International

Turkey to deploy forces in the Gulf of Aden

As Turkey expands its geopolitical and economic presence in the Middle East and East Africa, Turkish parliament has approved deployment of its forces in the Gulf of Aden, Somalia, and the Arabian Sea.

Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 7) ratified a motion extending authorization of the deployment through Feb. 10, 2019, the Turkish Anadolu News Agency reported.

Since it was first approved by parliament in 2008, the government motion for the deployment has been extended 10 times.

The renewal comes off the back of last month’s Turkish defense plan to deploy 60,000 troops in bases abroad, as a projection of Turkish military power.

The Turkish Armed Forces collectively rank as the second largest standing military force in Nato, after the US Armed Forces, with an estimated strength of 639,551 military, civilian and paramilitary personnel

Turkey already has 3,000 troops deployed near the Red Sea in Somalia, in addition to a military base in Sudan’s Suakin Island.

The Gulf of Aden -- near Yemen and close to the world's fourth-biggest chokepoint for oil transit, the Bab el-Mandab strait -- is a strategic energy route for Middle Eastern crude oil.

Yemen is currently enduring a civil war which erupted in September 2014, when the Houthi militia overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

In March 2015, launched military operation to dislodge Houthi and other rebel forces and restore President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government.

Turkey already has 3,000 troops deployed near the Red Sea, in  Somalia and a military base in Sudan’s Suakin Island, which is capable of holding some 20,000 military personnel for five years.  200 Turkish soldiers have been deployed in Somalia since October last year, training Somalia’s military.

In addition to some hundred soldiers currently based in Qatar’s Al-Udeid military base since shortly after the blockade on Qatar, Turkey plans to deploy more to fulfill its 2022 plan. The number has not publically been disclosed.

Qatar has announced that Turkish commercial firms will be given priority for business during the World Cup in 2022, to be held in the capital of Qatar, Doha.

Some 112 companies from a variety of sectors will be attending Expo Turkey by Qatar, co-organized with Turkey’s Independent Industrialists and Business people’s’ Association (MUSIAD). Turkish and Qatari commercial firms have already signed business agreements worth some 60 million dollars.

Sudan-Turkey accord on strategic Suakin island

The extension of Turkish forces deployment came months after Turkey leased Sudan’s strategic Suakin island in the Red Sea.

In December last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir signed an agreement to temporarily lease Sudan's Suakin Red Sea island to Turkey for development by Turkish investment projects.

Suakin Island is located on the western coast of the Red Sea in eastern Sudan. It covers an area of approximately 20 km2, 66 meters above sea level, and is 560 kilometers away from Khartoum.

In medieval times, the name of Suakin was mentioned in the writings of Arab travelers, such as Ibn Battuta, whose name was associated with the escape of many Umayyad princes from the Abbasid state.

Turkey will rebuild a ruined Ottoman port city on Sudan's Red Sea coast and construct a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels, Sudan's foreign minister said on Dec 26, 2017.

The restoration at Suakin was agreed during a visit to the ancient port by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said.

The countries also agreed "to build a dock to maintain civilian and military vessels," Ghandour told reporters, adding that they had signed an agreement "that could result in any kind of military cooperation".

The agreements come three months after Turkey formally opened a $50 million military-training base in Somalia as it exerts increasing influence in the region.

While explaining why he is paying so much attention to this island that the Sudanese call "the gate to Africa," President Erdogan used the metaphor of "reincarnation."

Suakin lost its stature and fell into ruin when Port Sudan was built 30 miles to the north between 1905 and 1909. Erdogan accused Western countries of turning Suakin into a "ghost island."

In the sixteenth century AD was conquered by Ottoman Sultan Salim I and became the center of the Ottoman fleet in the Red Sea. The port included the seat of the Ottoman governor of the southern Red Sea.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He is the author of several books including Islam & Muslims in the 21st Century published in 2017.

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