Like the rest of the world, Turkey was blindsided by the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut all diplomatic, trade and transportation ties with Qatar earlier this month. Ankara is now scrambling to respond coherently to this new headache over Qatar, a state with which it has deepened ties in recent years.
This is a strategic dilemma of the first degree for Turkey. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fails to stand by the only true Arab ally he has left, he could lose all semblance of influence in the Arab world. If he decides to back Qatar through thick and thin, he risks torpedoing his relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, which have steadily improved over the past few years. Ideally, the Turks would like everyone to come to their senses and resolve the dispute peacefully and as quickly as possible.
But just in case they don’t, Erdogan appears to be all-in with his support for Qatar. Erdogan has pledged not to “abandon [his] Qatari brothers” while underhandedly chastising the Saudis for failing to act in the spirit of Muslim solidarity, keeping with the Saudi king’s self-bestowed title as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” in Mecca and Medina.