Turkey’s military agreement with Qatar, revealed here in full by the Nordic Monitor, a Sweden-based monitoring site, is full of loopholes and vague terms that appear to have been deliberately inserted.
As such, the bilateral agreement would allow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to use Turkish air, land and naval assets to promote his own ideological and personal interests in the Gulf and beyond by using the hard power of the NATO military alliance’s second largest army.
If not checked, the agreement carries huge risks of escalation of Turkey’s involvement in potential conflicts that may have nothing to do with protecting or promoting Turkey’s national interests. This further confirms the view that the vagueness in the agreement provisions were deliberate and systematic to allow Erdogan to use them as he sees fit.
The agreement goes beyond mere training and joint exercises and also incorporates “operations,” which may very well suggest combat missions for Turkish troops. The agreement was rushed through the cumbersome and slow-moving process in the Turkish Parliament in 2017 when Turkey wanted to send a message to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states that had picked a fight with Qatar, Erdogan’s sweetheart Islamist ally.
Article 4 of the “Implementation Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the State of Qatar on Deployment of Turkish Forces into Territory of Qatar,” which was signed on April 28, 2016 in Doha, includes the undefined phrase “any other missions” for the deployment of Turkish troops. This means Erdoğan can also bypass the Turkish Parliament for authorization of overseas missions, using the vague definition to fit his whims and would not need to obtain the advance approval from Parliament that is required for the deployment of Turkish troops abroad according to the Turkish Constitution.
The full text of this provision in the agreement reads as follows: “The main mission of the unit is to support enhancement of defense capabilities of Qatar through joint/combined exercises and training, and subject to approval by both parties, execute training/exercises with other nations’ armed forces and contribute to the counter-terrorism and international peace support operations and any other missions mutually agreed upon by written consent of both parties.”
Another ambiguity in the agreement, which was incorporated into Turkish law on June 9, 2017, is that it does not say how long Turkish troops will remain in Qatar. Article 1 of the agreement on the scope and the purpose of the agreement say that the deal regulates “the long term, as well as temporary, presence and activities of Turkish Armed Forces.” What “the long term” prospect is and who defines the duration of the commitment for Turkish troops and on what criteria are not specified in the agreement. Article 17 specifies the duration of the agreement to be 10 years with automatic renewals for an additional term of five years for each extension. Whether that term applies to the presence of troops remains an open question.
The agreement does not specify force level or the number of troops. Article 2 states that Turkey will send air, land and naval assets to Qatar without setting any number or level of the forces. Although section two of this article states that “the deployment of the forces shall be in accordance with the plan to be accepted by the Parties,” the following section says Turkey will make a determination on “the duration of the mission of personnel to be assigned.” Furthermore, Turkey’s military agreement with Qatar does not foresee a third-party dispute settlement mechanism, either. Article 16 of the agreement says disputes “shall be resolved by negotiation between the Parties, without referring to the jurisdiction of any third party, establishment, or national or international tribunal.”
This implementation agreement is actually a followup of the “framework” military cooperation agreement that was signed by the two countries on December 19, 2014 and entered into force on June 15, 2015. In contrast to the framework deal, the implementation agreement gives detailed clues as to what Turkey and Qatar hope to accomplish in the Gulf.
Turkey considers ties with Qatar to be strategic, and Turkey’s Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2014 set up a High-Level Strategic Council (HLSC), an intergovernmental mechanism that brings together most ministers at summits led by the heads of state and government.