This paper investigates the policies of both Ankara and Riyadh toward the ongoing crisis between Qatar and the Saudi-led quartet since mid-2017. The crisis has shaken the balance in the region and laid the foundation for new understandings regarding Gulf unity and regional order. On these grounds, it is worth examining the stances of regional actors through different approaches of foreign policy. By using the “three-dimensional” methodology of Kenneth Waltz, this paper analyzes the rationale behind Turkish and Saudi policy toward the Gulf crisis on individual-, state-, and international-based levels since these two countries are among the most influential actors in the region. It argues that Turkish and Saudi approaches can confront each other if the regional developments carry an ideological nature, as in the case of the Gulf crisis.
On the morning of 5 June 2017, the world woke up to news of a crisis shaking the Gulf region. In a coordinated move, a coalition comprising Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar, withdrew ambassadors, imposed travel bans, and placed the tiny peninsular country in the Gulf under a blockade, shutting it off by land, sea, and air (Rende 2017, 60).
The Saudi-led coalition cited Doha’s alleged support for terrorism and extremist groups as the reason for their move (Rende 2017, 60) and released a list of thirteen demands, which was rejected by Qatar (Lynch 2017, 14). Doha denied the allegations and termed them as “baseless” (TRTWorld 2017a), while responding with similar claims against the coalition. The campaign launched against Qatar was not quite supported by the international community; even the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was divided within itself, with Kuwait and Oman adopting a neutral stance and playing a mediator role (Lynch 2017, 14). The crisis resembled one that unfolded in 2014, when the same countries withdrew their ambassadors from Doha due to a similar set of reasons. Although the 2014 crisis was resolved within nine months, the latest crisis, which took many observers by surprise, seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Although the tensions between the GCC members were not something new, the latest crisis has escalated to an unprecedented pace and so far a solution has still not been achieved, despite several mediation efforts carried out by regional and global actors. Moreover, it has created room for the involvement of other regional actors, namely Turkey and Iran. The Gulf crisis could be considered as a small affair in contemporary world politics; however, it has the potential to change the geopolitical balance of power in the region (Asisian 2018).
The policies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia toward the Gulf crisis have been chosen as the unit of analysis in order to understand better the stances of two heavyweights in the Middle East. Both countries have held different approaches and motivations toward the outcomes of the Arab uprisings since 2011 and have exerted their influence in the region through different tools. The Gulf crisis, once again, has brought to the surface the policy differences of these two countries. While Saudi Arabia led the campaign against the blockade of Qatar, Turkey stood by its long-time ally. Both states have stakes in the Gulf crisis that have significant implications for their regional policies. The underlying causes of the opposing stances of the two countries have deeper roots and three levels of analysis: individual based (ideologies, perceptions, identity, and psychological issues of leadership), state based (military and security, economic and financial aspects) and international based (interactions of states and non-state actors at the global level), which are needed to understand these dynamics better.
Regarding the methodology, there are multiple theories analyzing the foreign policy strategies of states and, undoubtedly, they are all of great importance. The three levels of analysis approach, developed by political scientist Kenneth Waltz, is chosen as the theoretical framework of this paper to answer the research question: What are the factors that have led Turkey and Saudi Arabia to adopt opposing policies toward the Qatari crisis? The approach is a helpful conceptual tool for use in analyzing world politics by dividing the complex reality of international issues into “smaller, bite-sized, chunks or levels” (Tamaki 2015, 1–2). It is useful in the case of understanding the Turkish and Saudi approaches toward the Gulf crisis, while it also enables one to understand how each level interacts with one other (22).
The paper is structured as follows The next section presents the theoretical framework of the paper, discussing the nature of the three levels of analysis. The third section examines the Gulf crisis in retrospect; and the fourth section investigates the rationale behind Turkish and Saudi policy towards the Gulf crisis by using the three levels of analysis.
Kenneth Waltz, one of the major political scientists in International Relations (IR) scholarship, coined the term “neorealism” or “structural realism” as a theory of international politics. He particularly grabbed the attention of academia after the publication of Man, the State, and War (1959), in which he tried to explain the causes of conflicts and ways to avoid them. According to Waltz, the causes of war could be explained by three analytical levels (or “images,” which was the term he used): within man, within the structure of the separate states, and within the state system (Hough, Malik, Moran, and Pilbeam 2015, 92). According to him, the first level—within man—explains the causes at the individual level focusing on human nature, which are the perceptions, decisions, and actions of statesmen having an effect on IR. The second level—within the structure of the separate states—concentrates on the causes at the state level, which are the political, economic, and domestic structures of particular states. Lastly, the third level—within the state system—emphasizes the nature of the international order and balance of power among states in the global system.
