Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Sultan's and the Emir's Gambles

As Turkey continues to make new enemies and distance itself ever further from Russia, Iraq and Iran, it seeks new alliances elsewhere. One partnership of particular interest is that with Qatar: the Turks just announced they will build a military base there, while the Qataris promised they could provide Liquefied Natural Gas after the Russians, following the shooting down of their jet in Syria, pulled the final plug on the South Stream gas pipeline project. Turkey also seems to want closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

However, this rapprochement with GCC nations has already resulted in its own backlash, as in the eyes of many Iraqis and Iranians this further confirms their accusation that the sole aim of destabilizing the Assad regime was so Turkey and the Gulf countries could bypass their natural gas pipelines. This might explain the recent conflagrations between Ankara and Baghdad; it was already known for months that Turkish troops were present in Northern Iraq, so why the sudden outrage? After burning Turkish flags and issuing death threats, Shiite militias now also seem to have started targeting Qatari interests in Iraq: today they even kidnapped members of their royal family. One might say there is a pattern unraveling here: the Sultan and the Emir increasingly risk to provoke the rage of the Shiites in the Middle East.

Qatar seeks release of citizens abducted in Iraq (Al Jazeera, 16 Dec 2015) {

Qatar has announced that it is sending high-level officials to work on the immediate release of its citizens who were abducted during a hunting trip in Iraq.

In an official statement on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi, the assistant foreign minister; and Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen, Qatar's ambassador to Baghdad, have been "dispatched" to "secure the safety of the Qatari citizens".

The statement said the Qatari nationals entered southern Iraq "with official permission" from the Iraqi interior ministry and the Iraqi embassy in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The statement did not say how many Qataris were abducted.

An earlier AFP news agency report quoted Faleh al-Zayadi, governor of Iraq's Muthanna province, as confirming that the Qatari hunters were abducted while they were in a camp near the Bassiyah area.

Some reports said there were 26 Qataris.

The abduction comes a little over three months after armed men seized 18 Turkish nationals in Baghdad.

The Turkish workers were later freed unharmed, two of them in the southern province of Basra and the other 16 on the road to Karbala, also south of Baghdad.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies }