But it is hard to ignore the broader geopolitical implications. Turkey is a key ally of Qatar, a country that has faced a Saudi-led boycott for more than a year. As my colleague Ishaan Tharoor wrote this month, such ties are part of Erdogan’s jockeying to match the growing influence of Mohammed, the youthful and powerful crown prince in Riyadh.
“Turkey flew troops and food supplies into Qatar last year and still maintains a military base in Doha,” Tharoor wrote. “Meanwhile, the Qataris pledged to inject some $15 billion worth of investment in Turkey’s flagging economy in August. Some analysts read Ankara’s moves — coupled with Erdogan’s overtures to Iran over the past year — as a riposte to the emergence of a U.S.-backed Middle East bloc including the Saudis, Emiratis and even Israel.”
Tuesday’s speech cemented the impression that Erdogan is targeting Mohammed. The Turkish president didn’t mention the crown prince by name during his address, speaking instead to King Salman, the crown prince’s father and the official head of the Saudi state. Many observers viewed it as an attempt to divide the elderly king from his divisive son.