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Turkish-Saudi strategic cooperation: opportunity, challenge, or hope?

13:06 10 April 2021 Author :  


On Saturday 3/27/2021 AD, Iran and China signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement. The American New York Times reported the next day (3/28/2021), that the draft agreement obtained last year detailing $ 400 billion in Chinese investments in dozens of fields, including banking, communications, ports, railways, health care, and information technology over the next 25 years. China will get regular and much discounted supplies of Iranian oil. The draft also called for deepening military cooperation, including exercises, joint research, weapons development and the exchange of intelligence information. This gives China prominent influence in the Gulf and the Middle East, and raises the level of conflict with the United States in the region.

This agreement has great geopolitical importance as it also includes the exchange of military expertise, defense capabilities, security cooperation and support in international forums. Moreover, it expands cooperation between universities and departments of technology, science and tourism.

According to the agreement, Iran will be the heart of trade between East and West, as the agreement stipulates that China will produce many goods in Iran.

If we take into account the Iranian-Russian agreement, in 2001, of cooperation in the nuclear field, for a period of 20 years, the region is on the verge of a frightening geopolitical and strategic conflict. This will put the Arab Gulf states in front of new threats and challenges during the era of US President "Biden", who began his frustrating policies towards the region.

The question that arises is; will the Gulf States, especially the largest country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, remain subject to the results of these geopolitical changes? Will it remain handcuffed in the face of acting in its strategic interests? The greatest reliance today in regaining the initiative rests on the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which must strive to rearrange its strategic security vision, which must adapt to these changes.

Iran today has strategic agreements with Russia and China, and it threatens the security of the region and its influence is increasingly penetrating the Middle East, the Gulf and Yemen, and at the same time it is using its influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen to reach an understanding with the United States.

Restoring the geopolitics of the Arab region from Iranian control is a task that Saudi Arabia alone or it and Egypt cannot face. The US administration is acting in an extortionate manner with both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Thus, the threats of the Iranian and Chinese danger and the new mood of the American president will remain the geopolitical equation that imposes security and economic policies, which work for the interests of the United States and its eternal ally, the Zionist entity. The countries of the region in the Gulf, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will remain under the weight of the American policy and mood, which is looking for its interest, even if that is made through an understanding with the Iranians about the nuclear crisis at the expense of the interests of the Kingdom and the Gulf states.

Available opportunities

The opportunity is available today to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Turkey. Both have military and economic weight, which they can use in reformulating geopolitical and strategic relations for the benefit of both parties. This has become necessary after the Iranian-Chinese rapprochement, Russian support, and the whims of US policies in the region, especially concerning the Yemen file, and considering the Houthis a non-terrorist organization despite its aggressions and launching missiles and drones against Saudi civilian and military targets.

Positive steps

In December 2020 AD, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the G20 Summit held in the Kingdom at the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The Kingdom had previously provided aid to the victims of the Izmir earthquake, and the two countries' foreign ministers met Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu; this opens the door to a new spirit that opens the way for discussion of developing relations between the two countries.

The Chinese, Iranian, and American challenges to Turkey in the files of its influence, such as the Kurds, Syria and the Mediterranean, also constitute a common concern and motivation, with the countries of the region, to resist the encroachment of these international powers over the geography and the interests of their countries.

The United States supports the Kurdish rebels to remain a source of tension on the Turkish border. In a statement issued by the Security Cooperation Agency of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon), the largest arms deal America provided to the Kurdish forces in Iraq was revealed, when it agreed to sell weapons and equipment worth $ 295.6 million to the Kurdish Peshmerga units of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Not only has the American military support been provided to the Kurds of Iraq but also there is strong support from Washington for the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Numerous reports indicate that these forces obtained military and logistical support from the Pentagon.

In previous statements, the spokesperson of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Talal Selo, revealed US military assistance to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is the main force in the ranks of his forces. He explained that the US Department of Defense has provided the Kurdish fighters with many armored vehicles, troop carriers and some heavy weapons through which they can continue fighting inside Syria.

