This paper investigates the overall crisis in the ongoing Syrian civil war. The paper principally emphasised on one single aim, which was to examine Challenges/Threats to Turkish National Security, in the case study of the Current Syrian Civil War and its possible ramification on Turkey’s national security interests. The paper explored all the possible causes of the ongoing Syrian civil crisis, with the historical perspective from the mayhem between Syria and Turkey being significantly imperative. Questionnaires or interview schedules were not part of this report as the researcher opted to use prior and contemporary studies conducted on Syrian-Turkish crisis to provide literal and empirical evidence to support its argument. The findings of this study revealed that Turkey is in at most risk of facing the repercussions of the underway Syrian conflict. The study cautioned also Turkey’s involvement in the ongoing Syrian war to avoid facing the consequences of Syria’s unfolding activities.
We will write a custom Dissertation on Syrian Civil War Threating Turkey’s National Security specifically for you
301 certified writers online
For several decades now, the world has been experiencing several changes in the global political realm. The most current disturbing menace is the state of augmented global wars, with neighbouring countries turning on each other for either political power or fighting for resources. Powerful states have emerged on the global political realm to prove their prowess against each other with resources like natural gas and oil being the contributing factors. However, this happens mostly in countries within the Middle East (Centre for Security Studies 2012). Of latest, Syria has been witnessing regional and global pressure due to its involvement in the ongoing war. The prevailing condition in Syria is threatening not only their national security, but also their neighbouring countries with prior studies indicating that Turkey is at much stake, than ever before. Due to this reason therefore, this paper seeks to investigate the current Syrian civil war and its challenges/threats to Turkeys’ national security.
Background to the study (Historical perspective)
The rapport between Turkey and Syria gradually deteriorated since the historical point of view, when the two countries engage in territorial conflict. Historically, Ba’ath Party government took over the Syrian government in the year 1964, after a successful coup throw that made the first Syrian government. Another coup threw the existing government in out of power, with Defence Minister Hafez al-Assad, declaring himself as the president, taking control of the Ba’ath Party in the Syrian government. The issue of Hafez al-Assad succeeding the presidency resulted in chaos. In the year 1998, after the death of Hafez al-Assad, the younger brother, Bashar al-Assad took charge of the government with the motive of inspiring hopes for democratic and state reforms. During this juncture, particularly in October of the year 1998, serious conflict and wars dominated over the Syrian-Turkish border. This scenario can better explain the current rapport between the Syrian government and their Turkish counterparts.
Turkey at this moment was in the middle of an exhausting civil campaign against the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), within its territories in the eastern parts. In the contempt against the Kurdish Workers Party, a different perception was prevailing in Syria, as sources reveal that this could best explain the reason for the existing situation. According to research documented by Phillips (2011), the Turkish government started accusing the Syrian government of supporting the Kurdish rebels, who were increasingly becoming a threat to the Turkey government. Philips (2011) states, “This was the latest incident in a long history of uneasy relations between two neighbours who have held a catalogue of territorial, ideological, political and resource-related grievances that remained unsettled since each state’s creation” (p. 34). These events of this moment marked the begging of conflict between the two countries, when the Syrian government started attempting to retaliate against the Turkish government.
Historical sources reveal that, in the advent of this confront between the two nations, much resulted into diminishing relationship between the two nations. According to Bishku (2012), history reveals that Turkey utilised mechanisms of hard power towards Syria, when Syria backed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during this moment. In an attempt to terminate Damascus sponsorship for the military rebels that Ankara had been unable to conquer for years, the Turkish government implemented pressure tactics against Syria on not less than three incidents in the 1980s, as well as 1990s. Some powerful individuals within the Turkish government claimed that Kurdish Workers’ Party, which was a Kurdish separatist group in Turkey, was assisting the Syrian government in the conflict.
