Turkey’s Military Procurement backbones Bahrain’s National Security
Political Rivals Bahrain-Turkey secretly become Defense Allies
Small but powerful: although a small unit, the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) is efficient and competent enough to safeguard the country’s national interest and maintain a tight border security. Yet in view of the country’s geographical positioning, complex security landscape and role in the Middle Eastern conflicts, the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) requires an up-to-date military infrastructure. Therefore, Bahrain began developing its military capabilities from outside and signed an agreement for receiving military defense equipment from a non-allied nation in 2017 – Turkey.
The Turkey-Bahrain defense relationship became official in February 2017, when the Defense Ministers of Bahrain and Turkey, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifah and Fikri Isik, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The leaders of both nations – President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bahrain’s ruling monarch Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – were present in Manama at the time of signing of the MoU.
Bahrain Chose Turkish Procurement Over Gulf Alliance
Bahrain and Turkey today share a cordial defense relationship, yet they are not supposed to.
Bahrain is one of the gulf nations besides Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, that ran a diplomatic blockade against its neighbour and GCC member at that time – Qatar. Turkey on the other hand strengthened its alliance with the blockaded nation, especially during the diplomatic crisis. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – an ally of Bahrain – turned sour towards Turkey since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the transcontinental country’s communication policy thereafter.
Despite the current disproportionate dynamics between Bahrain and Turkey, the former’s defense force covertly built a multi-faceted defense relation with Istanbul. The BDF already owns armoured combat vehicles – Otokar Arma and Otokar Akrep – procured from Turkey. The Persian Gulf nation has also received 6 BMT Group 18m patrolling boats from the United Kingdom in the past that were originally developed by the Turkish Industry Ares Shipyard. The RBNF at present expects to receive 6 more such patrol boats.
On the other hand, as part of a June 2015 deal worth $25 million, the Turkish Aerospace is working on developing the 18 AH-1Fs that uses the avionics systems, already in use on Turkey’s T12 advanced attack and reconnaissance helicopters, also known as, ATAK.
Out of its $1.6 billion worth of defense budget for 2015, Bahrain spent almost 1.6% on procurement from Turkey alone. A majority of large Turkish companies such as, Otokar, Havelsan, Aslesan, Ares Shipyard, Turkish Aerospace and Otonom Technoloji, which in particular has approached Bahrain to provide Aerostat for Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Intelligence have all been involved in the furnishing military equipment to the Bahraini defense force.
It didn’t stop there, as the BDF signed another agreement in 2018 with Turkey under Roketsan – another major weapon manufacturer and defense contractor based in Ankara – to purchase 1800 CIRIT laser guided missiles. The complete set of arms has been received by Bahrain for the agreement worth USD 64,120,000, i.e. sixty-four million one hundred and twenty thousand.
Being a supporter of foreign policies of the UAE, Bahrain is following the Emirati-set trail in the Libya crisis. The two sides involved in the Libya proxy war are Turkey-backed GNA and the UAE, Egypt-backed LNA. Thus, when it comes to Libya, Bahrain is betraying its military aide provider Turkey by supporting its opposition.
The self defense systems that Bahrain is in talks to buy from Turkey, are the ones purchased by Qatar in 2018 via an agreement for a strategic cooperation for an Electronic Warfare System Self Protection Systems or HEWS from Aselsanto. The system is built to render protection against all sorts of laser, anti-tank missiles, situational awareness for Radar, and more. And Turkey ended up selling the same technology to both, its ally and rival in the region.
In 2019 on the 24th and 25th June – the same month in which Qatar completed 2 years of its blockade – a first-of-its-kind Defense Industry Cooperation (DIC) meeting was held by Turkey and Bahrain in order to talk about the Bahrain Defense Force’s future plans and procurement needs.
With the help of continued military procurement received from Turkey, Bahrain has been able to put up a boast-worthy defense exhibition (BIDEC), where it invites the highest ranking dignitaries from the defense sector.
Meanwhile, owing to its leading role in the defense manufacturing to Bahrain, Turkey holds a permanent and significant place in the BIDEC.
Meanwhile, the two constant members from Turkey and Bahrain, who have remained in discussion concerning the development in the defense relations shared by the two countries have been – Dr. Ismail Demir, the president of Turkish Defense Industry along with Rear Admiral Yousif Ahmed Malallah Al Sabt, the Assistant Chief of Staff for the Logistics and Supplies of the BDF.
The gulf region is at a boiling point with proxy wars taking place in a number of nations, which are further divided by their regional allies and foes. However, despite being aware of its dynamics in the region, Bahrain shook hands with one of its foes, Turkey, for military gains in the same year when it joined its regional allies – UAE and Saudi Arabia – in blockading Turkey’s allied nation and a powerful gulf neighbour, Qatar.
Where will this end up ?