Turkish-Arab Relations in The Crises of “Arab Spring”

Also available in العربية

Turkish president, the head of the religiously-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP), needed official and popular support from Arab to win the title of “Lion of the Sunnah,” but apparently he only reached the rank of “Lion of the Muslim Brotherhood”, because his Ottoman ambition faced several obstacles that couldn’t be overcome.

Many observers believe that Erdogan’s Turkey hasn’t stopped trying to recruit the activities of political Islam groups in order to expand its influence in the Arab world since 2011, especially after losing hope for joining his country to the European Union. This leads in turn to losing the confidence of Arab governments with that it has begun to build strategic relations by virtue of regional geographic proximity, its economic interests and material benefits, as well as historical ties that are reflected in the reality of the common religious trend between Arabs and Turks.

These relations are now strained by close relationship between Justice and Development Government and the Muslim Brotherhood, in contrast to the apparent marginalization of the role of Arab states in the region’s current issues. AKP has embraced the scum of the Sunni school of extremism and forces of terrorism, it made a good relationship with Hamas organization, Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida and recently, ISIS. These relations were at the expense of the rapprochement with the sovereign Arab states and the organized entities, especially the Gulf-Egyptian axis versus the Arab-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood axis. That is due to the repercussions of the Turkish role in the crises that hit Arab countries and countries of the Middle East, the crisis, that Turkey will not be so far from it, as it is believed in the advanced stages – later.

Here is a review on the situation between Turkey and those countries from the beginning of these crises, as well as a research about the dimensions of those relations.

Turkish-Egyptian Relations:

There were 14 trade agreements signed between Egypt and Turkey between 2007 and 2011[1]. However, the relationship did not develop into political cooperation. The expansion of the Turkish role in the Middle East raises the concerns of Egypt, that was monopolizing a number of the files the region. Also, the Islamist roots of the AKP were not welcomed by the regime of Hosni Mubarak, who spent the 1990s beating Islamic groups and curbing their activities in Egypt.

However, the most serious issue that formed a real crisis between Turkey and Egypt was the Palestinian cause, which witnessed a remarkable development after the victory of Hamas in the 2006 elections and then its control of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Egypt in 2007, which called for Egyptian and Israeli siege of the sector and caused a division between the two Palestinian parties “Fatah” and “Hamas”.

The openness of Turkey to Damascus – based movement Hamas until 2011 and its interference into Palestinian reconciliation process as an intermediary between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas movement or to reduce the tension between them in order to revitalize its role in the Middle East, which was assigned to Egypt and Arab League. Turkey’s success in this role, especially after Erdogan’s confrontation with Shimon Peres at Davos Conference in 2009 [2] and the sending of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ in 2010 in an attempt to break the siege of Gaza, attracted popular Arab and Islamic sympathy, that caused a political embarrassment to the Arab regimes that felt the rise of the stars of both Turkey and Iran that took part in supporting Hamas movement at a time where the official Arab system sided with the Palestinian Authority, and this has caused the emergence of sensitivities that couldn’t be removed by diplomatic channels until the emergence of the crises of the “Arab Spring” and the problem worsened.

The Egyptian-Turkish relations witnessed a major coup with the eruption of the Egyptian protests in January 2011, where Turkey supported them from the early days. At that time, Erdogan sent a speech to Hosni Mubarak asking him to listen to the wishes of his people [3]. Ankara confirmed this, through a visit done by Turkish President Abdullah Gul as the first president visited Egypt a month after Mubarak stepped down, followed by the famous visit of Erdogan with 208 Turkish businessmen before the end of the year with a great welcome from Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters during which 20 trade agreements were signed [4]. This seems to have stirred the enthusiasm of Muslim Brotherhood that looking forward to reach the power in Egypt.  The election then, resulted the victory of Mohammed Morsi, and each one of them – Turkey and Egypt – found their goal at each other.

The arrival of Morsi to power paves the way for Turkey to create a new map in the Middle East. Ankara will represent with Egypt an unprecedented regional weight for at least a hundred year. Only two months after he took power, Morsi was invited to attend the Fourth Conference of the Justice and Development Party in September 2012 [5]. He was welcomed greatly by the Turkish party. It also witnessed a wide range in the Turkish-Egyptian position towards the Israeli war on Gaza in November 2012, which led to Israeli anxiety of this rapprochement.

Turkish dreams suddenly collapsed under the shock of a military coup by then-Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, 2013 [6]. It is clear that the coup was set by the anti-Erdogan camp in the Middle East, from Israel to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and also Iran, that was annoyed of the way Morsi had chosen towards Syrian crisis and that it didn’t see Morsi as the desired ally.

