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memri
October 23, 2019 No.
8325

Qatar's Support For Turkey's Military Operation In Northeast Syria Reflects The Two Countries' Close Alliance, Expresses Defiance Of The Arab League

Qatar's support for Turkey's "Fountain of Peace" military operation in northeastern Syria, amid the resounding condemnation of this operation by the Arab countries, is a reflection of the close alliance that has existed between the two countries in the last five years, and which is manifested in political coordination between them and in cooperation at the highest levels in numerous and varied domains. In 2014 the countries signed a military agreement, as part of which Turkish troops are present on Qatari soil. Furthermore, a joint strategic committee, established by the two countries in 2015, meets annually and has signed dozens of understandings and agreements in various domains.

The two countries have also supported each other in various crises over the recent years, as Qatar has now done by supporting the Turkish invasion of Syria, which came immediately following the U.S. declaration that it was withdrawing its forces from the country. Formerly, following the boycott imposed on Qatar in June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, Turkey supported Qatar and tightened its relations with it, and supplied it with food and other vital resources during the first days of the siege. Conversely, during Turkey's diplomatic crisis with the U.S. in the summer of 2018, Qatar mobilized to help Turkey, providing it with $18 billion in aid (See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7650, Against The Backdrop Of The U.S.-Turkey Crisis, Qatar Mobilizes To Help Turkey, August 30, 2018). In September 2018, the Qatari Emir gifted Erdogan a luxury Boeing 747, as part of Qatar's aid to Turkey.[1] (See MEMRI TV Clip No. 7540, Emir of Qatar Gifts Luxury Boeing 747 to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, September 14, 2019).

Echoing the support of the Qatari leadership, Qatar's media likewise supported the Turkish campaign with positive coverage, presenting Turkey as a country fighting terror and assisting the Syrian people. Articles in the Qatari press described the latest developments, including the October 17, 2019 memorandum of understandings between Turkey and the U.S., as a victory for Turkey and a defeat for its "Arab opponents."[2] Many of the articles, as well as cartoons in the Qatari dailies, justified Qatar's support for the Turkish campaign and harshly criticized the Arab League for opposing it.


Cartoon in Qatari daily: "Strategic partnership" between Qatar and Turkey (Al-Watan, Qatar, November 29, 2018)

This report reviews the Qatari expressions of support for Turkey's military operation in northeastern Syria.

Immediately After The Turkish Invasion, Qatari Emir, Turkish President Talk On Phone To Discuss Events In Syria, Strengthening Of Strategic Relations Between Their Countries

On October 10, 2019, one day after the Turkish invasion of Syria, the Qatari news agency reported about a phone conversation that had taken place on October 9 between Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani and "his brother, the honorable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of our sister country, the Republic of Turkey." According to the report, the two discussed "the strategic relations between the sister countries and ways to strengthen and enhance them, as well as the latest developments in the region and the world, including the latest developments in Syria."[3] According to Turkish sources, on October 18 Erdogan also met in Istanbul with Qatari Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman, "far from the eyes of the media." 'Abd Al-Rahman tweeted that he was "delighted to be in Istanbul and meet President R.T. Erdogan to convey the greetings of [Qatari Emir] HH Tamim bin Hamad... and to discuss the latest developments in Syria and the region..." 


'Abd Al-Rahman's tweet (Twitter.com/MBA_AlThani, October 19, 2019)

Qatar Reserved About Arab League's Condemnation Of The Turkish Campaign

In addition, while Arab countries condemned the Turkish invasion of Syria, Qatar supported it, and (along with Somalia) expressed reservations about the Arab League statement which demanded Turkey's unconditional withdrawal from Syria and described the Turkish campaign as a violation of UN resolutions, an infringement of Syria's territorial integrity, and an unacceptable interference in the sovereignty of a member-state of the Arab League. The League called to take immediate measures against Turkey, such as reducing the level of diplomatic representation between the Arab countries and Turkey, halting military cooperation with it, and reconsidering the economic, cultural and tourism relations with Turkey. It also urged the UN Security Council to take measures to force Turkey to halt its military offensive in Syria and withdraw its forces from the country without delay.[4] Turkish Ambassador to Qatar Fikret Ozer said regarding Qatar's support of Turkey that Qatar has always been among the foremost supporters of Turkey's war on the PKK's terrorism that threatens its territorial integrity. He added that Qatar's position reflects the strong alliance and the strategic relations between the two countries.[5]

