The great game in West Asia

The great game in West Asia


  1. The article discusses about the Jamal Khashoggi disappearance which Turkey has used to sharpen the battle lines with Saudi Arabia.

Important Facts:

  1. About Jamal Khashoggi:
  • He was a journalist who was once a Saudi government insider, but had gone into self-imposed exile in the U.S. in 2017.
  • He’d become an outspoken critic of the Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
  1. About the diplomatic crises:
  • An uproar was created over the disappearance and possible killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The Washington Post, for whom Khashoggi was a frequent contributor in its Global Opinions sections, has reported that U.S. intelligence officials intercepted communications of Saudi officials “discussing a plan to capture him.”
  • Turkish media has published the names of 15 Saudi nationals who travelled to Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared. The individuals were military and intelligence officials, including a forensic expert etc.
  1. Implications of crises:
  • The controversy is particularly damaging for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who spent millions to project himself as a social and economic reformer who could lead Saudi Arabia into the 21st century.
  1. Impact on Saudi-Turkey relations:
  • Khashoggi’s assassination, has exposed the Turkish-Saudi rivalry that was largely hidden from public view with Turkey calling the killing “premeditated murder”.
  • The rise of Saudi Arabia’s reckless Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has increased Turkey’s anxiety that the Saudis intend to dominate the Arab world to the exclusion not only of Iran but of Turkey as well.
  1.   American factor:
  • Turkish apprehension has been amplified by the fact that Saudi Arabia has become the kingpin of America’s policy toward West Asia, thereby downgrading of Turkey’s role in America’s West Asian policy.
  • The visible U.S. tilt toward Riyadh has further fuelled the existing differences between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
  • Their disagreements were augmented by the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 where Turkey enthusiastically welcomed the overthrow of authoritarian governments while the Saudi regime, feeling vulnerable itself, strongly opposed them.
  1. The Kurd Factor:
  • Turkey-U.S. relations came under strain because of major differences in their approach to the Syrian Kurds.
  • The U.S. militarily supported the Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against the Islamic State.
  • Turkey, which considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), opposed such a move of USA.
  • Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 anti-missile defence systems from Russia has also added to the tensions between Turkey and USA.
  1. Qatar Factor:
  • Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar in 2017, to punish it for its cordial relationship with Iran, with which it shares the world’s largest natural gas field.
  • Qatar also has close relations with Turkey and hosts a Turkish military base.
  • Consequently, Ankara, alongside Tehran, has supported Qatar flying in essential supplies to break the blockade and further reinforcing Turkish military presence in Qatar.
  • Consequently, Ankara, alongside Tehran, has supported Qatar flying in essential supplies to break the blockade and further reinforcing Turkish military presence in Qatar.
  1. Iran Factor:
  • Turkey is interested in keeping its relations with Iran as Iran is a major supplier of energy and both face a common threat from Kurdish separatism.
  • Until recently Turkey and Iran were on opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, with Iran supporting the Assad regime politically and militarily and Turkey acting as the principal conduit for weapons supplies to the opposition.
  • But recent rapprochement signifies the new modus vivendi worked out between Iran and Turkey carving out their spheres of influence in Syria.
  1. Implications of Turkey-Iran approachment:
  • It has upset the Saudis as close ties between Turkey and Iran relieves the pressure on Iran in the Fertile Crescent and allows it to concentrate its energies on contesting Saudi ambitions in the Persian Gulf and in Yemen (where the Saudis are engaged in a bloody battle with the Iranian-supported Houthis).
  • Thus Khashoggi episode has gave opportunity to Turkey to discredit the Saudi regime especially the Crown Prince and to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Fertile Crescent:  The Fertile Crescent refers to areas of fertile soil near important rivers in the area.

  • It stretches from the Nile River in Egypt to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern Iraq.
  • It also encompasses several other countries, including Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
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