Turkish position towards the military coup in Egypt was sharp and rigid. Ankara provided the Egyptian opposition, that resorted to it, the media in order to attack the military coup and its policy, and it also hosted political events and conferences. However, the weakness of the opposition and its inability to manage the battle with the regime in Egypt was reflected at the level of Turkish hardness represented with the request for the return of Morsi to power, and gradually retreated to only the demand to drop the death sentence from him.

Egypt announced Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in late 2013 [7], and the new Egyptian regime began to launch violent political, media and diplomacy campaigns against Turkey, and devoted many of Egypt’s capabilities and efforts to distort and impede Turkish policy, and the Egyptian institutions moved in concert with Israel and the UAE in an attempt to destroy Turkish influence. Egypt has also signed agreements with Cyprus and Greece to demarcate the maritime border, which is depriving Turkey from oil fields in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and this was strengthened by the Forum “East Mediterranean Gas” in Cairo in January 2019.  

The distance between Egypt and Turkey is still far away. The relations between the two sides are on a cross-cutting path, and there is no horizon for their rapprochement. The Muslim Brotherhood’s approach of AKP obligates it to go on the other side of the secular model, that seems to be incompatible with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the near future.  

Turkish Relations with the Arab States in North Africa:

The Government of AKP has managed to penetrate the Arab states in North Africa from the gate of Tunisia, specifically through the Islamic Renaissance Movement, that it has the trend of Muslim Brotherhood and described as Turkey’s “agent in the country”, where it continued to maintain strong strategic, economic and military relations with this country amid the anxieties of the various political and popular parties of Turkish penetration and turning Tunisia into a background for it. There were voices warned of the dangers of this penetration, that expanded since Erdogan’s visit to Tunisia on 27 December 2017 in the context of an African tour that included Tunisia,  Sudan and Chad, where it revealed Turkish military ambitions in the whole of the region. One of the warnings come from Mubaraka Brahmi, member of Tunisian parliament who said: “There are indications that the Tunisian authorities didn’t take, and they aren’t still taking into consideration the experiences of other countries that have been drawn to the fire of Turkish involvement in supporting Muslim Brotherhood and many other different political Islamic organizations that revolve in its orbit and conspire against their security and stabilization.” adding: “The Turkish involvement in Tunisia was clear to the various political actors, because the current political scene, that is characterized by imbalance in favor of the Islamic Renaissance movement affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, wasn’t to be formed without the intervention of Qatari and Turkish finance.”[8]

Opening a military training base in Somalia, a construction of a berth for the maintenance of warships in Sudan; as well as allowing the Qatari authorities to deploy a new batch of soldiers in Qatar under the framework of a joint defense agreement between the two countries, means that the Turkish plan hides expansive ambitions exceeds Tunisia in its dimensions to include the region as a whole.

This trend is clearly reflected in the course of Turkey’s relations with Libya. Ankara has boldly intervened in Libya, that has been far from its borders since the outbreak of its 9-year crisis and without facing any clear opposition from the international community.

The most prominent headline in the Turkish policy towards the Libyan crisis was the contradiction and opposition. With the beginning of the protests on February 15, 2011 against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Ankara generally refrained foreign interference in Libya and opposed the imposition of sanctions and military intervention plans led by France and NATO. Ankara adopted the way of humanitarian relief efforts, while maintaining open channels with the parties of the conflict to play the role of the mediator.

With the fall of Gaddafi regime in October 2011, Ankara turned to all forms of support for terrorist organizations represented in the Justice and Building Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and militias of Misrata in the Libyan west. Ankara also supported the “Dawn of Libya” operation against  ‘Operation of Dignity” that was launched by the Libyan army led by Khalifa Hafter in May 2014, that has strained relations with the eastern Libyan, where the commander of the Libyan army in the east, Khalifa Hafter accused Turkey of supporting terrorism in Libya and the Libyan East Government made a decision to stop dealing with all Turkish companies in Libya in response to its policies in support of the “Dawn of Libya” coalition.  

Turkey hasn’t stopped sending weapons-laden ships to the active militias in Libya, many of which have been caught in the sight of the entire world. The United Nations has only tweeted that “Libya needs peace, not more weapons.” [9]. The Turkish fingers in the Libyan crisis are no longer operating in secret, but there is a deliberate intention to ignore this role. The situation is still waiting to be solved, but it is a long way off as it seems. Turkey is still working to strengthen the presence of Islamic forces and to make them a key element in the Libyan political community.

The Turkish goal is to expand the scope and to widen in North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt and Sudan in order to force this region to accept this structure, that has proved to be one of the imbalances in the region, to gain influence similar to the Ottoman style through its Muslim Brotherhood partners, no matter what is the cost the area will pay. Other financial reasons for Turkey for its going on in this way, is its seeking to maintain its investment there, securing a good share of its subsidiaries and preventing the exit of Libyan funds from Turkey that estimated at $ 21 billion, most of them since Muammar Gaddafi’s rule [10], except for funds of various Islamic groups, that turned Turkey into something like a depository bank.