In the late 1980s, the Turkish government took advantage of the influence they had over the headwaters of Euphrates as well as Tigris to snip a chip on Syria. The anticipation was that Damascus would run out of options and withdraw its support for the PKK because Turkey had fortified its shares on the regional rivers. However, this strategy botched as Syria continued supporting the group. Later in 1992, Turkey applied a second pressure strategy that was also unsuccessful when Ankara ignored retaliation threats on Syria if it continued sheltering the PKK. The coercion ultimately inspired a temporary agreement when Damascus decided to remove the PKK fighters from Helwe drill site. Bishku (2012) affirms that the leaders of Turkey did not react when Syria allowed the PKK to launch a site where 1000 insurgents underwent drilling in 1993. Turkey also failed in its third effort, when it had to stop its battle with Syria because of the unpredicted outbreak of conflict with Greece.
The defining moment came in the fourth effort of Ankara in 1998 when Washington, Tehran, and Cairo supported them. The Turkish government hinted that it would use compulsion in case Damascus refused to comply and continue backing terrorist activities. Ankara established a diplomatic invasive as well as martial campaign to support its coercions. These tactics in line with the strong support from Washington enabled Turkey to succeed eventually. Ankara signed the Adana agreement, which stated, “The PKK training camps in Damascus would be closed and Öcalan was prohibited from residing in Syria” (Özlem 2010, p. 165). Furthermore, mechanisms to check if Syria observed the agreement’s demands emerged. The PKK was defeated and the relationship between Syria and Turkey strengthened once again. The economic association between Ankara and Damascus also re-energised as Turkey and Syria signed a free trade accord, which was to remove the custom taxes (Özlem 2010, pp. 163-175).
With the escalating conflict in Syria, which has spiralled into a full-blown civil war in Turkey, because of its proximity to Syria, has become host to 33,000 civilian refugees as well as dozens of military defectors. Apart from this, relationship between the two states have become considerably strained as Syrian rebels often utilise the border between Syria and Turkey as a staging ground for their attacks on the regime of Bashir Al Asaad. This threatens to bring Turkey to the brink of war with Syria due to Turkish sympathies for the plight of the rebels as well as vocal protests over thousands of civilian deaths that have occurred since the start of the conflict (Saad 2012, p. 13). Based on this situation, there exist questions whether Turkish assistance towards the rebel faction actually promotes its national security issues since it helps terminate the conflict swiftly or if such actions act as a catalyst for greater challenges for Turkey’s national security. Nonetheless, if so should Turkey actively distance itself from the actions of the rebels, it remains questionable on what the possible impact radical Islamic militants may have in the coming conflict and whether this may affect Turkey in the end.
This study identified an aim or rather a primary goal/ objective that enabled the researcher arrive a concrete conclusion on the existing problem. This research aimed to examine, identify, and analyse the various threats to Turkey’s national security brought about by the current conflict in Syria. The study undertook this through an exploration of the current Syrian conflict, what events have connected Turkey to it and the historic relation Turkey has had with its neighbouring states and what this could mean should the conflict escalate beyond Syria and encompass the region. This research aim served as the primary objective throughout the study, with no specific objectives connected to undertaking this study. However, the historical perspective of the Syrian and Turkish stalemate was most significant, as examining the prevailing status of the rapport between the two nations seemed most imperative, so as to give a comprehensive insight into the existing situation.
This study employed a qualitative research method that enabled achieving empirical and literal evidence from prior studies undertaken to explore the current Syrian civil war and its possible ramification on Turkey’s national security interests. This simply means that the study triangulated; a process that involves the use of more than one source of data to enable the study to acquire the data needed before effectively making a conclusion to the study. As postulated by Mathison (1988, p.13), a good research project generally allows the researcher to triangulate or simply to integrate and use multiple methods, different sources of data, principally to enhance validity and credibility of the research results. No questionnaires, or surveys, the researcher utilised literature drawn from various academic sources, the Internet, as well as media publications to explore various aspects of Turkey’s national security issues as at present. In addition, this research ensured that the sources relevantly correlated with the main aim formulated for the study.
As demonstrated in the background, the current Syrian war against the Turkish government dates back from the historical point of view. Much of the activities that have been taking place during these war moments have raised tension on both regional and global concern. After prolonged moment of war between the two nationals with militia from both sides using the territories as centres to stage their attacks, a moment of relief appeared after almost a half decade. As the PKK was increasingly becoming powerful, the Turkish government found it necessary to explore new tactics of resolving the issue with the Syrians who remained blame to the disturbed relationship between Turkish government and the Kurdish Worker’s Party. The two governments planned several meetings with the agenda of halting the cold civil war between the two governments, with numerous stunning efforts becoming evident from the year 2002. This occurred during the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which aided in pushing Turkey closer to Muslim.
