Reviving Turkey’s role in Yemen; Its advantages and risks

Reviving Turkey's role in Yemen; Its advantages and risks

PEJOURNAL – Turkey’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy in West Asia in recent years has made the country one of the most important and interfering players in regional changes. Although in these interventions, the pragmatism of this country has been preferred to the ideological dimension of foreign policy as in the past, but behind such an approach, supporting the currents close to the Muslim Brotherhood and the alliance with Qatar in the region has been very important.

And for this reason, the type of convergences and divergences of this country in West Asia is largely influenced by Brotherhood tendencies. The kind of the country’s intervention in the crises in Libya and Syria is a good indication of this fact, because in both countries, the ruling party of Turkey, along with Qatar, has been the main supporter of this political current of thought. After the experience of Syria and Libya, it seems that the country is preparing for a larger intervention, and of course far from the border areas, that’s mean the war-torn country of Yemen.

In early 2019, a Turkish delegation met in Aden with Prime Minister Moein Abdul Malik and Interior Minister of resigned state Ahmed al-Misri. The Turks, who have always hidden the ground for their influence and intervention in the affairs of the countries in the guise of the soft and humanitarian activity of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency called “Tika” and the Turkish Red Crescent Organization, but in recent years have more explicitly stated their intentions and goals, they do not hesitate to announce their direct and military intervention in crisis-stricken countries.

It seems that after Syria and Libya, this time it is Yemen‘s turn, and the Turks are happy with the results of the military intervention in Libya and the establishment of the Siraj Brotherhood government, seeking to repeat this experience in Yemen in order to stabilize the Muslims Brotherhood of Reform Party.

Although the Reform Party and officials of the resigned Yemeni government have been Saudi-backed and an ally of Riyadh from the beginning until today, the ambiguous performance of the Saudi leaders in the recent conflicts of the resigned government with the UAE affiliated Transitional Council and the Humiliation of resigned government hotel officials in Riyadh And the severance of their salaries and benefits has led the resigned government Brotherhood officials to try to persuade Turkey to enter Yemen as a reliable supporter.

In this regard, the Yemeni reporter of Al-Jazeera network spoke about organizing and equipping another group of Turkish-affiliated terrorists in Syria to be sent to Yemen, and the Saudi media also reported that the Turkish intervention in Yemen was imminent. Therefore, this memo seeks to examine the background of Turkish-Yemeni relations, the possible dimensions of Turkish intervention in this war-torn country, its risks, benefits and consequences.

History of Turkey’s presence in Yemen and Ankara-Sanaa relations before the recent crisis: Before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Yemen, like other Arab countries in the region, was under the domination of this empire. With the fall of the Ottomans and the formation of the Turkish government, their relations with Yemen dropped to the lowest level of political relations, until for the first time in 1928, the Turkish government appointed its political representative in Yemen. It recognized the Arab Republic of Yemen in 1970, and in 1984 Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh traveled to Turkey to discuss bilateral relations with Turkish officials.

From that year until the internal crisis in Yemen and the start of the Saudi coalition military aggression, the relations between the two countries progressed from the level of political and cultural relations to economic agreements and contracts, and then approached the phase of military relations and security cooperation. For example, an agreement with a Turkish company (Dagush) worth $ 75 million to implement a project to rebuild the Ma’rib historic Dam in 1984 and the establishment of an economic cooperation committee between the two countries in 1986 are the first sparks of economic relations after political relations.

The signing of the Health Cooperation Agreement between the two countries in 1993 and the signing of the Cultural and Scientific Cooperation Agreement between Turkey and Yemen in 1994 showed the growth of relations between the then Turkish and Yemeni governments. But the culmination of Turkey’s efforts to strengthen relations with Yemen is the signing of a technical cooperation agreement and joint military training between the Republic of Yemen and the Republic of Turkey in 2002 and a security cooperation agreement between the two countries in 2004.

But despite the efforts made by Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire until the recent crisis in Yemen, it seems that relations between the two countries never came close to a high level of coalition and cooperation, and therefore remained friendly and non-conflict. Because it seems that despite the influence of Saudi Arabia and its neighborhood with Yemen, and the tendency of previous Turkish governments due to the pro-Western approach and distance from the region, these relations could not lead to a high level of convergence and influence or even Turkish domination over Yemen.