According to press reports, Turkey hosts the largest gathering of Islamists in the world, especially Libya’s Islamists. Turkey provided many logistic services and there were direct flights between Ankara and Misrata, definitely its airport in Maitika. These areas were controlled by Abdel Hakim Belhadj, leader of the Libyan Fighting Group [11]. In July 2016, the WikiLeaks website revealed an important aspect of the Turkish role, that was the subject of transferring Belhadj’s money through a letter issued via his e-mail in 2013 requesting a Turkish bank belonging to the ruling Justice and Development Party to help him smuggle the money estimated $ 15 million in order to preserve and invest them for a commission of %25 [12].

Today, Turkey is moving on the Libyan arena in parallel lines. It provides significant support to the armed battalions and the loyal elements and attracts the leaders who accept cooperation with it, even if they don’t have clear and supportive ideological attitudes. It also works at the political and diplomatic level to support the President of the Presidential Council and the President of the Reconciliation Government, Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the pro-movement trend, and it turns a blind eye in dealing with Khalifa Hafter, the commander of the Libyan National Army, because he works against Islamic trends and the countries supporting them, so It tries to reduce his influence by continuing with the financial and political generosity for Sarraj and bringing obstacles and problems for Hafter.  

The General Command of the Libyan Armed Forces demands the UN Security Council and the United Nations to condemn Turkey and open an investigation into these practices, particularly with regard to arms shipments seized in late 2018 and early 2019, which violate the 1973 UN resolution in 2011 on arms embargoes to Libya. A number of civil society activists, politicians, jurists, media professionals and those in public interest have begun issuing statements on Turkish interventions [14]. It is unlikely to move towards the international community to hold Ankara accountable for its crimes in Libya, which may allow the opening of other files of the records of Turkish excesses in other places.

As long as the talk is about the role of Turkey in the Arab regions in Africa, it is worth mentioning the extension of Turkish arms to the Somali Youth Movement and the nature of the relationship between the two parties. In a new evidence of Turkey’s relationship with extremist organizations, information emerged from judicial documents that Turkish intelligence agency sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Somali Youth Movement through one of the former detainees at Guantanamo Bay called Ibrahim Shane, who was arrested in Pakistan for his connection to al-Qaeda and found to be working for Turkish intelligence, and transferring terrorists to and from Syria [15]. In addition to this, there are other reports indicating the financing of Qatar, Turkey’s first ally, to radical organizations in Somalia, making the country live the tragedy of terrorism to this day.

Some confidential information about Turkey’s involvement in arming the Boko Haram group has been leaked, Ankara in its turn hasn’t officially commented on this information, but has frozen assets and accounts belonging to the movement in Turkey. This raises many questions about the extent of its relationship with Boko Haram last period and how it got the money. The decision to freeze assets belonging to the movement has made after it was classified as a terrorist organization on 10 June 2014 [16], but recent media reports still raising suspicions about that relationship.

III. Turkish-Jordanian relations:

Turkish-Jordanian relations aren’t immune to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it has gone in a different direction, in addition to the economic situation of Jordan, Amman ‘s need for the support of this group has led to a rapprochement with Turkey and building relations with it despite the serious concerns of the Jordanian political leadership about the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood, the issue of Turkish penetration in Jordan through the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the only party that has a large base in the Kingdom, has been preoccupied with senior officials in Amman, but they found themselves in a hard situation after the worsening economic crisis in the Kingdom and the need to control the street.

The Muslim Brotherhood was found in Jordan in 1946 by Abdullatif Abu Qora [17]. Its legal status was ratified as an association in a decree signed by the Prime Minister. In 1992, the regulating law of the formation of political parties was issued and the Brotherhood formed the Islamic Action Front, that has become the political arm of the movement [18].

The signs of a political crisis between Jordan and Turkey looms on the horizon, that is because several indicators including: First, the policy of Turkish expansion in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Gulf and Syria. Secondly: NATO considers Jordan an appropriate alternative if the Turkish base in Incirlik  was closed.  

In addition to the above, Erdogan sought to penetrate the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in indirect ways, and the Arab parties expressed their anxieties that the Turkish concentration aims to allow Erdogan to be in control of Jerusalem, which reflects Ankara’s political goals. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel is monitoring this phenomenon and is working to uproot it. Israeli security has discovered that the Turks are trying to buy properties in order to strengthen their status through associations that support citizens in East Jerusalem. This is a matter of concern to the Palestinian Authority itself as well as The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, that fears that Turkish activities may destabilize its position and responsibility for the Holy Places in Jerusalem, and that the control of Hamas and other Islamist groups that oppose Jordan’s policy in the region and in East Jerusalem [19].