The AKP’s “Soft Power” Tactic (2002-2010)
As postulated, the emergence of AKP signified a substantial relief in the war between Turkey and Syria. Although the early Turkish leaders in the 1990s always aimed at perfecting the link between Syria and Turkey, AKP tried to utilise every available opportunity to improve the relationship between the two countries from 2002. The AKP government proposed a remarkable role for Turkey in the Middle East. AKP agreed that, for them to achieve this goal, they had to acquire elements of “soft power” in trading, sharing of customs, diplomatic actions, as well as religious kinship whilst refraining from compulsive tactics (Damla 2012, pp.41-50). The soft power approach diminished through the efforts of Foreign Minister who stated that Turkey should have a zero conflict policy with its neighbours because of its central location in Afro-Eurasia. This geostrategic position would enable Turkey to become a core continental or even global actor if it maintained good relations with its closest neighbours.
AKP’s achievement in establishing good links with Syria as well as other Middle East nations hinged firmly on economic and political benefits (Idrees 2011, pp. 87-99). Their efforts in achieving this started becoming eminent by employing different tactical methods to restore peace and sanity. AKP decided to use its traditional as well as religious connections with Levant as an instrument of soft power. Since AKP is an Islamic inspired party, it believes that Turkey should be a typical example of justice, equality, as well as economic success witnessed during the Ottoman period. This doctrine has encouraged it to accomplish its goals in the Middle East. In an attempt to advance Turkish authority in Middle East, AKP got unforeseen backing from its entertainment industry. Bishku (2012) affirms that over forty Turkish films began receiving substantial eminence in the Arab countries and they help educate the constituents of Arab world, understand how Muslim societies can live liberally.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
During the same AKP regime, several changes were evident from forms of national governance to regional administrative units, where the Turkish and Syrian relationships replenished again. The AKP administration has improved the bilateral relations introduced by the previous regimes. The Strategic Cooperation Council, which is made of ministers from both Syria and Turkey, held meetings in 2009 to improve the bilateral links. The efforts to perfect the bilateral relations got strong support from a group of organisations, which include investors and company representatives (Saban 2011, pp. 5-7). Consequently, the trade volume between Syria and Turkey escalated from $824.1 million to $1.84 billion in 2010, and they anticipated that the amount will rise to $5 billion by the end of 2012 (Bishku 2012, pp. 36-53). A joint economic stimulus committee emerged from a contribution of both countries that facilitated trade agreements and sponsored events including industrial partnerships which became significant for economic growth as well as improving the rapport between the two nations.
The boosted relationship between the two countries spread to other states in Middle East, which inspired Bashar al-Assad to request Ankara to intercede in the convert talks between Syria and Israel in 2007. Lebanon also sought assistance from Ankara to help them persuade Damascus and Tehran to stop their diplomatically destabilising tactics towards Lebanon. These incidents disclosed the significant role that Turkey was playing in resolving clashes in the Middle East (Idrees 2011, pp. 87-99). Furthermore, Ankara sided with Damascus in several occasions instead of Washington, hence affecting the relationship between the United States and Turkey (Zanotti 2012, p. 12). For instance, the Turkish tactical interests concurred with those of Syria in several scenarios during Iraq incursion in 2003. The bond between the two countries became even stronger when Assad visited Erdoğan in Turkey. This visit was remarkable because sixty-eight years had passed since the last president of Syria visited Turkey (Saban 2011, pp. 5-7). The relationship between the two counties appeared to have a bright future if not for the Arab revolts that began in 2011.
Pitfalls of the soft power technique
Although the soft power applied by AKP was successful in several incidences, it could not control the Syrian regime as it had anticipated and especially during the revolt. The relationship between Syria and Turkey began to decline at the onset of the revolution (Damla 2012, pp. 41-50). Turkey believed that its close rapport with Syria would help convince Assad to stop torturing the rebels. However, Syria was not prepared to solve its conflict through reforms and instead continued with its brutality. These events prompted Erdoğan to support the rebels (Karen 2012, pp. 26-32).
