Category Archives: Syria

The Geopolitical Impact of ISIS: Actors, Factors, and Balances of Power in the Middle East

Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

Source: The Guardian

The ISIS Threat

Generally speaking, the emergence of ISIS has posed a significant security threat to regional and international states alike; a threat which challenges the stability and territorial integrity of regional states as well as Western regional interests. As known from International Relations and particularly Realism literature, (mutual) security threats are one of the most important factors in the formation of different kinds of alliances. As such, it is without surprise that we see unlike partnerships to emerge, such as the ones mentioned below. Continue reading

Turkey’s “Multi-Scenario” Foreign Policy

Abstract

Turkish foreign policy has always been a puzzling issue for both Western and non-Western scholars. Yet, the ascendance of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) to power in 2002 made things even more complicated as it signified the gradual break of a national ideological tradition and the emergence of a post-Kemalist, neo-Islamist, ideological framework. Despite the various existing explanations, analyses and interpretations of the AKP’s foreign policy, this paper seeks to contribute to this debate by employing a different (multi-scenario) approach. It assumes that the conduct of Turkish foreign policy is based on the existence of probable scenarios, often substitutionary to each other. If that is indeed the case, then Turkish foreign policy is conducted in an opportunistic way which lacks a specific Western or Eastern orientation, and aims at the maximization of benefits in different isolated issues thus diminishing the possibility of having a comprehensive grand strategy. Through this prism it is made clear that every important issue on Turkish foreign policy agenda plays a central role in its indecisiveness and leads de facto to a Multi-Scenario foreign policy.

Click to here to read the full peer-reviewed publication on the Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey.

Book Review: The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and International Ramifications, Efraim Inbar (ed)

book reviewTo offer analysis on an on-going political event is always a challenging task. Yet, the “Arab Spring” has given rise to many questions about the past, the present and the future of the Arab world and the Middle East more generally. The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and International Ramifications addresses some of these questions. The chapters of this edited volume have been written by selected Israeli scholars focusing on “issues such as democratization, the role of economic factors in political change and explanations for variations in regime stability in the Middle East.” The relationship between internal and external politics is also explored while special emphasis is given to the impact of the “Arab Spring” on Israel and its neighbourhood.

Read the rest of this book review in the Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security.

The Thoughtlessness of the Intervention Advocates – Syria (revisited)

Author’s Note: The following article, titled “The Thoughtlessness of the Intervention Advocates – Syria,” was published by Al Yunaniya on June 16th, 2012. It makes the case against an intervention in Syria. Sadly, more than one year later things have remained largely the same in terms of the Western stance and rhetoric vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis. Once again, at a crucial juncture it seems that the “International Community” (admittedly dominated by Western countries) is contemplating an intervention in Syria. Wrongfully, in this author’s opinion, the debate revolves around legalistic, tactic-related, and grand strategy arguments. Even more problematic is the effort to exploit a “moralistic” pretext, such as the use of chemical weapons, to the accomplishment of immoral ends – related to international, economic and geopolitical interests. In this respect the International Crisis Group report was absolutely right to point out that should an intervention is decided, it would be undertaken “for reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people.” And that is all that matters.

Let us and the international society not fool ourselves: The International Community, NATO, and even individual countries willing to get involved in an intervention in Syria – be it authorized by the UN or not – will comprise a coalition of national and international elites completely dissociated from the intentions and interests of the public opinion and, even worse, dissociated from the interests of the Syrian people. Any effort of political communication by (inter)national leaders in favor of an intervention in Syria advocating that the operations would be “surgical” and that there would be benefits rather than new problems for the Syrians is largely misleading. Continue reading

A Note on the Escalation of the Syrian Crisis

It has been reported that Israel conducted two airstrikes in Syria in the last few days. It is also said that these airstrikes targeted military facilities and equipment that was destined for Hezbollah. After a Syrian official called Israel’s attack “a declaration of war”, many speak of a turning point in the Syrian crisis and a war between Syria and Israel.

Things are both simple and complicated at the same time. This is indeed a turning point in the crisis not so much because of what Syrian officials have stated but because Israel’s actions demonstrated that the security risk stemming from Syria just reached the point where regional powers cannot remain unresponsive; it is within this framework that we should also evaluate Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks that Assad will pay for the deaths of thousands in Syria. This in turn means that as long as the Syrian regime escalates the violence and its cooperation with militant groups, such as Hezbollah, we will witness an increase in such actions/attacks. Continue reading

Extremism in Syria, Geopolitics, and Future Scenarios

One of the central themes that have been dominating the media lately regarding the Syrian crisis has been the participation of (Islamist) extremist elements in both of the camps of the civil war. What is the situation now in Syria, and what might the current developments hold for its future?

It is by now well known that the ethno-religious synthesis of Syria is making the conflict even more complicated than the external interests involved already make it. In light of this, the recent reports on the exploitation of the struggle from Islamist groups and the regional and global responses to the crisis point to a serious escalation of the conflict.

After the important move from the part of the Arab League to politically legitimize the Syrian opposition (Syrian National Coalition) by offering it Assad’s seat at the latest summit in Qatar, things have taken a turn for the worse. This might not be directly – or at least, obviously – related to other events but it shows how political and military developments go hand in hand as the crisis escalates. Of course, there were reports on Islamist groups operating in Syria before that, such as the jihadist Salafists from Gaza. According to Asmaa al-Ghoul, the Gaza Salafists see Syria as a good opportunity for conducting jihad, unlike Gaza where “the door…is closed”. The leader of the group, which joined the Syrian group Jabhat al-Nursa, also remarked that their ideology is the same with that of al-Qaeda.

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Turkey and Israel: The Revitalization of Relations?

From the 1980s onwards the Turkish-Israeli relations started improving gradually. The year 1996 in particular was a milestone as the two countries signed a series of agreements of military cooperation and training, among others. The agreements were of outmost strategic significance as they gave rise to a pro-Western strategic axis which had a serious impact on the regional balances of power.

From Friends to Foes

The election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power of the Turkish state in 2002 had a gradually negative influence on the relations between Turkey and Israel for two main reasons. The first reason was the systemic changes that occurred in the region after 9/11 and the American invasion in Iraq (2003). The second reason was the AKP’s ideology which is positioned somewhere in between political Islam and democratic ideals even though the party itself denies any relationship to political Islam and declares that it is a “conservative-democratic” party. As far as the first reason is concerned, after 2001 Turkey had to manage a geopolitical environment which was particularly unstable both for its own and Western interests; this created the necessity for a closer relationship with the Arab/Muslim world. In terms of the second reason, the ideology of the AKP and the “Davutoğlu doctrine” (i.e. Turkey’s foreign policy doctrine based on the writings and approach of its Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlou) called for improved relations with the Middle East and distance from the West and Israel. The AKP’s approach toward the Arab/Muslim world and its anti-Western stance gained even greater momentum after 2006. That was when the European Union disappointed Ankara regarding its prospects for accession, while the friction between Turkey and Washington about Iraq – which includes the dimension of the Kurdish issue – continued.

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