Turkish-Gulf Relations:

1- Turkish-Saudi Relations:

Saudi Arabia and Turkey stood in the beginning of the Arab crises in different positions, especially during the fall of Hosni Mubarak, as Saudi Arabia resented the fall of its ally, while Erdogan appeared to be the ally and supporter of this movement, and the visions were compatible only in the Syrian situation and for a short and temporary period, Perhaps the only way to bring the two sides together is to agree on the overthrow of the Syrian regime, while the two sides differed a lot about how to deal with the militant factions. Saudi Arabia, and by its Foreign Minister at the time Saud al-Faisal in 2013 rejected any role of Turkey in the Syrian file, which led to an intelligence crisis between the two parties at the time.

After the death of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in 2014, his successor, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz seemed to take a different approach to his predecessor’s approach. He tried to restore relations with Turkey, and Turkey was eager for this moment, it was suffering from a political isolation because of the demise of Morsi regime, the complication of the Syrian revolution and the continuous divergence in Turkish American relations [20]. While the Egyptian file remained one of the outstanding issues between the two sides, Saudi Arabia didn’t see any change of thinking to revise its policy towards Egypt, so the Turkish position began to change gradually on the requirement of the return of Morsi to the requirement of releasing him from prison before beginning the relationship with Egypt, and then to the requirement of dropping the death sentence for Morsi, and began waving the possibility of continuing economic relations or even relations at the ministerial level. To strengthen these relations, Erdogan made three visits to Saudi Arabia within one year, the first was when he cut off an African tour in late January 2015 in order to reach Riyadh to meet King Salman after he took power. [21]

Turkish-Russian relations have been strained over the backdrop of the Syrian crisis, with Turkey importing more than half of its natural gas needs. It had to search for more than one source of energy, and it went to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan.

King Salman’s policy didn’t continue, a major shift was made in his attempt to secure the Saudi throne for his son Mohammed Bin Salman, a move that was made for the first time since the founding of the third Saudi state by the late King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

Saudi-Turkish relations have deteriorated rapidly, especially after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Rajab Tayyip Erdogan exchanged criticism. Erdogan revealed that there is no so-called “moderate or non-moderate Islam.” There is only “one Islam” in response to the Crown Prince Saudi Arabia, who declared its desire to restore Saudi Arabia to “moderate Islam” [22], and also in response to the Crown Prince’s suggestion that Ottoman Turkey is one of the “triangle of evil,” along with Iran and Islamic extremists [23], this territorial rivalry between the two countries is continuing for decades and extends to the days of Ottoman colonization. Mohammed Bin Salman warned of Erdogan’s ambitions to rebuild the “Ottoman Caliphate” to control the region’s capabilities and dominate the Muslim world and the dangers of supporting armed terrorist groups operating in the Arab territories as in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

The Turkish press has launched a fierce attack on the Crown Prince, this hostility has continued to this day, that explains why Ankara and Doha blamed Mohammed Bin Salman for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Today, Saudi Arabia considers Turkey as to be in the center of the enemies. The path it has generally taken is to open relations with Israel and to strengthen relations with the UAE. Saudi Arabia is re-positioned in the regional map to counter Turkish policy. Many sources that cannot be documented at the time, emphasizes the participation of Saudi Arabia in the attempted military coup that took place in Turkey on July 15, 2016.  

2- Turkish-UAE Relations:

“Turkish-Arab relations are not at their best, and returning the balance in the relationship, Ankara should take into account Arab sovereignty and deal with its neighbors wisely and rationally,” said Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in one of his tweets via Twitter [24]. This reflects Turkish – Arab relations, including the UAE; the two countries stand opposite in many areas, but the political issue associated with the current regional developments, the expansion of political disputes and the ideological bases contributed to the worsening of the poor relations between Turkey and the UAE. Turkish media platforms do not dawdle in the declaration and the hint about the involvement of the UAE in the schemes against Turkey directly and indirectly, and Erdogan’s exception of the UAE from his Gulf tour in February 2017, which included Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain wasn’t surprising [25].

The point of disagreement between the government of Justice and Development and the UAE is the relationship between Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood, that is an old relationship began in the seventies of the last century, specifically during the era of former Prime Minister Najmuddin Erbakan, the political model of Erdogan, while the government of the United Arab Emirates on the other hand, was on long conflict and dispute with Muslim Brotherhood. The issue of ousting former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the army in a military coup in July 2013, has added another reason to the widening of the gap between Ankara and Abu Dhabi, Turkish officials pointed out that the UAE was one of the main supporters of this coup. As a result, the UAE Cabinet adopted a list of terrorist organizations in March 2014, including the Muslim Brotherhood, most notably the UAE Muslim Brotherhood (Islah Association) [26].