Statement By Qatari Defense Minister: Turkey "Has Done What The Arab League Has Not Done" For The Sake Of Syria's Territorial Integrity

Support for the Turkish campaign was also expressed by Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-'Atiyyah at the October 2019 Global Security Forum in Doha. According a report on the Turkish website of the Anadolu news agency, Al-'Atiyyah said that "Turkey is protecting itself from terror, [and] is not committing a crime." He added that "Turkey had always defended Syria's territorial integrity," and that "it has done what the Arab League has not done" in order to protect this integrity.

Further statements by Al-Atiyyah were presented in an Anadolu report in Arabic, which was quoted in Arab media such as the online daily raialyoum.com. According to this report, Al-'Attiyah said, inter alia: "Turkey is hosting four million Syrian refugees, and, had it harbored evil intentions, it would have opened its gates and drowned Europe in refugees." He praised the Turkish forces' performance in the campaign, stating that "Turkey's conduct in the cities where it is fighting against terror is clear [to all]. The cities where the Turkish forces fought against terror still stand, as opposed to the destruction [perpetrated by] other forces in Syria's cities." He added: "I have seen great crimes perpetrated by [various] sides in the conflict, and they were not held to account for them."[6]   

Article In Qatari Daily: The Turkish Intervention Is Justified; The Arab League Is "Wretched"

Qatari columnists likewise expressed support for the Turkish operation and castigated the Arab League. 'Adel 'Abdallah Al-Mutairi, a columnist for the Qatari Al-Arab daily, wrote: "The obvious truth is that Turkey is one of the countries that receive the greatest number of Syrian [refugees], since it is a neighboring country and because its government tries to care for them to the best of its ability. For this reason, the Europeans and [the rest of] the world are supporting Turkey's efforts to assist the Syrian [refugees] and view Turkey as a country that acts as a barrier that keeps the Syrian refugees from infiltrating Europe.

"It is also doubtless that none of Syria is secure: not the territories controlled by the Syrian regime or by its sectarian [i.e., Shi'ite] militias, not the territories where fighting is taking place with the rest of the terrorists, and not the territories under the control of the Kurds' Democratic Syria Forces or the Free [Syrian] Army…

"In light of the possibility that that the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey would increase and the Kurdish forces would control the Syria-Turkey border region, last Wednesday Turkey launched Operation Fountain of Peace in northern Syria…

"I wasn't overly surprised by Turkey's incursion [into northern Syria], which was expected, especially because this wasn't the first time. We all remember Operation 'Defense of the Euphrates' [in August 2016-March 2017]. Nor did the Syrian Kurds surprise us when they tried to take control of northern Syria. But what was unexpected was the reaction of the Arab League, some of whose member states called for an emergency meeting to discuss the Turkish invasion of Syria!! Is it possible that some Arabs are calling to condemn an intervention which is justified, in an area where no Syrian forces are present but only a collection of armed [fighters] from various groups, but do not convene or take any aggressive position in response to the carving up [of Syria] or the massacre and expulsion of millions of Arab Syrians by the sectarian [Shi'ite] militias and the Russian forces[?!] We are well aware that the fury of some Arabs at the Turks stems purely from personal issues with the Turkish leadership!!

"In conclusion, Syria is a failed country by international criteria, where terror and armed organizations prevail, and it is adjacent to the Turkish border [region] which was already ablaze with [activity of] the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK]. Is Turkey supposed to wait until the threat reaches its lands and its citizens[?] It certainly won't wait for the consent of the wretched Arab League, which has never resolved a single Arab issue."[7]

Al-Sharq Columnist On The Position Of The Arab League: It Is The "Disappointment League" And The "Arab Comedy League"

In his column in the Al-Sharq daily, Jaber Al-Marri wrote: "Yet again the Arab Disappointment League has reverted to its habit of raising its voice and screaming at whoever undertakes [to address] the problems of [the Arabs], feels their pain, and works to assist the oppressed among their brothers in religion and sect [i.e. their fellow Sunni Muslims]. Despite all this, the reward [of the Turks] was expected and came [in the form of] a response by the [Arab] League which was full of rage, threats and warnings of a terrible calamity that is likely to befall [Turkey] if it doesn't withdraw its forces from the pure Syrian Arab lands – as if [these lands] have not been occupied by the Russians, the Iranians, and the Americans...