What is also referred to as military and security agreements are the efforts made by the Turkish Justice and Development Party taking after coming to power and in line with neo-Ottoman policies. With the start of the Yemeni crisis and the attack of the Saudi aggressors on this country, the Turkish government continued to maintain relations with the resigned and fugitive government of Mansour Hadi, with supporting these attacks, hoping for the victory of the Saudi-Zionist coalition.

Differences between Yemen and Libya; Problems and obstacles to Turkey

Despite Turkey’s initial support for Saudi Arabia in the imposed war against the Yemeni people, Turkish resistance groups have gradually succeeded in the battlefields, especially military attacks on Saudi interests in the country, Turkey’s support for Saudi Arabia and its allies has Decreased and it has sought to intervene directly in Yemen. This decision will be made when Turkey has successfully experienced the developments in Libya. Nevertheless, the developments in Yemen and Libya seem to be two completely different experiences for the Turks. Yemen is more like Syria than Libya.

Instead of benefiting from the experience of successful intervention on Libyan soil, the Turkish government should learn from strategic experiences and failures on Syrian soil and avoid another bitter experience in regional developments, and in fact taste the sweetness of its victories over Saudi-affiliated Salafists in Libya Do not be bitter a pre-broken intervention in Yemen.

The reasons for the similarity of the developments in Yemen to Syria and its obvious differences with Libya for a military intervention by Turkey are numerous, some of which can be mentioned in this article. First, in contrast to the developments in Libya, where there is a conflict between two political current of thought, the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated with the Al-Siraj-led National Unity Government and the Saudi-UAE-led Salafist movements, al-Shabaab is a serious ally of ISIS in Syria.

Developments in Yemen are a military conflict between Ansar allah (Houthi movement) led resistance groups and all anti-resistance groups in the region, which includes a range of forces from al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Brotherhood, especially the Reform Party. Between the Ansarullah-led resistance groups and all the anti-resistance groups in the region, which includes a range of forces from al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Brotherhood, especially the Reform Party.

Secondly, unlike Libya, which governance is divided into two parts and there is a severe civil war, there is a powerful government led by Ansar al-allah in Yemen that, despite a full-scale foreign war, has been able to exemplify and manage the areas under its control, and their recent advances in Yemeni territory, this capability shows.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s support for resistance groups in Yemen is the third and perhaps most important difference between the Libyan crisis and Yemen. In the absence of a power like Iran, Turkey has been able to overcome the allies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Libya, but the developments in Yemen, like in Syria, have a powerful and influential regional player, and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s support for resistance groups in Yemen is the third and perhaps most important difference between the Libyan crisis and Yemen. In the absence of a power like Iran, Turkey has been able to overcome the allies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Libya, but the developments in Yemen, like Syria, have a powerful regional and influential player, and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Undoubtedly, any Turkish military intervention on Yemeni soil will face Turkish government more risks if it conflicted with the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies in the country, where there is no sign of a successful Libyan experience.

Benefits of Turkish military intervention in Yemen

Every political and military decision that forces one country to military intervene in another country is undoubtedly the result of an interest that the main decision-makers of that government force to make such decisions. Regarding the issue of Turkey and the attempt for military intervention in Yemen, can mention important economic, political, military and ideological dimensions. Economically, unlike a country like Libya, where the Turks have invested heavily, a review of Yemeni-Turkish relations shows the low level of Turkish economic activity and investment in Yemen.

If Turkey has invested more than $ 100 billion in Libya by 2013 and has the largest economic projects in Libya after China with $ 28 billion, in a country like Yemen it has not exceeded a few contracts like the Ma’rib Dam. Thus, Turkey’s desired interests in Yemen include a set of political, military, and ideological interests rather than economic ones. In opposition to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and in line with regional support for the Muslims Brotherhood and pro-Qatar movements, they are trying to prevent not only the defeat of the Reform Party in northern Yemen by entering the Yemeni developments, but also its support in the Yemeni developments and replacing Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Developments in recent months have persuaded most Turks, who, instead of verbally allying with Saudi Arabia, have retained their militant groups in Yemen through a tough military intervention and, like the developments in Syria Keep them in Yemen by separating them from extremist groups attributed to ISIS and al-Qaeda. With this move, Turkey can also put pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as two traditional rivals in regional developments, and ultimately force them to make concessions. Therefore, in general, it can be said that Turkey’s short-term and main interests in intervening in Yemen are a set of political, military and, most importantly, ideological benefits, and economic interests may be considered by the Turks in the long time.