The AKP did not miss the opportunity of a failed coup in Turkey to accuse the UAE of supporting the coup on the pretext that some of the UAE-based news channels (like Sky News and Al-Arabia) have supported or sympathized with the coup.

The Gulf crisis overshadowed the Turkish-Gulf relations, including the Turkish-UAE relations. With the emergence of the features of this crisis and the accompanying diplomatic and economic siege by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on Qatar, Erdogan announced his continued support for Qatar and sent a military force to the base of Rayyan near Doha in October 2015 [27].

It is unlikely that Erdogan will abandon this foothold in the Gulf, that is a source of anxiety for the UAE and Saudi Arabia and an additional indication of Turkey’s regional expansion efforts in the Middle East.

In the Syrian crisis, the UAE criticized the competitive and provocative approach of both Iran and Turkey to both sides of the conflict in Syria, reflecting the colonial expansionist aspirations of both countries in Syria and other countries. The UAE considered the overthrow of the Russian fighter in Syria as a terrorist act and also stood against the operation carried out by the Turkish army and Islamic extremist factions against the People’s Protection Units in Afrin.

The positions of the two countries also differed on Libya. Turkey and Qatar support the armed factions, while the Egyptian-UAE axis supports the forces of Colonel Khalifa Haftar, and the two axes are at odds with the parties in the Palestinian cause.

The expansion of the Turks in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa is at the expense of the UAE more than any other country, because this expansion may serve the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Sudan and threatens the major shipping corridors in the world. The UAE suffered successive losses in this region due to the economic and strategic conflict between it and Turkey, which intensified after the Qatari schism of the Gulf Group. It lost more than a foothold in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti – by Turkish instigation – abolished the concession granted to Dubai Ports Group that has been operating the “Duraleh” cargo container terminal for 50 years, and the emergence of a political crisis between it and Somalia to conclude a contract with the internationally unrecognized “Somali land” region. [28]  

3- Turkish-Qatari relations:

Turkey has resorted to Qatar to supply gas after the crisis of dropping a Russian plane on Turkish territory after Moscow imposed trade sanctions on Turkey, and Qatar has played an important role in reducing the impact of these sanctions on Turkey, especially in the field of energy. In the midst of the geostrategic conflict in the Middle East, between Moscow and Washington on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and Iran on the other.

Turkey has found in Qatar its only remaining strategic ally in a region that is witnessing a strong polarization policy. The military cooperation agreement between the two countries in 2015 confirms the depth of the relationship between them. Qatar stood with Turkey in the face of the Turkish coup attempt. Turkey responded with quick and unlimited support to its ally Qatar after the blockade during the Gulf crisis, and represented in the extension of an air and sea bridge to transport goods and equipment to the Qatari market, and the volume of trade exchanges reached record levels [29]. There were nearly 15 summit meetings between the Turkish President and the Prince of Qatar and about 40 conventions in various fields [30 ], but what is the secret of this rapprochement?

The most powerful and possible rapprochement between these two countries was Qatari adoption of the Muslim Brotherhood and providing for them protection and sanctuary. Through its social networking sites and many of its preachers like Yusuf al-Qaradawi and others, the group has reached a wide range of Arab worlds, this activity was accompanied by the emergence of the trends of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey. This cohesion was manifested in the beginning of the “Arab Spring” crises, which revealed the many intersections that were gathering these two countries in their dealings with the terrorist forces in the Arab world, and now it is uncovered. The strategic, economic and political interests have brought together the two countries, that have become more isolated than the crisis countries themselves. This has been enough to increase the state of rapprochement that Turkey has used to serve its expansionist policy. It has deployed thousands of Turkish troops to the country, a military secret has been revealed recently, and found that one of the most important items, stating that no Turkish soldier may be prosecuted in Qatar, nor trialed in the event of any legal violations, also found that this convention doesn’t allow recourse to a third party, whether a state or international organization, in order to  resolve disputes or differences that may arise between the two countries reported [31].

There are several indications of a relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, a hidden alliance between them, which only appears when the threat to one of them grows, and one of its strings is Iran’s hosting to Brotherhood leaders and allowing the Iranian Brotherhood to demonstrate in one of Tehran’s most famous areas to denounce Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and the good relationship between Iran and Hamas; as well as Iran’s acquisition of Qatar as the safe haven of the Muslim Brotherhood, opening the door to the Gulf crisis and the Gulf-Egyptian blockade, and then Qatar is now standing in the Iranian – Houthi row in the face of the Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. In general, two main axes of this process were formed: the Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian-Israeli axis and the Turkish-Qatari-Iranian axis.

