Turkey- GCC Relations 2002-2014: Prospects and Challenges for the Middle East Regional System

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Ottoman Relations in Arabia and the Persian Gulf

In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire evolved into a maritime and land power. The Ottoman entrance into the Arab world started with the conquest of Egypt, Palestine and Syria in 1517 by Selim I.  His son Süleyman expanded Ottoman power in the East after conquering Iraq and the southern Caucasus from the Ṣafavids in 1534.  He then built an eastern fleet which from bases in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea conquered Yemen and broke European naval efforts to blockade Basra, the most important Ottoman province in the Persian Gulf. This river port of the Shatt al-Arab which linked the eastern Mediterranean to the Gulf was conquered by the Ottomans in 1546.


The conquest of Basra facilitated Ottoman aspirations to forge an important role in trade with India. As a choke point controlled by the Portuguese, the possession of Hormuz was an important means of cutting off access to their foes as well severing great local powers from their overseas connections. Since geographic circumstances make commercial blockades much easier to enforce against a regional power in a narrower sea corridor, the geo-strategic and geopolitical significance of the region was a cause for competition between the Ottomans and the Portuguese. Throughout the region, Ottoman commercial agents were established in remote trading centers like Hormuz, Calicut, and Aceh in order to contract business for the imperial treasury in foreign markets.

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