Whilst the mutual rapport between Turkey and Syria is deteriorating, a close relationship between the U.S. and Turkey is developing. Turkey has been holding consistent talks with the U.S. intended to resolve the Syrian conflict. The two governments have agreed to use compulsion against Syria. Turkey has recently threatened to impose sanctions against Syria (Karen 2012, pp. 26-32).Syria has also retorted asserting that it might re-introduce the PKK. Ankara has also displayed its direct support for the militants by establishing camps, which shelter fleeing army officers and refugees. Allegations indicate that AKP has withdrawn its support for Assad because of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB). SMB has promised to adopt Turkish governance policies after assuming power. Turkey sees this indication as a good opportunity to perfect its relations with the country (Idrees 2011, pp. 87-99).
Though the ongoing revolts have negatively affected Turkey-Syria relations, Turkey still has a regional authority in the Middle East. Clearly, the conflict in Syria is having both positive and negative impact in Turkey’s association with states, both regionally and internationally. The revolts in the Middle East as well as the autocratic nature of the Arab potentates make it inappropriate to employ soft power. It is time Turkey in cooperation with foreign forces applied hard power, which was successful three decades ago, to oust the tyrants and restore peace in Syria.
Current situation between Turkey and Syria
The turning point and turnarounds (2010-2011)
One fails to understand how the two countries tend to behave before the world. Despite the success of Turkish government to introduce foreign policy over the last decade that meant to improve the coexistence between the two nations, nothing seems to change the perceptions held by Syrian leaders against Turkey. Using the policy of ‘zero problems’ that emerged during the early 2002 and late 2007, Turkey opened new markets and expanded its reach into the Middle East in a bid to promote peaceful coexistence between the neighbouring countries. Philips (2011) asserts, “By January 2007 a bilateral free trade agreement had come into force and in 2009 visa free movement of people was agreed” (p. 37). Nonetheless, Syria seems unshaken and no longer acknowledges the concerns made by the Turkish government. Throughout the year 2010, business and trade between Turkey, Syria, and other Middle East countries boomed, with Syria’s exports to Turkey rising from $187m in 2006 to $662m in the same year.
Lines of weaknesses between the two nations began becoming clear in March of the year 2011. Despite serious and numerous interventions by the Turkish government to restore peace and reconciliation between the two countries, with the latest effort being the cooperation in a bid to settle the water crisis, which entailed forming Cooperation Programme between the Syrian-Turkish Inter-Regional boundaries, the friendship continued facing challenges. The military cooperation between the two countries remained limited, though at this particular juncture the militia conducted joint training, with Turkey psychologically aiming at securing its southern border. The serving president of Syria, Bashar Assad continued playing cards and subsequently stressed foreign policy and concentrated on straining the diplomatic embargo with Turkey. Bashar Assad’s regime received a shock when national when unrest erupted in Syria in March 2011, a moment that marked the beginning of a new crisis between Syria and Turkey. Ba’athists at this moment employed a brutal crackdown against democracy activists, leading to 1000 deaths.
The real turning point for the Turkish-Syrian relations emerged again in August the 2011, as few months of peace moments. According to research conducted by Walker (2012), the stalemate began again when the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan sent his Foreign Minister and several other top officials to Damascus to engage in consultations with presidents Assad, when they made promises of cessation of violence reforms. The reforms and policies plus promises made did not last long when, they were subsequently broken. Following this, on November the same year, Erdoğan for the first time publicly ruled out Assad’s removal. Walker (2012) states, “On November 30, Davutoğlu (Turkeys foreign minister) announced a series of unilateral sanctions, ranging from freezing Syrian government assets and suspending loans to banning all military sales” (p. 2). During this moment, Turkey became the last to among NATO countries to impose sanctions on Syria, after a series of leniencies. This resulted to a fresh enmity between these nations.