Turkish-Iraqi Relations:

Turkish-Iraqi relationship was characterized by constant gravitation and dissonance as because of the geographical proximity and common interests between the two countries on the one hand and the Turkish ambitions inherited from the legacy of the Ottoman Empire on the other hand, especially the issue of the demarcation of the border between the two countries since 1926 that wasn’t satisfactory to either side, especially Turkey that has remained holding on the idea of ​​its right of possessing Kirkuk and Mosul through the “Melli Charter” [32].

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Iraq in 1927. Relations between the two countries have witnessed remarkable growth due to their common interests, including the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries, the possession of Iraq of oil reservoirs as well as the Kurdish and Turkmen presence in Iraq.

Turkey stood against the American intervention into Iraq in 2003 and prevented using the Incirlik base of the American army. Thus, it became in the anti-Iraqi position of the new Iraqi government when the regime of Saddam Hussein was overthrown and then focused on its presence in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the completion of its goal in the fight against the PKK in accordance with previous agreements between them and the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Turkey has continued its incursion into Iraqi territory for several times without informing the Iraqi government, not to mention the establishment of 21 military and security bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite popular and Iraqi government opposition to them.

With signs of the weakness of the Muslim Brotherhood as an opposition force and its failure to change the course of events in Egypt and Tunisia, Erdogan, who was then prime minister and seized on the dream of spreading Muslim influence in the Middle East, decided to move to the extreme bloody wing to turn the point of the Syrian conflict from a peaceful revolution for bringing the regime down to an armed war. Ankara opened the Turkish-Syrian border for foreign fighters to flow into Syria, and later to Iraq. It facilitated the movement of jihadists through its southern regions along the Syrian north regions, providing logistical supplies and giving them the freedom of movement funds. There is no doubt that without that assistance, ISIS wouldn’t have been encouraged by the force that enabled it to take over that vast area between Syria and Iraq [33].  

Turkey has supported radical organizations and has cooperated closely with them in Syria and Iraq, that was confirmed by former Turkish President Abdullah Gul: “His neighbor ISIS doesn’t pose any threat to Turkey’s national security and that it doesn’t pose an ideological threat to Turkey.” He said “ISIS is a non-religious political movement”. On the other hand, the Turkish consul in the city of Mosul warned against the progress of the “Islamic State” towards Mosul. The response from Ankara was that “It isn’t a rival to us.” [34]. When the organization launched the attack on Shangal (Sinjar) and Mosul in 2014, a number of Turkish diplomats, Turkish consular officers and Turkish truck drivers were arrested with their families, numbering about (46) individuals, and then released by the organization in a strange way, in an unusual precedent of radical organization dealing with its kidnappers [35].

Turkish forces are incursion into Iraq under the pretext of pursuing elements of the PKK, and justify this by targeting a “terrorist group in northern Iraq”, an argument that angers the Iraqi street, that rejects Turkish excesses in the country.

The Iraqi state stood firmly against Erdogan’s ambitions and his sought to intervene militarily in Shangal, and rejected any Turkish military operations inside Iraqi territory.

The Turkish conspiracy against Iraq didn’t stop by military intervention and the attempt to push large military forces into the Kurdistan region, but it came to intervene in Iraqi political life and to embrace meetings of elements affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and some allied forces in Iraq that was seeking to plunder the wealth of the Iraqi state. The intervention was a Turkish-Qatari plan aimed at supporting the Muslim Brotherhood groups and the Iraqi Sunni forces in its orbit by establishing a Sunni body. Iraqi media reports said that the Turkish plan aims to establish a Sunni province parallel to the Kurdistan region [36].

In addition to this, the Government of Justice and Development used the file of water to pressure Baghdad to achieve its political and economic agendas in Iraq, such as resort to the policy of “oil for water”, that may put the two countries in a real test of diplomatic relations between them.

Turkish-Syrian Relations:

The years of honey between Turkey and Syria didn’t lengthen so far, where the crises of the “Arab Spring” broke out and spread towards Syria, where Turkey entered the Syrian action line and decided to withdraw its embassy staff in Damascus, declaring its position as “supporting the Syrian people”. Turkey contributed to the Syrian crisis effectively and was one of the instigators, along with Qatar, to inflame the situation, until it got as it is now. It supported most of the armed factions, it was the main gate for the going in and out of extremists into Syria. Its relations with most of the militant factions, especially the most radical, such as ISIS, Al-Nusra and Noraddin Al-Zengi have been documented. This is a knotty and complex subject and in need of a special study.

