Turkey sets its sights on Yemen

The Eurasian country continues its international expansionism, which has already led it to position itself in the Mediterranean through participation in the conflicts in Libya and Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey seems to be focusing on Yemen after having extended its influence over the Mediterranean arch by entering the civil wars in Syria and Libya, where it has displaced part of its important army and where it has set up militias made up of paid mercenaries who in many cases come from former branches of jihadist groups, as has already been pointed out by various media. 

The Ottoman nation is thus promoting its intervention in the Mediterranean and Middle East area in order to have a greater presence and benefit from an important regional geostrategic situation. 

Now the most recent challenge is Yemen, a country also immersed in a civil war that confronts the established power against the Houthi rebels, Shiite militias that try to undermine the internationally recognized government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, which receives the support of an Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In this scenario, the Houthi insurgents have the backing of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the great banner of the Shiite branch of Islam as opposed to the Sunni branch defended by the Saudi kingdom. 

El presidente de Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi
PHOTO/MICHAEL HANSCHKE - Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using this international campaign to divert attention from the internal problems facing his regime, which has been plunged into a serious economic crisis due to the sharp fall of the Turkish lira and discredited by the increasing rise of the opposition, mainly embodied by the People's Republican Party (CHP), A political formation that had exceptional results in last year's municipal elections and that snatched from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) important centres of power such as the Istanbul City Hall, the financial heart of the Eurasian country, and Ankara, the nation's administrative capital. The 'sultan's' rivals are growing stronger and stronger, and the government is responding to this with purges among the opposition, such as those represented by the arrest of army commanders for alleged collusion with the failed coup d'état of 2016, of which the opposition cleric Fethullah Gülen is accused, or arrests of rival elements such as those linked to the People's Democratic Party (HDP), who are formally accused of links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist force by Turkey itself or the United States. 

Faced with growing opposition at home, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan finds himself in the midst of adventures abroad, expanding his influence and threatening Russia's position in Libya and Syria.

Meanwhile, he is now challenging the Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition in Yemen with funding from Qatar, which faces the Arab alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which imposed a political and economic blockade on the Gulf monarchy in 2017 after accusing it of supporting cross-border terrorism. This embargo was a major financial blow to the nation led by Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who sought other partners on the international stage to strengthen his position, finding the partnership currently being developed with Turkey and Iran. 

El emir de Qatar, el jeque Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
PHOTO/REUTERS - The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

In its attempt to undermine the coalition fighting the Houthi insurgency, Ankara uses a defector from the Yemeni government, former Transport Minister Saleh al-Jabwani, and the Muslim Brothers, an organisation with close ties to Qatar and which is considered a terrorist by several Western countries, including the United States. 

Among Turkey's plans is the intention to conquer the oil-rich southeastern province of Shabwa, where the Muslim Brotherhood lost the support it had altogether. The Al-Jabwani recruitment center established in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa, has so far attracted 600 fighters with the promise of a salary and smuggled weapons paid for by Qatar, as reported in the Israeli News. In addition, it is expected that coalition defectors will be separated in other provinces as well.

Activists linked to the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood renewed their media attacks against the Saudi-led alliance, and called for alternative solutions such as the creation of a new coalition in Yemen led by Ankara; and the establishment of an alternative military council.

Miembros de la Policía Militar de los rebeldes hutíes yemeníes apoyados por Irán desfilan por las calles de la capital, Saná, el 8 de enero de 2020
AFP/MOHAMMED HUWAIS - Members of the military police of the Yemeni Houthi rebels supported by Iran parade through the streets of the capital, Sana'a, on 8 January 2020

Campaigns attacking the Arab alliance were seen by various political sectors as increasing the possibility of Turkish interference in Yemen in response to the decline of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country, as an indication of the growth of anti-coalition voices within the legitimate government and institutions dominated by the Reform Party (the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood).

Meanwhile, different sources confirmed to the media The Arab Weekly that it expects another wave of escalation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the province of Shabwa, where the mentioned former Minister of Transport Saleh al-Jabwani continues his activities of creating anti-Arab coalition militias with funds from Qatar. According to the same sources, new shipments of weapons arrived in the city of Ataq, the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold in Shabwa, and where Al-Jabwani reportedly established his first recruitment and training camp.

Fotografía de archivo de banderas de la Hermandad Musulmana en Ammán
REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED - Archive photo of flags of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman

The sources also confirmed the emergence of Muslim Brotherhood initiatives in Hadramut and Mahra, also with funding from Qatar, in the context of a plan to create tension and confrontation in the liberated southern governorates, while the Houthis continue their work to control large areas in Al-Jouf. Reports indicated that these areas were handed over to Houthi militias in response to the Southern Transitional Council's (STC) takeover of Aden in August 2019.

The Arab Weekly also reported on the alleged covert agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen and the Houthis under the auspices of Turkey, Iran and Qatar, to share areas of influence in Yemen, with the insurgent rebels controlling the north of Yemen, in return for supporting the Brotherhood's ambitions to acquire the southern regions.

Combatientes rebeldes hutíes sostienen sus armas durante una reunión destinada a movilizar a más combatientes para el movimiento hutí apoyado por Irán, en Saná, Yemen, el jueves 20 de febrero de 2020
AP/HANI MOHAMMED - Houthi rebel fighters hold their weapons during a meeting aimed at mobilizing more fighters for the Iranian-backed Hutu movement in Sana'a, Yemen, on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Yemen is the next door to Saudi Arabia's rival and it is very interesting for the pole represented by Qatar and Turkey to gain positions in this neighbouring country of the Kingdom. Something that would be a stone in the shoe in the Middle East region for Saudi Arabia and its partners. 