The reaction of the main actors in the developments in Yemen

In the current developments in Yemen, the four main actors will react to the possible intervention of Turkey militarily in this country. Saudi Arabia and the resigned government, the UAE and its affiliated groups in the southern provinces, Ansar allah and its internal supporters and regions, and finally the Reform Party as the main representative of the Brotherhood in the developments in Yemen. The first two actors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, undoubtedly do not know auspicious Turkey’s presence in the Yemeni developments after experiencing the developments in Syria and Libya.

Although their reaction does not lead to a military level, a political and military rivalry over the areas of influence in Yemen between Turkey and the two actors and their allies is taking shape. The third actor is Ansarullah and his allies, who, although ostensibly considering Turkey’s military intervention in Yemen as a threat to the country’s national interests, take auspicious the opportunity to compete with the two main aggressors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

They can, like the Syrian experience, focus on groups affiliated with Saudi Arabia and the UAE through political negotiations and the determination of spheres of influence and ceasefire between the two sides, and negotiate the future of developments in Yemen with the reformist party affiliated with Turkey and Qatar after their final defeat.

Finally, another important player in these developments is the Reform Party. In recent years, the Reform Party, along with other groups affiliated with the ousted and fugitive government of Mansour Hadi, has considered Saudi Arabia as its main support and supporter of the developments in Yemen. It seems that following the recent defeats of the Saudi coalition and the continuation of Ansar allah advance in Yemen, the Reform Party will have to make a new choice, and in the event of Turkish military intervention in Yemen, the most important option is to rely on Turkey instead of Saudi Arabia.

Turkey’s desired interests in Yemen include a range of political, military and ideological interests rather than economic ones.


Given what has been said and the developments that have taken place militarily and politically in Yemen in recent years, it can be concluded that now instead of bipolar rivalry and bilateral war between Ansar al-Allah and his domestic and foreign supporters and the beneficiary government and allies Internally and externally, we are witnessing a pervasive multipolar and competitive environment over the future of Yemeni developments. On the one hand, the Ansarullah movement maintains its internal and external unity, and its regional allies, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran and other resistance groups, emphasize continued cooperation and coordination with them.

But on the other side of the field, we are witnessing a serious rivalry between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which has turned the alliance of the early days of the invasion of Yemen into a breathtaking political and military rivalry. What can be cited as the main reason for this situation is on the one hand the invincibility and growing power of Ansar allah Yemeni, and on the other hand the ideological and secret war between the three actors that appears in regional developments and in sensitive situations such as Syria and whenever they are in a position of weakness leave the apparent alliance and return to their regional rivalries.

The rivalry that began in Egypt and the coup of General Sisi with the victory of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and continued in Libya with the victory of Turkey and its success against the Al-Siraj movement against the forces of General Haftar.

However, it seems that Turkey’s entry into the Yemeni developments on the one hand reduces the rivalries and tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the two countries return to their previous military and political alliance in the Yemeni developments, and on the other hand By being close to Iran and Qatar, the Turkish government will try to compensate for the reactions of previous years to the military invasion of Yemen, and introduce itself as Ansarullah’s preferred and good actor for a Yemeni-Yemeni negotiation with the Reform Party.

In the meantime, the best decision for Ansarullah is to make a temporary ceasefire with the Reform Party and focus on defeating the resigned government and the Southern Transitional Council so that he can then deal with the areas under the influence of the Reform Party in due course. Although the experience of the developments in Syria and other regional events shows that Turkey is not a suitable and stable ally and is abruptly deviating from bilateral agreements, in the current situation, Ansarullah can use Turkish influence in competition with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.