Turkey has intervened militarily and occupied the area between Jarablus and Azaz in an operation called “Euphrates Shield” in 2016 in exchange for the sale of areas under the control of the opposition forces in Aleppo, and then it occupied Afrin in exchange for the last pockets of opposition in the south of Syria such as the Eastern Ghouta and Daraa in 2018. Now it is seeking to enter the east of the Euphrates, all of this, is to strike the Kurdish presence, that it is called by the Turkish president “a swamp that will not be allowed to recur.”

When Syrian regime ended control of the Eastern Ghouta and the southern areas of Daraa that sold by the Turks to the Russians in exchange for Afrin, it sent large reinforcements towards Idlib, that was filled with opposition fighters who were transferred to it after being expelled from their areas of control inside and south of Syria, then Erdogan realized that his plans are moving towards the abyss, and that the fate of his allies is in danger. He went to work with Russian President Putin to stop the Syrian military operations in Idlib and on 17 September 2018 it reached an agreement that included the establishment of a demilitarized zone between the opposition and the regime. The boundaries of the area were set at a depth of 15-20 km in Idlib and 20 km in the western countryside of Hama. The agreement provided for the withdrawal of the extremist factions from this region. Turkey had established observation points since the beginning of 2018. Under the terms of the agreement, it undertook to remove all the jihadist factions and to disarm heavy weapons from them, and that the units of the Russian and Turkish military police should observe the demilitarized zone [37].

It was a relief for Erdogan’s plans to extend his control over areas he dreamed of without any trouble. Turkish forces deployed in the region largely after they supported those areas with heavy equipment and weapons. It won’t come out as easily as the Russians and the leaders of Damascus would imagine, as it can be seen by the slow pace in implementing the terms of the agreement; As well as the recent expansion of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (Sham Liberation Organization – formerly Nasra) at the expense of the opposition factions, that it doesn’t mind to Erdogan as all of them are partners. Russia began to complain and began to make statements that Turkey didn’t implement the terms of the agreement.  

A stable and democratic Syria would also be a source of stability for Turkey and its security in a highly sensitive geopolitical situation. This is confirmed by the course of the conflict and its complexities eight years later. However, the Kurdish entity’s complexity is troubling it, and it occupies the minds of the Turkish politicians. It took them to the mazes that returning from them seems impossible.

Turkish military intervention in Syria is an expansive two-edged Ottoman project. The democratic project in northern Syria is one of its main objectives. It is now clear that the idea of ​​Turkish intervention dates back to the pre-maturity of the self-administration project, Turkish judiciary emphasized that a recorded voice of Turkish officials met on 31 March 2013 to create a fabricated pretext to intervene in Syria militarily, was the pretext of “protecting the tomb of Suleiman Shah.”

Turkey has lost control over the safe area, turning to the implementation of the outdated Adana agreement, that will allow Syria to enter to the Turkish territory – before allowing Turkey – because it breached Syrian national security eight years ago.

Recommendations and Conclusions:

The disputes between the Arabs and the Turks have historical roots, that began when the Turks took the reins of the Islamic caliphate and brought them out of the hands of the Arabs. They became an expansionist force under the pretext of “Islamic-Ottoman conquests.” When the Arabs returned to recall their past, and realized the reality of their being, the Turks committed massacres, executed their political elites, and displaced their families, as well as inculcating offensive ideas against the Arabs. Many of them were purposely demeaning them.

Turkey has been building its relations with the Arab world in the spirit of authoritarianism and tutelage. It is working to revive the terminology that will fuel conflict and disputes in the region. This is reflected in its policies towards the recent crisis that has plagued Arab governments, such as in Syria, especially the role played by the Government of Justice and Development over the past two decades, and followed the policy of merging the concepts of (Kemalism – Turanism) and Ottoman, and manipulating them in accordance with expansion plans in the region, and the alliances that brought together the Justice and Development Party with the National Movement Party only to establish a system that combines Turkish chauvinism and Islamic extremism to fit with the political stage, as its direct intervention in Syria and Iraq under the pretext of protecting the Turkish national security without specifying limits to it, and mixing it with terminology dating back to the Ottoman era and sometimes before it (the Mongol entry to Iraq) and its occupation of the city of Jarablus with the memory of the battle of Marj Dabak.  

The conflict in Syria, Yemen and Libya, and the stability of the relationship between Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic groups, the evolution of the relationship between Turkey and Iran, and the nature of the next conflict between Iran and Israel will determine the nature of the relationship between Turkey and the Arabs, especially that Turkey has tried throughout the republican era to work according to the policy of balance between the regional and international powers and hasn’t recorded any clear and frank position in any of the issues in this region only to serve their issues and interests, even in support of the Syrian opposition.

One is puzzled by the nature of the relationship between the allies of Astana, who shake their hands as winners at every summit, while at the same time they are participating in the conflict or supporting one of its parties.