Analyzing a foreign policy issue or how foreign policy decisions are made by considering only one level may limit the understanding of the decision-making process. As Levy and Thompson (2011, 207) underline, today IR scholars acknowledge that traditional theories need to integrate variables from multiple levels. Thus, the levels-of-analysis system proposes several explanations and approaches to examine when trying to explain a certain event or studying the actions of the states in a region (Goldstein and Pevehouse 2008, 18). Since this paper aims to understand the foreign policy decisions of Turkey and Saudi Arabia towards a specific crisis, it is worthwhile underlining what Gerd Nonneman proposes when studying the foreign policy analysis of states in the Middle East. According to him, it is significant to frame the analyses using the following order of preference: (1) the domestic environment of the state, (2) the nature of the regional environment, (3) effects of the international environment, and (4) decision-makers’ perceptions (Young 2015, 7). Nonneman (2003, 121)particularly underlines that some decisions made by individuals do make significant differences that cannot be explained solely by structural factors. Thus, there are increasing studies on individual-level effects (Byman and Pollack 2001, 111). This paper deals with individuals who play roles in the decision-making process. In the case of Saudi Arabia, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and his increasingly powerful son Mohammed bin Salman, known colloquially as MbS, centralized power and became the most influential figures who drive Saudi foreign policy. In a similar vein, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the sole decision-maker when it comes to the foreign policy of Turkey. In the words of Henry Kissinger: “As a professor, I tended to think of history as run by impersonal forces. But when you see it in practice, you see the difference personality makes” (Kesgin 2012, 29).
THE GULF CRISIS IN RETROSPECT
On 23 May 2017, a report published by Qatar’s official news agency stated that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, at a military graduation ceremony, criticized the country’s neighbors for raising tensions with Iran, which he described as “a big power in the stabilization of the region” (Ulrichsen 2017a, 6), and he called for the re-establishment of ties with Tehran, and expressed an understanding for Hezbollah and Hamas (Maclean 2017a). Although Qatar denied that the emir had ever made such statements and that the website was hacked (Maclean 2017b), the news of Al-Thani’s remarks sparked a crisis between GCC members. After two weeks of a war of words, accompanied by a media campaign launched between the two sides, on 5 June 2017, the Saudi-led coalition severed its diplomatic ties with the tiny peninsular country, closed its air, sea and land routes, and withdrew diplomats. Owing to the atmosphere of mutual suspicion, mediation efforts carried out by regional and global actors bore no fruit. On 23 June 2017, the Saudi-led coalition announced a list of thirteen demands for the resolution of the crisis. These demands included: shutting down Al Jazeera and other Qatar-funded media organizations; curbing diplomatic ties with Iran and terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); the termination of the Turkish military presence in Qatar; and paying reparations to other Gulf countries for financial losses resulting from Qatar’s policies (Human Rights Watch 2018). Qatar was required to agree to these demands within ten days (The Guardian 2017). Doha considered the demands as an assault on its national sovereignty (Trager 2017) and officially rejected them on 3 July in a letter to the Kuwaiti emir who acted as a mediator between the two sides (Katzman and Blanchard 2017).
It would not be wrong to say that Qatar has always been at the heart of intra-Gulf disputes since the 1970s. However, since the Arab uprisings, Doha has pursued an independent and very different policy from the other GCC members by supporting anti-status quo movements starting from Tunisia to Libya, from Egypt to Syria, and doing this by using Al Jazeera as an effective tool of its soft power (Köse and Ulutaş 2017, 1–6). Doha also has improved its relations with Iran, whose policies are considered as an existential threat by Riyadh. Qatar’s relations with these actors were regarded as security risks and unacceptable by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi (Sailer and Roll 2017, 1–5). The first major diplomatic crisis happened in 2014 when members of the anti-Qatar coalition withdrew their ambassadors from Doha (Kabalan 2017, 12). The 2014 crisis lasted about nine months and was solved after the mediation efforts of Kuwait and Oman, the other neutral GCC members. However; despite the good will shown by all the actors at that time, the main problem underlying the division had never healed (Stephens 2017, 12).