Turkey comes from looking for its place in Libya and Syria, where it intervenes in the civil wars that take place in both countries in order to seek its own benefit. In both the North African and the Arab country there is a lot at stake, such as the rich oil hosted in their territories and the important geostrategic position linked to the Mediterranean arc. Erdogan wants two permanent bases in the area and there he deployed his army, supported by paid mercenaries linked to Jihadist terrorism. The Ottoman regime supports in Libya the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, which is based in the capital Tripoli and is officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) since 2016, against the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which is linked to the other eastern executive of Tobruk and is supported by Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. The Turkish intervention, which is gaining ground with partial victories of the GNA to regain ground against Haftar's armies, has pitted Erdogan against Vladimir Putin's Russia, which is aligned with the LNA. In this sense, the tripolitan forces recovered important enclaves like Sorman and Sabratha and Ankara is even negotiating the use of the Misrata naval base and the Al-Watiya air base, recently recovered thanks to Turkish military aid.

Fayez Sarraj, primer ministro del GNA de Libia, en una conferencia de prensa conjunta con el presidente de Turquía, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, en Ankara, Turquía, el jueves 4 de junio de 2020
PHOTO/AP - Fayez Sarraj, Prime Minister of the GNA of Libya, in a joint press conference with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday June 4, 2020

Turkish support dates back to November 2019, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez Sarraj initialled an agreement guaranteeing Turkish military support for the ANG and dividing up exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean, which conflict with the maritime borders of Cyprus, Greece and Egypt; all in order to seek energy sources linked to gas and oil exploration. Turkey also raised possible energy and construction agreements with Tripoli once the armed struggle ends. 

Concerns in Athens over the maritime agreement and Ankara's push for a North African military presence were raised in talks that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem last Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled the meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Çavusoglu, which was scheduled for Sunday. He mentioned that he would reschedule the meeting on condition that Turkey and the GNA stop military operations and, in particular, refrain from attacking Sirte and Al-Jafra, locations considered as a red line by Egypt, Libya's neighbor, as recalled by the president of the North African country, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who warned that the Egyptian armed forces are prepared for intervention inside and outside its borders, in a clear allusion to any eventuality that may occur in the Libyan war, a warning that was pointed out as a kind of declaration of war by the Sarraj Administration. If an agreement is not reached between Moscow and Ankara, the war in Libya could intensify even further; a conflict in which Haftar's LNA justifies its last major military offensive on Tripoli, which has been going on for over a year, by the objective of putting an end to the jihadist hotbeds in the capital and materialising a subsequent democratic process; and in which Fayez Sarraj's LNA denounces the rival activity as a genuine coup d'état against the recognised power. 

Esta foto de archivo proporcionada por el Ministro de Asuntos Presidenciales de Emiratos Árabes Unidos el 5 de noviembre de 2019 muestra (de izquierda a derecha) al príncipe heredero de Abu Dhabi, el jeque Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, caminando junto al presidente de Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, y al príncipe heredero de Arabia Saudí, Mohamed bin Salman, mientras asisten a una ceremonia de firma de la paz entre el Gobierno de Yemen, respaldado por los saudíes, y los separatistas del sur en la capital, Riad
AFP PHOTO/MINISTRY OF PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS-ABU DHABI - This archive photo provided by the Minister of Presidential Affairs of the United Arab Emirates on 5 November 2019 shows (from left to right) the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, walking with Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as they attend a peace signing ceremony between the Saudi-backed Yemeni Government and southern separatists in the capital, Riyadh

Turkey and Russia are also positioned on opposing sides in Syria. The nation presided by Recep Tayyip Erdogan entered the north of the territory through the Turkish-Syrian border to harass the Kurds, whom he accuses of terrorist actions in southern Turkey; and with the aim of establishing observation bases and military posts in the surroundings of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold against the regime of Bachar al-Asad who, supported mainly by Russia, tries to conquer this last insurgent bastion to unify the country. 

Turkey settled north of Syrian soil after the agreement reached last year with the United States, by which Donald Trump's government withdrew troops from the area, thus abandoning the People's Protection Units (YPG), integrated into the opposition to the regime of Al-Asad's Democratic Forces of Syria (DSF), which were key to assisting the United States in the defeat inflicted on the Daesh terrorist group in Al-Baghouz a year ago. Turkish troops and weapons are being used in the northern province of Idlib to stop the advance of the Syrian regime against the Jihadist rebels, while at the same time the Eurasian country is carrying out joint patrols with the Russians, who support the official regime, on the well-known M4 highway.

El presidente de Siria, Bachar al-Asad
PHOTO/SANA - Syrian President Bashar al-Asad

A permanent air and naval presence in Libya, together with its military base in Qatar and strong influence in Syria, would substantially increase Turkey's influence in the region to a level that seriously concerns its neighbours and adversaries, especially the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

As if that were not enough, Turkey also went into action in northern Iraq, with its area force attacking Kurdish PKK hot spots in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. This provoked the pro-Kurdish HDP to protest in the streets, adding to those already deployed by this formation over the last few weeks against the arrests carried out by police forces of the Erdogan regime against elements of the party accused of helping the PKK militias in practice.