On the other hand, Iran interfered in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in favor of Armenia, and it was revealed that there was Russian-Iranian cooperation to transfer weapons to Armenia. On Tuesday, September 29, 2020 AD, the German newspaper "Economic News" published a report, citing the "Azerbaijani News Agency" (AzToday), in which it said: Russian weapons are being transported to Armenia through Iranian territory and published a video explaining the location and time of transportation of these military shipments.

In light of the challenge of the "Corona" virus, which threatens public health in the region and the world, and the decline of the economy due to the fluctuating closure of labor markets, trade lines, production and trade institutions; the economies of the two countries will be affected in the future.

As for the economy, the Turkish economy is experiencing a complex crisis, and the Turkish lira is experiencing a difficult period after its price declined by more than 140% between 2015 and 2021 AD, and one of the main reasons for this decline is the flight of investments, the decline in tourism, and the consequences of the Corona pandemic. The Turkish lira fell by as much as 17% after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's sudden decision to replace the country's central bank chief.

The Saudi economy is also witnessing great challenges due to the repeated Houthi attacks on its oil facilities. Official data stated that the Saudi economy contracted by 3.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same period a year ago, as it was affected by a significant decline in the oil sector in light of the Kingdom's reduction in production. The non-oil sector has also slowed due to the damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

Data issued by the General Authority for Statistics in Saudi Arabia showed that the oil sector shrank by 8.5%, while the non-oil sector fell by 0.8%.

One of the most important opportunities available today for both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Turkey is to fencing off cooperation as the two countries are subjected to American pressure in their geopolitical decisions in Syria or Yemen, or concerning the   Iranian influence in negotiating for the future of Syria or Yemen. The two countries (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) could have a common vision that preserves the interests of the people of Yemen and Syria, and at the same time diminishes the strategic influence in the upcoming political solutions.

The Turkish UAVs have proven decisive in the battles in Azerbaijan, northern Syria and Libya, which qualifies them to become a strategic tool for cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially after the Kingdom signed a contract with the Turkish company "Vestel" for defense industries to manufacture vehicles. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that his country is among the top 3-4 countries around the world in manufacturing drones. He also confirmed that Turkey exported more than 130 local "offshore platforms", whose value exceeded 3 billion dollars. Erdogan announced that the volume of Turkey's defense exports annually increased from 248 million dollars to 3 billion dollars. Turkey is one of 10 countries that can design, manufacture and maintain its warships.

The Yemen war can be resolved with such a practical weapon, and with regard to the Palestinian file; the vision of the two countries is in agreement with the Arab solution, which is represented in the Saudi initiative launched by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not compatible with normalization in the manner that two Gulf States followed.

The Saudi Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, confirmed that his country still insists that it cannot normalize relations with "Israel" until it reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Turkey recently changed its foreign policy in particular towards "Israel" because of its policies in Palestine and in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The availability of investment opportunities in Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which are two of the largest commercial investment markets in the region, and the size of the two economies qualify them for economic integration that achieves profits for both parties. This integration could raise the economies of the two countries in spite of the "Corona" crisis and the future challenges of lower oil prices. It could be useful in filling Turkey's need for oil and gas from the Gulf region. The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) revealed its expectations for a growth in the gross domestic product of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by 3.2% in 2022, and an increase to 3.5% in the following year (2023), after the expected growth of 1.1% in 2021, which was affected by the reduction in oil production quotas.

With the start of recent contacts between Turkey and Egypt, this provides a good opportunity to embody relations between Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They can rethink in the geopolitical and strategic interests of the three countries, in light of the presence of an Iranian and Zionist project aimed at controlling waterways and trade pressures, dividing the region and igniting internal conflicts in it.

Opening a new page of Gulf reconciliation between Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Bahrain opens the way to support Saudi-Turkish cooperation that embodies a strategic case for the security balance in the region.

On the other hand, the distinguished nature of both Turkish/ Pakistan and Saudi/Pakistani relations also provides a geographical, military and security support to protect the region from the influence of international and regional projects, especially the Iranian and Zionist threats.