The recent intra-GCC dispute presents the greatest challenge to the GCC since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990–91 (Ulrichsen 2017c, 1) and it significantly differs from the previous confrontation. There have been several factors behind the recent crisis. One of the main reasons claimed by the anti-Qatar coalition was that Doha had reneged on the 2014 demands it had initially accepted.
The crisis was also triggered by the contradictory tendencies of some states in the context of the general shift of the regional balance of power (Atanasiu 2017, 106). There was a deep divergence between Qatar and the others on how to deal with Iran, political Islam, and issues of regional leadership (Gordon, Yadlin, and Heistein 2017, 1). The competition over regional leadership between Qatar and Saudi Arabia could be particularly seen via the two specific cases of Syria and Egypt. The increased soft power of Qatar in the region based on its ambitious foreign policy with different priorities than its neighbors, its support for the MB, and its rapprochement with Iran, were the main points of contention between Doha and the anti-Qatar coalition (Gasim 2018, 4). According to Gause (2017, 8), the crisis might reach a solution in the short run but is unlikely to be solved for the long term as he terms the crisis a “larger Sunni–Shiite conflict” led by Iran and Saudi Arabia. In order words, the current crisis is not only an intra-Gulf rift but also a larger political conflict in the Middle East (Köse and Ulutaş 2017).
TURKISH POLICY TOWARDS THE GULF CRISIS
From the very beginning of the Gulf crisis, Ankara stood by its long-standing ally Qatar while avoiding a deterioration in Turkish–Gulf relations. Turkish leaders carried out shuttle diplomacy between the sides—though this did not bear fruit—in order to ease tensions, as prolonging the crisis would potentially lead to negative consequences. This section will scrutinize the drivers that shape Turkish policy toward the Gulf crisis.
Individual Level of Analysis
Traditional theories of IR tend to neglect the impact of individual-level variables on politics while emphasizing structural factors as critical variables in explaining international politics (Görener and Ucal 2011, 358). This has also been the case in most studies attempting to analyze Turkish foreign policy solely based on structural explanations. Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy cannot be examined without taking into consideration the nature of Erdoğan’s leadership, which has a clear influence on the major decisions made in foreign and domestic policy (Arık and Yavuz 2015). In the words of Yavuz (2009, 120), “Few leaders have had greater impact on Turkish political life than Erdoğan. He has been dominant in both the domestic and the foreign policy of Turkey.” Erdoğan is at the center of decision-making in Turkey and has become the sole force behind the country’s policy choices, so much so that even scholars and analysts have begun to refer to the country as “Erdoğan’s Turkey” (Aviv 2016). His religious tendencies, ideological sentiments, and political background play an important role in who he considers friends or foes (Görener and Ucal 2011, 373). When the Arab uprisings shook the region, Erdoğan and the then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu envisioned an “MB belt” from Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt to Syria under the leadership of Turkey (Kirişçi 2017).
Like Syria, Egypt, and Palestine, the Gulf crisis also became another issue in domestic politics in Turkey. Erdoğan had the belief that the Gulf crisis was part of a larger conspiracy that eventually aims to target Turkey after Qatar (Gürbüz 2017, 1–5). Turkey was worried that if pressure on Qatar were successful, it may lead to similar pressure being put on it too by the same forces that toppled Mohammed Morsi in Egypt (Gause 2017, 11). Erdoğan’s approach in the Gulf crisis was referred as a “duty of loyalty” toward the Qatari emir, whom he calls “brother.” Al-Thani was the only foreign leader to send an elite squadron of special forces to Ankara to protect the Turkish leader in the aftermath of the failed July 15 coup (Cornell 2017). The relationship between the two countries gained further strength after the failed coup, and this was evident from the frequent visits they paid each other. Erdoğan was the first leader the Qatari emir met on his first trip abroad since the start of the Gulf crisis (Al Jazeera 2017). The essential part of Qatar’s strategy was synchronized with the Turkish leadership by forming a strategic relationship that has guided Erdoğan’s support for Qatar during the current crisis (Bianco 2017, 2).