Major considerable factors to Turkish-Syrian security Mayhems
Research has established several factors that have significantly attributed to the existing situation in the Turkish-Syrian relations, with some factors streaming from historical background, while others on recent issues. According to investigations undertaken by Taspınar (2012) reveals that the Turkish-Syrian conflict has several contributing factors that have continuously evolved and triggered conflict between the two countries. Despite the mutual interaction seen throughout some few decades, with Turkey adjusting their policies and allowing cooperation between the two main cities, Damascus and Ankara, nothing resulted into great difference to the relationship between the two nations. According to Walker (2012), Ankara’s foreign policy was of much imperativeness in improving the relationship between Turkey and Syria. Research has cited several reasons behind the existing civil war in Syria. Some of the renowned reasons behind the ongoing civil clashes in Syria include religious and ethnic parities, political differences and poor leadership as well as water issues and including issues pertaining the Arab springs.
Religious and ethnic parities
Religious and ethnic differences have been among major factors triggering civil wars and national unrests, almost in the entire world. Research studies undertaken by Montalvo and Reynal-Querol (2005) reveal that ethnic and religious differences have brought about increasing incidences of human-to human conflict and thus, it much publicised consequences are attracting international controversial debates and public awareness. Montalvo and Reynal-Querol (2005) posits, “Recently, economists have connected ethnic diversity with important economic phenomena like investment, growth or the quality of government” (p. 1). With this insight in mind, it is probable that the area affected by ethnic and religious differences have the likelihood of having poor economic growth, less investment as well as unstable government. For instance, some individuals coming from similar ethnic group may encounter restrictions towards trade, government revenues may favour specific ethnic clusters, and public infrastructure may have some ethnic biasness. In most scenario regions affected by such issues, face development challenges, leading economic instabilities.
In the context of Syrian conflict, ethnic disparities have contributed to certain extents to the prevailing Syrian civil crisis. The Centre for Security Studies (2012) notes that the composition of Syria is as following “64 per cent of Sunnis, 10 per cent of the Kurds, 12 per cent of the Alawis, Christians compose 10 per cent, the Druze make up 3 per cent while Ismailia make up the least with only 1 per cent” (p. 4). Since Syria started interacting with other countries, research has proven much on the extent of ethnic differences exiting in the country. Three most important groups can importantly give an insight into the prevailing ethnic disparities and religious biasness that Syria has witnessed for almost four decades now. According to Taspınar (2012), the Kemalist, neo- Ottomanism and the Gaullism culture can best explain ethnic grounds. These groups, which originated from AKP governance, have continuously differed on Turkey’s commitment to the Syrian conflict, with each of them possessing different notions.
The Syrian Alawites
Alawites, is a group of community that possess greater political influence on the Syrian Soil, with the current president Assad hailing from this community. Composing only 12 per cent of the ethnic-denominational composition of Syria and unknown figures in the Turkish soil have great influence on the political realm of the two nations. As Alawite seek power in the Syrian government, other tribes and religions have emerged to seek equity in government positions. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), the Asaad family are mainly members of the minority Alawite sect, who have dominated many government positions especially during the few years of Assad’s governance, an aspect that clearly portrays ethnic disparities with Assad’s regime. The Alawite community has its roots in Shiite Islam, who for several decades have associated themselves with criminal activities in some parts of Syria and globally, as well. Several Alawite elites have remained in power with most of the government positions in the military sector of Syria having extraordinary numbers of Alawites.
The Sunni elites
The Sunni ethnic group is the largest existing community in the current Syria. Despite their populace, the ethnic group has suffered alienation, with each successive political regime in Syria distancing from them. The Sunni have taken this mayhem of the underway Syrian civil crisis to avenge on the current government. As the unrest has shifted towards greater violence and confrontation, Sunni have decided to take a collective responsibility to team up and contribute the fight against Assad’s regime (Pollack et al. 2012). They have formulated a locally organised defence unit known as Sunni Arab resistance movement, which is currently battling out with the Assad’s military forces, having immediate goals of ending the Assad’s regime that has continuously assaulted their civil and human rights. Despite their surging population, the government does not recognise them and have once practiced injustices against the community in the 19th centuries. Currently, the group is feeling isolated and is struggling for power and autonomy in Syria.
