Will Yemen Turn into New Turkish-Saudi Encounter Spot?
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Will Yemen Turn into New Turkish-Saudi Encounter Spot?

The course of developments between the two Sunni Muslim states indicates that we can in the future witness the end of bonds between Ankara and Baghdad amid emerging regional and international order. Once developing a concerted policy to support a range of militant groups to oust the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, the two counties are now taking deeply separated routes, a gap that brings them head-to-head in a confrontation of fundamental interests in the Syrian crisis, now in its eights year. The same confrontation of stances is also observable in other regional cases, including the Palestinian cause, the Persian Gulf region’s security order, and the Iran-US dispute. But an important regional case that prospectively can produce a scene for the clash of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies with those of Saudi rulers is the Yemen crisis. The track of this potential confrontation can be found in Turkish leaders stances on crisis in Yemen, an impoverished country grappling with massive aggression led by Saudi Arabia and effectively assisted by Riyadh’s Western and Arab allies. Lack of a certain and studied strategy at the beginning of the Saudi military aggression against Yemen, started in March 2015, caused Ankara leaders to enter the hardline Sunni camp and back the Saudi military intervention. But gradually, Turks recalibrated their stance on Yemen and so withdrew their backing to Riyadh. Separation of ways from Saudis went to an extent that over the past year Erdogan, taking stances in line with the Turkish public’s negative view of the Saudi-led massacring of the Yemeni civilians, blasted the Arab kingdom for its atrocities in Yemen. Along with the Turkish media and politicians’ anti-war postures, we can refer to the personal remarks of Erdogan in Buenos Aires to take part in the Group of 20 (G20) summit. Criticizing the continued aggression against Yemen, Erdogan called for the Yemeni warring parties to start the dialogue. The position signaled an intensification of the Saudi-Turkish encounter after killing of the prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed at the hand of a hit squad reportedly operating directly under the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s supervision. Saudi Arabia’s support to the Syrian Kurds Certainly, the Turkish efforts to get a foothold on the Yemeni ground are related to an Ankara wish to create a threat against the Saudi interests to help set up a balance of threat against interests with Saudi Arabia. That is because the monarchy follows a policy of containing Turkey in the region by embroiling Erdogan in a home fight with the Kurds, a strategy bin Salman thinks can work to undermine Ankara sway in the regional equations. Turkey receives the threatening signals that Saudi Arabia and its ally the UAE try to cozy up to the Kurds in Syria and even in Iraq, who are also supported by the US militarily and logistically in northern Syria. Power gain of the Kurds in Syria in the future poses a threat to the Turkish security environment and the political position of Erdogan, as it will be pleasant to the Israeli regime, the US, and of course Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Prince Mohammed who desires to hit back at Erdogan after he used Khashoggi case as much as he could to damage the prince’s image. At the time being, the cheapest and most accessible option for Erdogan against Saudi Arabia is giving further attention to Yemen as a backyard to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi point of vulnerability. Engagement in Yemen case in addition to helping press the Saudis away from further closeness to the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds can help improve Ankara’s image globally– mainly in the eyes of the Muslim world. Form of Turkey’s role playing is very important. As the majority of the Muslim people find the Saudi anti-Yemeni war serving the Israeli and American interests and strongly condemn it, Turkey puts top on its Yemen agenda efforts to end the humanitarian crisis and war in the devastated country. Turkey’s stabilization potentials Over three years of bombardment, massacring, destruction of the infrastructure, and economic blockade all to make the resistant movement Ansarullah in Yemen bow to the Saudi demands have met their failure so far. Now the international community has come up with the conclusion that Ansarullah role in the future of Yemen is unavoidable. The international community now insists on intra-Yemeni peace negotiations, the first round of which was held in Stockholm last month. The existence of the Islah party, which is affiliated with regional Turkish-aligned Muslim Brotherhood movement, among the anti-Ansarullah forces opens a significant door for Turkey to play a role in the crisis. Turkey as the godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement active across the whole region, can encourage the Islah party to negotiate and enter a peace deal with Sana’a, currently held by Ansarullah, in a bid to prove itself as a regional effective and stabilizing power and create a balance of power pressing Saudi Arabia to quit support for the Syrian Kurds. This role playing can also bring Ankara closer to Tehran and Damascus. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a summit of the Iran-Turkey Supreme Council for Strategic Relations held last month said: “Turkey can play a role in the intra-Yemeni talks. It also can help increase the supply of humanitarian aids to the Yemeni people.”

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