State Level of Analysis
According to realists, the state is the main actor in international politics, and relations among states are the core of IR (Tema 2014, 1), and the state is motivated by self-interest in order to maximize its power (Wohlforth 2008, 133). Turkey and Qatar have a long history of being on the same side of regional affairs. When the Arab uprisings took place, Turkey and Qatar considered the uprisings as the start of a new era in the region that would pave the way for the emergence of elected governments led by the MB. The rise of the MB in Egypt and the Sunni groups in Syria raised hopes in both Ankara and Doha inasmuch as the inclusion of the MB into mainstream Arab politics was addressing their ideological expectations (Aras and Akpınar 2017, 3). The pro-change stance of Turkey and Qatar put them on a collision course with the pro-status-quo camp led by Saudi Arabia. Just as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain consider the MB as a lethal threat to their national security and stability, the MB threat put three GCC countries along with Egypt in the same camp. Turkey and Qatar share the same ideological view in defending the cause of political Islam (Baskan and Wright 2011)—which in their version is in contradiction to the Saudi interpretation of political Islam. Both countries carried out their policies independently throughout the Arab uprisings. While Ankara acted independently of its Western allies in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, Qatar acted independently of the GCC in Syria and, to a certain extent, in Yemen (Aras and Akpınar 2017, 3). The two countries also pursue a similar policy of “balance” toward Iran. Although both Ankara and Doha are concerned over Iran’s regional aspiration for domination, they sought to have ties with Tehran based on mutual interests, in contrast to Riyadh. For Turkey, which aspires to be a regional power, Qatar is a trustworthy partner in the Gulf to achieve its regional goals; therefore, their relationship has political, economic, and military dimensions. A few days after the Saudi-led coalition cut ties with Qatar, the Turkish parliament authorized the deployment of Turkish troops to its base in Qatar (TRTWorld 2017b). Though there are some clear political and security dimensions in Turkish–Gulf relations, economy also plays a part (Hürsoy 2013, 503). Turkey’s bilateral trade with the UAE and Saudi Arabia far outweighs that with Qatar; however, the latter is a significant economic partner for Ankara, particularly in terms of investments. Ideological, regional, and economical factors are three main drivers that shape Ankara’s policy toward the Gulf crisis.
International Level of Analysis
The international system, for realists, is anarchic and there is no authority above the state, which is sovereign. This anarchical nature restrains the actions of policy-makers and influences the division of capabilities among the various actors (Mingst 2003, 86). The positions of the world powers are generally indicated when they take part in ongoing conflicts around the globe, and how other states meddle in these conflicts affects the international circumstances. This can be observed in the case of the Gulf crisis. When the Gulf crisis erupted in early June 2018, US President Donald Trump took sides with the anti-Qatar quartet, hailing Saudi-led efforts to isolate Qatar (Landler 2017). Just two weeks before the outbreak of the Gulf crisis, Trump paid a visit to Riyadh, where he blamed Iran for instability in the region and urged the countries in the region—implicitly Qatar—to fight extremism (Al-Jarman 2018, 11). He referred to Qatar as the “funder of terrorism at a very high level.” With this move, the United States altered its tradition of neutrality as regards conflicts within the GCC. This led Turkey to strengthen its position with regards to the Gulf crisis. Turkey, whose ties are already strained with the United States for several reasons, decided to take sides, in contrast to the US-supported coalition against Qatar. After a year, Trump welcomed the Qatari emir to the White House, saying that the former had become a “big advocate” of combating terrorism. Two reasons have played a significant role in the United States taking a moderate approach toward Doha. First, the largest US airbase in the Middle East—Al Udeid Air Base, from where the United States carries out operations against ISIS—is based in Qatar; and second, within the “regional unity” to counter Iran, Qatar is considered as an asset by the United States.
SAUDI POLICY TOWARDS THE GULF CRISIS
Saudi Arabia has been the leader of the anti-Qatar quartet against Doha and one of the staunchest countries within the bloc whose policies contrast with those of Qatar in regional affairs. This section scrutinizes the drivers that shape Saudi Arabia’s policy toward the Gulf crisis.
