Category Archives: Syrian Crisis

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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Something is Happening in the MidEast and the EastMed

Something is definitely happening at the geopolitical intersection of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Rapid, crucial, and very much interlinked, developments at the same juncture cannot be coincidences. Here is some of the developments and their geopolitical impact, although only time can reveal the true and complete pattern.

In Turkey, apart from the discussion about the new constitution, the country is going through an historic period as the decades-long conflict between the state and the Kurdish separatist movement, led by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), seems to be coming to an end. The imprisoned Kurdish leader has called for a ceasefire and ordered the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Turkish soil.http://thegwpost.wordpress.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

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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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“Battle For Syria: View from the Frontline” – An Alternative Perspective

“This is not a revolution. They are terrorists who live in America, France, in Istanbul.” – Syrian civilian[1]

“Battle for Syria: View from the Frontline” is a mini documentary filmed by the Russian POCCИЯ 24 TV channel. What is particularly interesting about this documentary is that it was filmed in the battle fields of Syria, following the forces of the Syrian (regime) army around. Thus, the whole project offers an entirely different perspective on the Syrian conflict from the one the western media present – both in terms of the actual conflict and the not so projected view of the regime. Throughout the documentary one can realize that certain features stand out as they are being emphasized: 1) the military tactics of the Free Syrian Army (i.e. rebels); the struggle of the Syrian Army (i.e. regime) as a counter-terrorism campaign; and the composition of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

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Syrian Crisis: Facts and «Collateral Damages»

In terms of the Syrian crisis it is already clear that certain issues will keep playing a decisive role in the upcoming developments, or that they could constitute outcomes of the conflict. These issues could be divided into internal and external.

As far as the external issues are concerned, it has become obvious that the al-Assad regime has by its side the undisputable powers of Russia and China. It is noteworthy that these two countries have recently announced that they will not be accepting any western intervention in Syria, thus responding to Obama who said that the use of chemical weapons by the regime would be a “red line” for the US and a reason for the use of military force. In this light, opponents of the Syrian regime remain the western states with leading country the US, while Turkey plays a central regional role against the Assad regime – both as a meeting centre of regional and international actors for the management of the crisis and the organization of the Syrian opposition/resistance, as well as a refugee hosting centre and a (indirect) supporter of the Syrian rebels. Important role in supporting the rebels are also playing Arab countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, while it has been reported that N. Iraq trains and reinforces Syrian Kurds for the armed resistance within Syria. Moreover, Turkey and the US have been discussing along with other western allies the establishment of a partial no-fly zone over Syria for the protection of non-combatants. In the context of the external dynamics of the Syrian crisis, it important to mention Iran which is one of the very few allies of the Syrian regime and one of the reasons why the US (and Israel, among others) want Assad replaced.

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Turkey’s Worst Nightmare

Turkey’s worst insecurity, and thus nightmare, is nothing else but its territorial dismemberment and therefore anything that has to do with Kurdish autonomy regionally or nationally. As the situation in Syria is getting worse, Assad is focusing on securing Damascus and his own self and family, thus leaving the forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in charge. The PYD is said to be linked to and have similar goals with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting against the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy since the early 80s. The fact that Kurdish flags in northern Syria and on border checkpoints with Turkey are becoming more and more can only be alarming for Turkey that is experiencing a déjà vu.

The first negative development for Turkey came with the gradual emergence of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Ankara watched its establishment and solidification, during the two Iraq wars, without being able to do something while the Kurdish issue was one of the reasons the Turkish-American relations entered a period of decline, with the 2003 Iraq war notably being the starting point.

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The Perfect Alibi? – Syria & Turkey in Crisis

It has been reported that a Turkish fighter jet was shot down on Friday, June 23, 2012, by Syrian forces. The Syrian military forces had later confirmed the reports. Leaving aside the technical details about how the crash occurred, and who is to blame, this incident could significantly escalate the existing crisis between the two countries on the one hand, and offer the perfect alibi, as well as credibility, to Turkey and its western allies – namely, NATO – to actively and militarily intervene in Syria, on the other.
Importantly enough, the Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, said that Turkey will do “whatever necessary”. But what does “whatever necessary” means? In answering this question, one must take into account earlier reports saying that CIA officers have been helping Syrian rebels through Southern Turkey. Even though the Turkish government rejected this information, it raises concerns about the role of Turkey and other external actors in the Syrian conflict, as well as the near-future intentions of westerns powers. Furthermore, let us not forget that the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, in April, 2012, threatened to invoke NATO’s self-defense article 5.

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