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The Turkish-Qatari plot thickens

Shared views on the Muslim Brotherhood and Syria’s civil war saw the two countries join sides. But now a new interest binds them: reconnaissance capabilities – and Turkey’s earth observation satellites have never been as attractive. But does this defence cooperation have a space component? And what does such a partnership mean to the world?

By John Sheldon

With the announcement that Turkey will be establishing a military base in Qatar in 2016, regional and global security analysts are focusing yet again on the provisions of the defence cooperation agreement signed by Ankara and Doha in December 2014. While the text of this 2014 tie-up has not been made publicly available, the views shared between these two countries have been very clear, and considering these, this latest partnership can largely be expected.

An alliance between Turkey and Qatar came on the back of their common goals and perspectives on recent events in the Middle East. Their shared stances have often placed the two at odds with the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of particular concern to these countries is Turkish-Qatari support for the now deposed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and for diverging away from the Saudi Arabian-led efforts in the Syrian civil war. Out of these shared strategic goals emerged a de facto alliance between Ankara and Doha that culminated in the 2014 defence cooperation agreement.

What is known of this cooperation only came to light after it was ratified by the Turkish parliament in June 2015. This includes basing rights in Qatar for Turkish forces and mutual access to military installations, joint exercises and planning, and extensive intelligence sharing that will certainly include space-based intelligence.

The intelligence sharing aspect of the Turkish-Qatari defence cooperation agreement is of particular interest since it can be reasonably assumed that this extends to the sharing of satellite imagery data between the two countries.


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