Turkey and Qatar risk losing geopolitical rivalry in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the turmoil in Libya and Sudan, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been extending their influence, according to analysts, Agence France Presse reported on Friday.
Two competing blocs -Saudi Arabia, and the UAE on one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other- have been seeking to strengthen their influence in the region, analysts say.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have soured since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power, with Saudi Arabia condemning Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and accusing Turkey, Iran, and Qatar of forming “an axis of evil” in the Middle East. Turkey’s support for Qatar in 2017 against a boycott led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, made the rivalry in the Middle East even more visible.
According to Karim Bitar, an expert at France’s Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, Sudan and Libya have become fields of confrontation between rival powers in the Gulf. The camps are “engaged in a military struggle in Libya” and an “economic and financial” one in Sudan, AFP quoted Bitar as saying.
The overthrow of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April is seen as a major blow for Doha and Ankara, which gained a range of trade and commercial benefits, as well as access to the Red Sea through the port island of Suakin under Bashir’s rule.
“As Sudan turns a new chapter in its history after the removal of Bashir, it put an end to three-decade failed project of political Islam. That Islamist project resulted in several crises in Sudan, divided the country, and led to civil wars that still have an impact,” analyst Ghassan Ibrahim said last month.
“Doha has lost influence in Sudan amid the revolution,” AFP quoted Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London, as saying. According to Krieg, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are trying to cement their personal relationship with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s new military council, and “consolidate long-term control” in the country.
Following a meeting between with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Thursday, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of Sudan’s military council, in a foreign policy announcement on Friday vowed to back Saudi Arabia against all threats, adding that Sudan would continue sending troops to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, AFP said.
“There is a struggle over power and influence in Sudan between those in favour of the Qatar-Turkey camp and those inclined to join the Saudi-UAE camp,” said Mathieu Guidere, a professor at the University of Paris and a specialist in Arab politics, told AFP.
Another struggle between two blocs is playing out in Libya, where Doha similarly risks losing influence, AFP said.
In Libya Turkey and Qatar support for the Tripoli government in the eastern part of the country, while Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt back Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in eastern Libya formed against the UN-recognised western Libyan government.
Haftar’s forces began an offensive against Tripoli in April, but the offensive has been blocked by forces loyal to the capital on the city’s outskirts. The LNA has repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting Islamist factions in the west of the country. Haftar this week threatened to attack any Turkish vessel docking in western Libya in order to deliver weapons to the UN-backed government.