Why it is said that a great game is unfolding in Middle East in recent years in the backdrop of Turkey-Saudi Rivalry?

The assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey and its exposure by Turkey has brought into limelight the Turkish-Saudi rivalry that was largely hidden from public view.

Great game of Middle East

Turkey had an uneasy relationship with Riyadh for several years. Turkey fears that Saudis intend to dominate the Arab world to the exclusion not only of Iran but of Turkey as well.

US Angle

  • Under the Presidency of Donald Trump Saudi Arabia had become the kingpin of America’s policy toward West Asia. Turkey sees this as a downgrading of Turkey’s role in America’s West Asian policy.
  • Turkey-US relations are also at a downturn particularly due to major differences in their approach to the Syrian Kurds.

Arab Spring

  • Turkey enthusiastically welcomed the overthrow of authoritarian governments with the Arab Spring but the Saudi regime, feeling vulnerable itself, strongly opposed them.

Iran-Qatar Angle

  • Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar in 2017. Qatar’s cordial relation with Iran was a cause of irritant for Saudi.
  • Qatar has close relations with Turkey and hosts a Turkish military base.
  • The Emir of Qatar had sent a contingent of soldiers to provide security to President Erdoğan during the failed military coup in 2016.
  • Turkey and Iran had supported Qatar during the blockade by Saudi Arabia.
  • Turkey is interested in keeping its relations with Iran on good terms since Iran is a major supplier of energy.

These pre-existing differences between the two countries combined with shared history and divergent socio-political scenario has made the Middle East a ground of great game.


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