Individual Level of Analysis
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s coming to office in 2015 and appointing his young son Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) as his crown prince has led to the adoption of a more assertive and centralized foreign policy in pursuing national goals. Salman and MbS started to change the nature of decision-making in the kingdom by concentrating it in the hands of only one person: MbS himself. Al-Rasheed (2017, 5) refers to the young crown prince’s role in the kingdom as follows: “He is the de facto orchestrator of Saudi foreign policy even before he was confirmed in his new role.” In the Saudi case, MbS rapidly came into prominence after his father became crown prince in 2012. He first became special adviser to his father, and then head of the crown prince’s royal court in 2013. Later, he was promoted to a cabinet-level position as minister of state, and in 2015 he became defense minister when Salman became king (Ulrichsen 2017b, 46). In the history of Saudi Arabia, no other prince has held such key positions at such a young age as him (Al-Rasheed 2017, 5; see also Cook 2016). King Salman’s appointment of his son, whose rule represents a hard line in regional policy, rang alarm bells in both Ankara and Doha (Aras and Akpınar 2017, 6). The fast-rising star is believed to be the mastermind behind the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in 2015 and the Gulf crisis with Qatar in 2017 (Aarts and Roelants 2016, 596). Though Saudi Arabia’s row with Qatar has its roots based on geopolitical and regional hegemony matters, the timing of the crisis is strongly related to personal matters between MbS and Al-Thani (Lucas 2017, 32). From the other side of the spectrum, MbS has close relations with his Abu Dhabi counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also critical of Qatari policies. Both crown princes share similarities in their foreign policy tendencies and conception of Islam, which differs from that of Qatar. The Arab uprisings, and then the vacuum created after the decline of US power in the Gulf, led to a competition between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The crown prince, in a speech, reportedly said: “Psychological complexes were behind the moves by Qatar’s rulers towards Arab nations” (Gulf News 2018). MbS, who is highly critical of the MB ideology, describes the movement, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the kingdom (Al Arabiya News 2014), as “very dangerous” (Asharq Al-Awsat 2018). Also, Qatar’s moderate ties with Iran is a serious concern for the crown prince, who adopts the anti-Iranian rhetoric that dates back to the reign of King Abdullah (Al-Rasheed 2017, 15). King Abdullah was in power in 2014 when demands were presented to Qatar. Hence, the demands by MbS in 2017 could not be seen as something new; rather, his action was a continuation of a policy whose only difference were the tactics employed by MbS himself. The Saudi crown prince showed a great degree of confidence not only in regional affairs but also in domestic affairs. The powerful heir to the Saudi throne stated that he would return Saudi Arabia to “moderate Islam” (Chulov 2017). His version of “moderate Islam” raised eyebrows in Ankara and Doha; particularly the former criticized the statement by MbS, saying that such concepts weakens Islam and plays into the hands of the West. At the individual level, MbS’s ideology, his perception of who is enemy and friend, did play a very significant role in Saudi Arabia’s leading of the coalition against Qatar.
State Level of Analysis
Saudi leadership struggles to turn Saudi Arabia not only into a regional power on a par with Turkey, Iran, and Israel but also into a leading power within the GCC. Riyadh was quite comfortable with the old Arab order before the Arab uprisings of 2011 in which it had stable and long-term partners, in contrast to Doha. The difference in their socio-political, economic, and geopolitical interests pushed Riyadh and Doha into adopting contrasting policies towards the issues they face in the region. While Qatar bet on the rise of the MB throughout the Arab world, the Saudi-led anti-Ikhwan bloc worked forcefully to curb the movement’s rise and block Qatar’s interests in the region. In Syria, although both Qatar and Saudi Arabia stand by the opposition, they support different factions, as they harbor different visions for the post-Assad era. Qatar’s historical support for the MB, such as by hosting exiles such as the Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, was a source of controversy between the two neighbors that came to the surface repeatedly after several MB members found safe haven in Qatar (Roberts 2015, 36). The spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the MB is mainly based on their very different understandings of how political Islam should be implemented among the Sunni powers of the Middle East (Gause 2017, 8).
Though both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are Sunni majority and rule monarchies in the Gulf, both have differing ways of interpreting Sunni Islam. Doha’s decision to support the movement partly reflects its ideological and strategic inclinations; the Qatari emir was close to al-Qaradawi and his movement’s theocratic ideology, but also Qatar considered the movement as a future for the region where they started to rise after winning elections in Egypt and Tunisia (Trager 2017). Additionally the movement was not posing a threat to the internal balances in Qatar. However, the situation was different with Saudi Arabia. It has typically considered Qatar not a sovereign country but another province of the kingdom (Roberts 2012), an approach that does not accept Qatar pursuing an independent policy that clashes with Saudi strategic interests. Geographically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar tried to walk a thin line between the two regional powers (Rende 2017, 61). Its policy, however, was perceived by the Saudi-led bloc as unacceptable. The Gulf crisis has affected the balances in both the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, where both Qatar and Turkey and the Saudi-led coalition have an active presence politically and economically (Aras and Akpınar 2018). Ever since the outbreak of the Gulf crisis, the Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia, has become a place where confrontation occurs between the geopolitical interests of the two camps of Turkey/Qatar and Saudi/UAE (Arman 2018). Qatar’s policies in Africa are in alliance with those of Turkey but not the Saudi/UAE camp, and this is one dimension of the ongoing Gulf crisis. The current Gulf rift is multilayered. Historical disputes, contradicting regional policies for dominance, different ways of interpreting political Islam, and diverse alliances, have been the underlying reasons for Saudi policy toward the Gulf crisis.