The Sunni community has had political differences with the government. According to research undertaken by Clarke (2012), Sunnis are among the first community in Syria to start fighting against for democracy as earlier as 1970-80s, when the government decided to use force to separate the activists in 1980, causing massacre of thousands majorities from the Sunni Muslim community. During this moment, Saudi Arabia and America backed this community, as their archrivals, the Alawites and the Shiites consistently battled against them. According to Pollack et al. (2012), the Sunni fighters are currently working in closer ties with Syrian National Council (SNC) a serious rebel group that has vowed never to stop the war against Assad’s government. Given there majority populace in the Syrian soil the Sunni has become among the strongly locally organised anti-Assad community that has proven threatening to the government. The Sunni have vowed never to end the battle against Assad until his collapse.
Water and the Arab Spring
The Syrians and Turkish have consistently battled with the each other over the water issues with the Arab springs playing an apposite role in such crises. However, the war is not a communal issue, but rather a national matter where Syria and Turkey have many times locked horns within the issue of the ‘Arab springs.’ Ankara was greatly involved in the battle for these springs as each country claiming its belonging. Evidence provided by Centre for Security Studies (2012) highlighted that these springs have a potion in the ongoing Syrian crisis, despite allegations that Assad’s poor political strategies are the probable contributor of the Syrian protest movement. The Arab spring is also a contemporary issue that has possible contribution on the ongoing fracas between the Syrian government and the Turkish side. However, sources have shown limited impact of Arab Springs as a contributor to the underway crisis in Syria and its regional borders.
The Kemalist tradition regime
The Kemalist group or rather the Kemalist tradition based on the ethnic ideology of the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which prevailed during the 19th century. Kemalist and the other two groups have demonstrated considerable different diplomatic ideologies, which have been in the forefront in determining how Turkey associates with Syria. The Kemalist group emerged with their tradition of Kemalism, which distinguished itself from others through its activism, multiculturalism, and its rebalanced relations with the West and Islamic world. Turkey at this moment remained reluctant to engage in Syrian civil crisis, following the ideologies used by Kemalist. The group that is Kemalist seemed to differ most with Neo-Ottomanism group, with each of them possessing different opinions. Taspınar (2012) affirms, “Where Neo-Ottomanism favours an ambitious regional policy in the Middle East and beyond, Kemalism opts for modesty, caution, and non-involvement in the Arab world” (p.130). Kemalist generally preferred military secularist measures while dealing with the Islam and the Kurdish ethnic group based on assimilators of vis-à-vis.
Contrary to Neo-Ottomanism who advocated for the EU membership and good relations with cities like Washington, Kemalist group portrayed negative perception and become consistently resentful of the European Union. During this moment, the AKP government in Turkey considerably advocated for more pro-EU legal reforms in its effort to enhance Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy dynamics. Kemalist never had a good time with the government at that moment. Now, Turkey had managed to convince most of its citizens who are mainly Muslims into cooperating with the EU. Research then revealed that most of the Muslims followed the Islamist party towards advocating for Turkeys EU membership, as Kemalist opposition remained very sceptical. Taspınar (2012) asserts, “Kemalist elites were now increasingly anti-European while former Islamists appeared in favour of pro-EU reforms” (p. 131). This resulted into inter-religious war after Kemalist foreign policy continued on confronting the threat to Kurdish separatism.
Neo-Ottomanism has differed somehow with the policies held by Kemalist on the interaction of Turkey with their fellow Arabic counter parts as well as its engagement with the European nations. The controversies between the two groups have put Turkey on dilemma, not understanding weather to interact with the EU nations or to form better friendship ties with the Arabs states including the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA). According to Taspınar (2012), Neo-Ottomanism favours getting into ambitious regional policy with the Middle East and beyond, as Kemalism prefers humility, caution, and non-involvement in the Arab world. Kemalist have been hardliners since they emerged in Turkey, while having some relative favours in the Kurdish groups. Another important parity is that Neo-Ottomanism favours multiculturalism and better secularism, as Kemalist militantly secularist measures against Islamists in Turkish politics and assimilation approach on the Kurdish ethnic identity. Lastly, Neo-Ottomanism favours pursuing the EU membership as Kemalism have a passionate hatred against the EU and the United States.