"The decision of the Disappointment League, all of whose members, except for Qatar and Somalia, condemned the Turkish 'Fountain of Peace' military operation... demonstrates the extent to which the Arab League suffers from schizophrenia and odious disunity. For it makes no sense for [the League] to close its eyes to Syria's occupation by foreign forces on the pretext that they arrived with the consent of the Syrian regime, [a regime] which murders millions of its own people with barrel bombs and has expelled millions of them to neighboring countries. The vast majority of them – more than three million Syria refugees – have come to Turkey!

"We have become accustomed to the fact that the concluding statements issued by the Disappointment League always lead to disappointment among the 400 million Arabs. But this statement was unusual, ridiculous, and provoked great derision... Anyone who follows the outcomes of the sessions of the Arab Comedy League will discern the extent of the lies and falsification of facts that characterize most of the clauses [of this statement] regarding the motives which led to the Turkish military operation on the Syrian-Turkish border... If what it says is true, why does it not take issue with the Syrian regime about its crimes over the past eight years? And why does [Arab League] Secretary-General [Ahmed Abu Al-Gheit], who is known for betraying and plotting against the Palestinian cause, embrace the delegation from the Syrian regime and express his joy at meeting them?"[8]

Columnist For Al-Sharq Daily: The Arab League Is A Burden; We Must Launch An Intifada Or Arab Spring Against It

Al-Sharq columnist Abdallah Al-'Emadi wrote: "The recent behavior of the Arab League made everyone laugh. It has kept the world laughing for a long time now, but with its latest statement, it proved to the thinking world that it is in fact unaware and does not comprehend what is going on around it. It has awakened from its deep slumber to condemn Turkey, which is [only] promoting its national security interests, and has treated its actions as aggression, as though what the Syrian regime has been inflicting on its people for the past eight lean years is grace and mercy, or as though the destruction and fire and devastation of nature by the Russian planes are a non-violent military maneuver. An entity established at the inspiration of imperialist Britain by foreign secretary Anthony Eden cannot possibly do any good...

"We are entitled to wonder about the benefit of retaining such an ancient entity when it is falling and collapsing... If the League does not fulfill its most important functions, such as uniting the Arabs around [one] cause, what can be expected of it?...

"It [the Arab League] is a burden on the Arabs. More than that, we need an intifada or an Arab Spring, whose momentum should be no less than that of the Arab Spring of 2011. We must put new and serious thought into [the issue of the Arab League] Secretary-General, and choose someone who can reawaken the League. It should not be a quiet position for a pensioner from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, to the extent that the Arab League has become one of the branches of this ministry. We must also devote some serious thought to the [location of the Arab League] headquarters, since Cairo is no longer the appropriate place for the Arab League. It is a crowded city, unstable and unsafe, whose time has passed. It would be more fitting if other Arab capitals could host the headquarters of the Arab League…"[9]

Cartoons In Qatari Dailies Condone Turkish Operation


"Operation Fountain of Peace: Mission Accomplished" (Al-Arab, Qatar, October 13, 2019)


Operation "Fountain of Peace" sends the terrorists fleeing (Al-Arab, Qatar, October 11, 2019)


When "planes from several countries bombard Syrian cities," the Arab League sleeps, yet when "Operation Fountain of Peace in northeastern Syria breaks out," it shrieks: "Do not touch Syria's sovereignty" (Al-Arab, Qatar, October 14, 2019)


Erdogan embraces the Syrian refugees whereas Assad destroys the country (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, October 12, 2019)

 

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 18, 2018.

[2] Al-Raya, Al-Watan (Qatar), October 19, 2019.

[3] Al-Watan (Qatar), October 10, 2019.

[4] Raialyoum.com, October 13, 2019.

[5] Al-Arab, (Qatar), October 13, 2019.

[6] Aa.com.tr, raialyoum.com, October 16, 2019.

[7] Al-Arab, (Qatar), October 13, 2019.

[8] Al-Sharq (Qatar), October 15, 2019.

[9] Al-Sharq (Qatar), October 17, 2019.