Turkish Pres Mulls Entering Yemen Fray: Iran ‘Has Begun Annoying Us’

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged his full support to the Sunni Arab coalition currently fighting the Shiite Houthi rebels that have taken over Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Stating that Iranian attempts to “dominate the region” have “begun annoying us,” Erdogan noted that Turkey is ready to further involve itself in the conflict “if there is a role to play.”

“Iran is trying to dominate the region. Could this be allowed?” Erdogan asked in statements to the press this week. “This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this.” Erdogan called for Iran to “withdraw any forces” in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.

Iran has not only supported the Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, but taken on an increasingly prominent role in Iraq, fighting against the Islamic State and strengthening Shiite rebels. American military experts have become increasingly concerned regarding Iran’s intervention in the war against the Islamic State.

Erdogan also spoke on the matter in an extended interview with France 24, as well as discussing the threat of the Islamic State and other tensions in the region. Erdogan told the French network that Turkish officials unequivocally “support Saudi Arabia’s intervention” and that Turkey “may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation.”

“If there is a role for us to play, then we might be in a position to do so,” Erdogan asserts, though no direct action in Yemen has been confirmed.

Erdogan also condemned Iranian intervention against the Islamic State in this interview. “Iran is trying to chase Daesh [the Arabic abbreviation for ISIS] from the region only to take its place,” he asserted, adding that Iran does “not display the ideal kind of attitude” on matters regarding securing the Middle East from terrorist groups.

The White House announced yesterday that President Obama had been in touch with Erdogan to discuss both the Yemen developments and the situation regarding the Islamic State. Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reports that conversations pertaining to rooting out the Islamic State are especially pivotal given that “Ankara has serious reservations regarding a US-led campaign in Syria. Turkish leaders claim that the anti-ISIL strategy should be broadened to also include the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

While Assad himself appears to be taking a back seat to the action in Yemen, rebels from within Syria are attempting to use the Arab coalition action in Yemen to encourage Sunni governments to help remove Assad, as well. In a statement, the Syrian National Council, an opposition group, wrote that Syrians “urge brotherly and friendly countries to work on building a close alliance to finish off the Assad regime, thwart the ambitions of the Iranian regime, put an end to the destruction of Syria, and help Syrians achieve their legitimate aspirations.”

The Saudi-led coalition that includes aid from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations and Egypt, as well as potential logistical efforts from Turkey, has begun its second day of attacks against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.