Proponents of Bashar Al-Asaad regime and the poll ordeal
For one to understand where the rolling point of the ongoing civil war in Syria anchors there is a need to investigate the origin of the two forces that cause attrition. President Assad has his promoters who have stood firm with him and proposed him to remain in power. According to evidence produced by studies conducted by Sharp and Blanchard (2012), despite several callings from both regional and international boundaries for Assad to step down, some groups still support his ruling, something that has caused abrasion. President Assad got the presidency without opposition as a candidate of the ruling Baath party following the demise of his dad, Hafez al-Assad in 2000. He ruled using Baath party until 2007. In the year 2011, Asaad used what people called “China-style” of reform strategies, promoting several economic liberalisations with other neighbouring nations while offering unstable political reforms and started cracking down all outspoken oppositions. Assad started ruling using ethnic grounds as he received substantial support from Alawite community, with most key positions in the security sector dominated by the Alawites.
President Assad raised the formal state of emergency that existed a way back in 1963, principally with the aim of restraining domestic disputes that disagreed with the government. Due to this moment, tension started rising as Syrians and external observers’ deviated from this approach terming it autocratic. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), “in the wake of the decision, the regime continued and expanded the raids, arrests, and detentions that had been common under the emergency rules, leading to criticism that the move was cynically designed to weaken public pressure” (p. 22). In a bid to oppose President Assad’s continuity, the opponents voted for a new constitution in February 2012, through a referendum that saw majority accepting the constitution, but opposition heavily denounced the referendum exercise, as it only limited president’s service for a maximum of two terms of seven years each. The opposition disputed this since it still favoured President Assad, who was still fresh to serve for more terms in the government.
The new constitution provided the grounds for fresh elections in May 2012, with most opposition groups and figures boycotting the elections, providing a chance for Baath Party and its National Unity List to increase their electorate power over opposition. Due to this, President Assad clinched the presidential seat again with majority votes from his supporters. Being most of the Alawite community supported President Assad; he won the presidency with over 94%, a step that rose fury in opposition. Protestors decided to revolt against the election results as the government decided to use armed force against protestors, civilian on the opposition and armed opposition groups who demanded further reforms beyond the current reforms. Sharp and Blanchard (2012) state “The protestors dubbed that movement as “the ouster of Asaad and a comprehensive transition to a new political order” (p. 23). Assad family and the Alawite elites have been under pressure from military commands to resume their support to Assad.
The Alawite community
Despite grievances demonstrated by fellow Syrians, the Alawite community has shown very little concern on the prevailing situation. President Assad has demonstrated power over the community and promised to support them economically if they offer maximum support to the current regime. The Alawite community has shown great collaboration with the government including collaborating with the Assad family in the fourth division and the Republican Guards, with Alawite making their own militias like the Shabiha, which has been in numerous time caught terrorising neighbourhoods across Syrian cities (Clarke 2012). Most cities affected by the Alawite militia according to Clarks report include Deraa, Homs, Aleppo, and the suburbs of Damascus. Despite some soldiers becoming ready to down their tools for negotiation, the Alawite have remained resilient. Clarke (2012) postulates, “The general (referring to head of army) reportedly negotiated an agreement with the rebels to have each side step back, but was overruled by Alawite figures and was squeezed out of office and denied further promotion” (p. 31).
Opponents to the Assad’s regime
Majority of the anti-Alawites community are totally against the incumbent president Assad’s government. Adversaries of the Assad’s regime mainly compose of several anti-Assad activists, armed rebels, and civilians opposing the governance tactics used by the government of Assad. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), Syrian opposition groups have grown more organised in the recent past with much support coming from external observers who have disagreed with the Assad’s government since the beginning of 2011. Nonetheless, a mixture of perceptions against the opposition is eminent in other studies, with studies conducted by Clarke (2012), revealing that opposition groups have consistently portrayed lack of unity and are normally competitive towards each other. However, one can conclude on the fact that there are several anti-Assad protestors in the country, each having either similar goal of dismissing Assad in power, or having contrary opinions on the current governance. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), there are about three different rebel groups.
In realising the weaknesses in the opposition groups, other nations have identified that this might be the reason behind their failures in battling with Assad’s armed forces. Great nations and states have consistently called for unity among the opposition groups urging them to team up. According to Chatham House (2012), the UK and the U.S. are currently focusing their individual efforts on political support to the Assad’s opposition groups, “calling for the SNC and other opposition groups to form a coalition and engage in dialogue in order to develop a common vision and a transition plan” (p. 11). Amongst nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey is among the nations that have teamed up with other nations based on similar democratic ideologies. Report compiled by the UN intelligence team reveals that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided large consignments of arms ammunitions through Lebanese government to support both the SNC and the FSA in the battle against Assad’s loyal military.