International Level of Analysis
Overlapping with these state and individual dynamics is the international dimension. During the administration under Barack Obama, the United States pursued policies that have led Gulf monarchies to question the United States’ commitment to guarantee their security. Gulf countries were frustrated by Washington’s hesitant stance, including its belated response in supporting leaders of the old Arab order, refusal of military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime, and signing the nuclear agreement with Iran despite the security concerns of the Gulf states (Szalai 2017, 4). With Trump’s taking office, however, the United States’ policies changed in favor of the Gulf monarchies. Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement was welcomed by the Gulf countries (Times of Israel 2018). Moreover, Trump’s visit to Riyadh before the Gulf crisis seemed to embolden the anti-Qatar quartet to break off their relations with Doha and impose a blockade against the country (Blinken 2017). Trump showed that the United States planned to pursue policies in the region that would be aligned closely with those of the Saudi-led bloc. According to Ulrichsen (2017a, 6), while the Obama administration followed a Gulf policy where all members were included, the Trump administration preferred to build its Gulf policy on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the twin pillars. Trump, however, was aware that prolonging the crisis would have serious implications since Qatar is a crucial part of the regional security system for the United States, where two strategically important bases are located. Trump sent his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to mediate between the parties, but the move failed. Furthermore, the mixed messages coming from the United States did not help in de-escalating the tension (Lynch 2017, 15). When all factors are considered, the Gulf crisis is not only about rivalry between ambitious and assertive princes, or competition between regional actors with different ideological backgrounds but also a regional crisis fueled by influences of global powers that have stakes in this crisis (Bianco 2017, 1–3).
This paper demonstrates that the different stances adopted by Ankara and Riyadh during the Gulf crisis are due to the difference at the leadership, state, and international levels. The Gulf crisis is a good case through which to show the degree that several factors drive the foreign policies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. At the individual level, the leaderships of Erdoğan in Turkey and MbS in Saudi Arabia played a significant role in their approaches toward the Gulf crisis. Erdoğan’s close friendship with Al-Thani and MbS’s personal acrimony and competition with the latter played a significant role in their contrasting approaches. The personalities, backgrounds, and motivations of the two figures have contributed to our understanding of the decision-making process in both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. At the state level, while Turkey and Qatar have a long history of being on the same side on regional affairs, Saudi Arabia has always been at loggerheads with Qatar on regional issues. While Qatar’s approach toward the MB overlaps with Turkey’s, it contradicts with Saudi Arabia’s. While Turkey and Qatar pursue a balanced policy towards Iran, Saudi Arabia considers the stances of both Turkey and Qatar towards Iran as problematic. Turkey considers Qatar as a regional partner with whom it shares similar ideological and political motivations; however, Saudi Arabia considers Qatar as a challenge to its regional hegemony. Turkey’s and Qatar’s views of political Islam also overlap, but they conflict with Saudi Arabia’s interpretation. At the international level, the US position of siding with the Saudi led-quartet had led Turkey to strengthen its position with regards to the Gulf crisis. Thus, the former even has a military base in the Gulf country. Conversely, Saudi Arabia accuses Doha of sponsoring terrorism and calls for the closure of the Turkish military base in Qatar. This study concluded that the combination of factors at the individual, state, and international levels have led Turkey and Saudi Arabia to adopt opposing stances toward Qatar in particular, and the Gulf crisis in general. The paper describes the underlying factors that contributed to the creation of the crisis and that continue to frustrate its solution while primarily focusing on Turkish and Saudi stances. Based on the three-levels-of-analysis method, the paper concludes that domestic factors, in particular, can act as a confronting force in Turkish and Saudi policies, especially if regional developments carry an ideological nature. The best case in which to show the degree that domestic ideological considerations drove foreign policies is the Egyptian crisis in 2013 and the ongoing Gulf crisis. Both cases revealed the fact that the ideological differences, different political motivations, and leadership goals seemed to form the rationale behind the foreign policies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and eventually led both countries to take opposing stances.