Ankara, whose relationship with Washington has deteriorated, is aware that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are allies, supported by America, but that the United States is not expected to take any explicit action on the current Arab-Turkish tension, especially since the relationship between Arab governments and Ankara hasn’t reached the limit of estrangement.  

Ankara also recognizes that Russia is an unreliable ally. The objective of their relationship is clear. It is close to come to an end if Washington was serious about withdrawing from northeastern Syria. It also knows that its Russian ally won’t support it in any future Turkish war. It can’t wage any war against anyone, except on the Kurds if they were abandoned by their allies in the international coalition.

The role played by the Government of Justice and Development isn’t about futility, it is the hopes and dreams of the new Ottoman Erdogan who believes in the possibility of achieving them, which is undoubtedly a serious danger to Arab national security as a whole, hence we believe that a serious cooperation must be activated between the administration in the north and east of Syria, that was able to take note of this role in its early stages, and the Arab governments that suffered from this role, to confront this policy, that calls for the nibbling of new geographical areas (Kurdish and Arab), and it leads a spiritual and effective group that has emphasized its failure to lead a nation, because it goes in parallel with the ideology of extremist organizations and differs from those fractions in details only.  

Erdogan’s arrogance made him work to support terrorist groups, in retaliation for the United States, its ally and Europe that rejected Turkey’s accession to the Union, and a double retaliation from the Arab states, whose people rejected the “Justice and Development” model and revolted against the Brotherhood organizations supported by the ruling party in Turkey, not to mention the historical ambition of Erdogan and his supporters of the “new Ottomans” who wanted to invade the Middle East again, but this time on the Muslim Brotherhood horse, but their plan was doomed to failure, and turned to financing terrorism.

Turkey continues to pose a great threat to the Arab countries. It is exploiting all its political, military and economic potential to weaken them, remove them from the circle of important regional states in the region and the Middle East, and keep them as failed states.  


محمد إلهامي، العلاقات المصرية التركية: الجذور والثمار، المعهد المصري للدراسات، 10 كانون الأول 2017.



رجب طيب أردوغان يدعو مبارك إلى الإصغاء إلى مطالب شعبه، نشرت في: 01/02/2011.

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الميثاق الملي أو الميثاق الوطني أو ميثاق الأمة: تشكلت الخطوط العريضة لهذا الميثاق في مؤتمري أرضروم وسيواس 1919، وقد تمت صياغته في اللقاء الذي جمع بين مصطفى كمال وبعض ممثلي مجلس التمثيل الدنيوي (عكس ديني) في بدايات شهر كانون الثاني 1920، وتم اعتماده في مجلس المبعوثان العثماني في 12 شباط 1920، وبالرغم من الغموض الذي يحيط بالميثاق وببنوده الستة، فإنه لا يزال باقياً؛ إذ أن البنود الثلاثة الأولى تشير إلى حالتين وهما: أن المناطق التي تسكنها أغلبية تركية فهي ستكون ضمن “الوطن القومي” للأمة التركية، بينما الأراضي التي فيها أغلبية غير تركية سيتم تحديد مصيرها عن طريق استفتاء أو بتصويت سكانها. أما البنود الأخرى فتتعلق بأمن اسطنبول ومرمرة، وحقوق الأقليات، وقضايا التطور والاستقلال. انظر:

الميثاق الوطني، المعرفة.

ويبدو أن الحدود التي تنسب إلى هذا الميثاق هي الحدود الواردة في الخطاب الذي ألقاه مصطفى كمال لمؤسسات الميثاق الوطني (الملي) وقد جاء فيه: “حدود أمتنا، من جنوب خليج الإسكندرونة، من أنطاكية، وجنوب جسر جرابلس ومحطة سكة الحديد، وجنوب حلب ثم تسير جنوباً مع نهر الفرات حتى تضم دير الزور، ثم تتجه شرقاً لتضم الموصل، وكركوك والسليمانية”. انظر:

غسان يوسف، هل سيُعيدُ أردوغان تركيا إلى ما قبلَ مُعاهدةِ لوزان؟!، الميادين، 08/11/2016.


لماذا يدعم العدالة والتنمية التركي تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، صحيفة العرب، 27/11/2014.


لماذا يدعم العدالة والتنمية التركي تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، صحيفة العرب، 27/11/2014.


ريم عبد الحميد وإنجي مجدي، الصحف الأمريكية: تركيا وعدت داعش بمساعدته فى مهاجمة أكراد سوريا..، اليوم السابع، 22/09/2014.


أحمد جمعة، الانتهاكات التركية لسيادة العراق عرض مستمر..، صحيفة العرب، 12/06/2018.


تركيا تدخل “كرفانات” إلى نقاط المراقبة شرقي إدلب، عنب بلدي، 26/11/2018.