make the extradition of detainees holding American passports a part of nuclear talks with the US. They are also conveying this message to Washington through Qatar. For a while, this role was assumed by the AKP government. Hakan Fidan, now the head of MIT, was appointed as governor to the International Atomic Energy Institution by Erdogan for a time. While Fidan was holding this position at the end of the naughties, the idea of storing Iran’s nuclear materials in Turkey was floated. Now, as Ankara watches nuclear negotiations from afar, Qatar seems to have taken on this role.
Qatar is also critical in the US policy towards Palestine. It is not meaningless that Biden emphasized Qatar’s efforts to “establish stability in Gaza and provide assistance to the Palestinians” in front of journalists in the Oval Office.
Biden is seeking alternatives from Qatar in case Russia cuts gas flowing to Europe. This has indirectly involved Ukraine in the Biden administration. Trying to keep his European allies on his side, the American president also plans to activate Qatar’s rich natural gas reserves to find a solution to Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Of course, it was impossible for the Sheikh of Qatar to not respond to Biden’s attention; the Sheikh signed a $20 billion purchase order of passenger aircraft from Boeing. In line with the “important non-NATO ally” status granted by the US, a massive arms sale to Qatar is probably not too far in the future.
THE ROLE OF TURKEY
While Qatar’s star is rising, the influence of the AK Party government is dwindling. While Greece plays the role of the US’ “critical ally” in the Mediterranean, the AK Party government seems to have made a final effort to woo the US by making peace with Israel, Armenia, Egypt, and the Gulf states.
However, this effort does not seem to be sufficient to solve the economic crisis in the country or to rise again in the international arena. The role of Turkey, a giant country in terms of population, economy, and land mass, seems to have been designated a “helper” to tiny Qatar.
Turkey’s name is only mentioned in terms of providing a police force to Qatar for the World Cup to be hosted this year and to “play a role” in the operation of the much-desired Kabul airport in Afghanistan. That’s it.