The confrontation of Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the Middle East

Today, the already considerable conflict potential of the Middle East region continues to grow. The knot of contradictions between regional players is getting tighter and tighter, and multi-level confrontation increasingly affects the interests of world powers. In the current world political environment, the issue of the future of the regions is decided at the level of regional and world leaders. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are the first ones, the union or struggle between which affects not only bilateral relations, but also the entire subsystem as a whole. In this context, their interaction over Syria is particularly important.

Saudi Arabia fears that Turkey may occupy a dominant position in the Middle East, and in every way prevents the growing influence of the Turkic country in the region.

The militant attitude of Saudi Arabia to Turkey, apparently, is beginning to be adopted by the administration of Donald Trump, losing millions of dollars due to the rapprochement of Turkey with Russia.

The growth of Ankara’s foreign policy in the region is worrying Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is currently the undisputed leader of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC), in fact controls the Arab League, takes a leading position in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), claiming a dominant role in the Islamic world, and cannot allow the emergence of a new a competitor, when there are already enough problems with Iran (another rival in the fight for leadership).

Turkey, in turn, in recent years has stepped up its Asian vector of foreign policy, moved away from the exclusively European direction, turned its attention to the Arab world. With new force, Turkish economic ties began to grow in Arab countries, Turkish companies are actively penetrating Arab markets, and Turkish services are becoming increasingly popular among the Arab public. In many ways, a sharp cooling of Turkish-Israeli relations can be considered a reason for political rapprochement with the Arab world. The “Arab Spring”, in turn, served as the impetus for the revitalization of Ankara’s foreign policy in the region. Turkish authorities initially supported the rebels, the peak of which was the basing of the SNA in the country and initiatives to support the Syrian opposition.

The ambitions associated with regional leadership, the Turkish and Saudi leaders embody by various means. Turkey is increasing its economic presence in the countries of the region, recently it has been making efforts to improve the country’s image: it organizes educational programs (Arab students are actively invited to Turkish universities), develops tourism services (more and more Arabs prefer to relax in Turkish resorts). The most illustrative in this regard is the example of the LAS summit recently held in Baghdad, where Turkish companies organized a banquet, which the Arab media dubbed the “Turkish invasion”; accordingly, Ankara’s methods are very effective.

As for Saudi Arabia, it traditionally uses the Islamic factor (the Saudi king is the Guardian of the Two Shrines of Islam) in its foreign policy as a tool of influence, and also carries out abundant financial investments in the countries of the region (also a serious tool of self-propaganda). The main difference between the two tactics lies in the “intelligibility” of Saudi kings, who invest not everywhere, but only in states with “correct” regimes, while Turkey builds and strengthens economic ties with all countries indiscriminately, and in this Ankara, of course, wins.

In addition, it is also important that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the most important allies of the USA, the guides of American interests in the region and Washington’s largest partners in the field of military-technical cooperation, and neither one nor the other country is trying to diversify the sources military aid, thereby somehow reducing its dependence on the overseas brother.

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