The Gulf has long been seen as a strategically important region by some global and regional powers, who are interested in extending their influence across the Gulf, which has a great geographical location and natural resources.
Overlooking waterways, the emerging Gulf countries were able to achieve a robust growth and significant development that adds a lot of strategic depth to the Gulf. However, the Gulf region faced more challenges, especially over the past century.
The attempts by global powers to extend their influence across the region have always been led by a shifting ideology according to specific goals, accompanied by military and commercial positioning.
This reminds us of the peak of Arab nationalism and its rapprochement with the Russian Marxist ideology in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Soviet Union made use of this in recruiting, training and arming many left-wing Arabs.
Yet more, the Soviet Union established military presence in some countries and extended its presence in Africa. The Russian interest in the region continued on through the Soviet era, culminated in the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Russian expansive policies called for a rapid intervention by the West with strong Gulf support that led to their withdrawal from Afghanistan after 10 years. It was one of the main reasons that led to the collapse of the Union two years later.
The international and regional powers, especially the regional ones, continued to implement their agenda in the region, specifically Iran, which supported Arab groups that belong to the same sect but do not share the same belief.
Tehran tried to absorb these groups and arm them to “export the revolution”, in its attempt to copy the Soviet scenario. But a new competitor emerged in the region.
Turkey exploited religion to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab countries.
Ankara found its opportunity during the so-called Arab Spring to move to another stage, deploying its bases around the Arabian Peninsula, establishing a footing in Iraq and Syria under the pretext of deterring the Kurds from separation.
Turkey has also established a footing in Somalia, and Qatar, which has unfortunately isolated itself from its Gulf surroundings. And now it is trying hard to secure a footing in Libya. But it faced major setbacks by the influential Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Turkey first failed in Egypt after the topple of the Muslim Brotherhood, and then in Sudan after the overthrow of Omar Al Bashir. Ankara was very close to establish a naval base on the Sudanese island of Suakin and tried to play a great political role in Yemen through the country’s local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Turkey is facing a major problem in the Arab region where it failed to win its people’s hearts, while its backed Muslim Brotherhood is facing setbacks in various Arab countries.
The worst has yet to come as Ankara may face its final blow when its enters into a major dispute with the West after the end of the Treaty of Lausanne II, which prevented Turkey from oil exploration and even control over the international waterways linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean.
Turkey’s dreams of expansion in the Arab region may face the same fate of the Greco-Turkish war in 1922 by crushing defeat.
Amidst all this, the Gulf region will remain independent and immune to the aspirations of many and will remain strong as it did throughout the past century. This region is today solid enough to keep itself safe from its enemies.