After the Arab uprisings, Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) broke down along sharp ideological lines. While Riyadh and Abu Dhabi sought to preserve the regional status quo by adopting a counter-revolutionary approach, Turkey emerged as an anti-status quo, pro-revolutionary power supporting political islam. During the period 2017-2021, the intense competition between Ankara and Riyadh/Abu Dhabi took the shape of a cold war that played out through a proxy confrontation on various fronts, particularly in Libya and Syria.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE conceive the normalization of their relations as a transactional partnership that allows them to achieve separate short-term economic and political objectives without committing to any genuine long-term alliance. While Ankara and Riyadh are engaging in a pragmatic, realpolitik-driven rapprochement, overall relations will probably remain poor and marked by strategic competitiveness and a zero-sum mentality, especially at time of rising regional uncertainties and insecurities.