Problems facing Saudi Turkish cooperation:

The Saudi-Turkish understanding may face several problems in the future, including:

- The Zionist move in the region to spoil any strategic cooperation between the two countries, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The right-wing Hebrew newspaper "Jerusalem Post" attacked Turkey, on the background of its objection to the agreement signed by "Israel" with Greece and Cyprus regarding the construction of a water cable to connect the electricity networks in the three countries, because this cable passes through the Turkish continental shelf.

The newspaper said that Turkey's position indicated its willingness to confront "Israel" and "showed its true face", and that it aimed to harm the interests of "Israel". For this, Turkey attacked Kosovo after its decision to launch relations with "Israel", and its criticism of the normalization agreements with Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

-The Iranian move in the region, in the media and politically, to thwart any rapprochement between the two countries.

- The nature of the Zionist cooperation with some Gulf States might contradict the interests of the two countries converging. In late January 2019, the Deputy Minister of Information in the government of Sanaa, Fahmi Al-Youssefi, stated that there was a surprise about the "Israeli" presence in the Yemeni arena. Before that, more than one Zionist and Western media outlet reported that the "Israeli" army would use a military base to be established on the island of Socotra.   Less than a week passed on Al-Youssefi's statements, when the head of the Southern Transitional Council, Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi, allied with the UAE, announced the possibility that the Council could fully normalize relations with "Israel" if the "State of South Yemen" was restored, blessing at the same time the Emirati normalization with the occupation entity. In February 2019, the Yemeni Foreign Minister in Hadi's government, Khaled Al-Yamani, sat next to Benjamin Netanyahu during the opening of the "Middle East Conference" in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

Moreover, there is the American pressure that pushes to prevent cooperation and strategic integration between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both countries have strategic relations with the United States, but the United States wants to employ these two countries for the benefit of its strategy in confronting China and the Iranian nuclear file without having a common vision that might conflict with the interests of the United States.

Integration and cooperation are strategic steps:

Integration is based on political, economic and security cooperation, and the current opportunities and motives for it, and the challenges facing the two countries are greater than the sub-differences. What brings the two countries together is more than what separates them.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are the two largest Sunni states in the region and possess economic and military power that qualifies them to create a regional strategic umbrella. The classification of the Saudi army jumped to the fourth regionally, the 17th globally, and the first in the Gulf. The volume of Saudi military spending reached 67 billion and 600 million dollars. Saudi Arabia has 879 aircraft in its air force; of these 270 fighter aircraft, 82 assault aircraft, 283 helicopters, 34 attack helicopters, 208 training aircraft, 49 transport aircraft, and 13 special-mission aircraft.

Concerning the ground forces, Arabia has 1062 tanks and 12,825 armored vehicles, which made the country superior in the armored corps over world military powers such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France. It also has 705 self-propelled guns, 1,818 towing cannons, 122 devices for displaying missiles, and 1,423 armored personnel carriers. Its navy includes 55 warships, 3 frigates, 5 corvettes, 10 sentry boats, and 4 mine warfare ships, but it does not have any submarines or aircraft carriers. In terms of the number of fighters, the Saudi army currently includes 478,000 active soldiers (out of 803,000 who are the total force), compared to 252,000 in 2017. Saudi Arabia has about 325,000 reservists.

Likewise, the Turkish army is one of the most powerful armies in the world, in light of its possession of military capabilities. On land, sea and air, the Turkish army has great experience in fighting.

The Turkish defense budget for 2019, according to the "Global Fire Power" website, which is specialized in military statistics for the world's armies, amounted to 8 billion and 600 million dollars. There is no doubt that the rapprochement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Turkey will help build a large umbrella for other countries, such as Egypt, Pakistan and the Gulf states, to bring about stability and balance with the Iranian, Chinese, Russian, Zionist and American influence in the region.

Pakistan is a military nuclear power that ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of active forces in the army. The number of these forces is 654 thousand soldiers, while the number of reserve forces is estimated at 550 thousand, meaning that the total number of Pakistani forces is 1.2 million.

The Pakistani army is also ranked fifteenth on the combat capability index of the famous "Global Fire Power" website, which does not take into account the nuclear capabilities of countries.

Strategic cooperation between the two countries needs a bold initiative launched by the two countries, in which all the years of the past decade have gone beyond the strife and disagreement in the Arab region.


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