The Syrian National Council (SNC)
This group is amid the strongest anti-Assad rebel group, which have consistently demonstrated unwillingness to cooperate with Assad’s government. The group formally originated from Turkey, with its composure developing gradually from the Turkish side. The group officially emerged in October 2011 and aimed at bringing together an array of mostly exterior activists that principally consisted of members from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, intellectuals, independent organs, and secular elites (Sharp and Blanchard 2012). This council constitutes a general body made up of about 310 individuals and a strong executive committee composed of eight individuals. The international community has undergone frustrations with internal clashes, with few members of the communist group fighting for democratic change with SNC. This has affected its ability to attract more members from minority groups including Christians, Kurds, and the Alawites. However, unlike other opposition groups SNC has willingly been advocating for international military intervention in the crisis. This group has resisted changing the movement into armed struggle, endorsing no-fly zone to collaborate with Free Syrian Army.
The Syrian National Council like other opposition units in Syria is gradually receiving substantial support from both internal and external actors in the current Syrian civil crisis. However, other credible investigations have posited that the decisions reached by Syrian allies to officially recognise and support the SNC and offer humanitarian support appears to provide very little panorama of the instant action against Assad’s commencing clearout (Walker 2012). Turkey has been linking closely with supporting this group financially, while calling for more diplomacy while simultaneously campaigning for Assad’s removal in power as well as assisting in regional pressure. Naftalin and Harpviken (2012) postulate that both the SNC and the FSA undertake their nominations in Turkey, with its fighters curved out across Northern Syria, which is contagious with the Turkish territories. Initially, Turkey remained reluctant to assist the oppositions including SNC but gradually started engaging with them after other nations vowed to support the oppositions.
The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB)
This group is also part of opposition members, who are against Bashar’s regime, with legendary history of fighting for democracy in Syria. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), the group emerged in the summer of 2011, and comprises of members from the Syrian-based alliance of leftist groups including individuals associated with the Damascus Declaration group on political reforms of 2005 and the Kurdish activist. This group of activists has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with the Assad’s government under the condition that the government must end the excessive use of force against innocent civilians. Just as explained earlier that there is division, lack of cohesive cooperation between the opposition groups, SNC has continuously criticised NCB, for taking such positions, and repeated efforts to collaborate with each other have severally failed. The NCB group has been playing a critical role in the ongoing war since it has invested in intensive communication with other important actors in Syrian war including Russia.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA)
Within the context of Syrian civil war, it might sound awkward to avoid mentioning the Free Syrian Army. The FSA is an opposition group that has also emerged to express its discontentment with the incumbent Assad’s government. It is amid the weakest group of opposition in Syria, which is currently operating in Turkey. Sharp and Blanchard (2012) assert, “The FSA consists of lightly armed, dissident military personnel and officers who have defected and are targeting government security forces in armed attacks” (p. 25). In some cases, the FSA also represents a broader coalition of locally organised fighters who have volunteered themselves, seeking to connect with other national opposition movement, but have persistently lacked intelligence, logistics, and integrated command structure. Until now, the FSA has been financing their group locally, with fighters purchasing small arms and ammunitions on the illegal market. The FSA is currently under the leadership of former colonel of the Syrian Air Force, Riyad who does not relate with the Assad’s family.
Threats of Syrian Civil War to Turkish National Security
The historical and the ongoing Syrian crises remain a threat to the neighbouring countries. Turkey has been, and may remain a victim of the wars commencing in Syria. The relationship between Syria and Turkey much depends on the existing situation in Turkey as history reveals that the two countries have had differences on the ongoing civil crisis in Syria. The ongoing civil crisis in Syria that involves the current Syrian government under the leadership of Assad and the rebels popularly known as the Free Syria Army (FSA), has shown chances of occurrence of insecurity challenges in the neighbouring countries. According to Centre for Security Studies (2012), “Turkey’s security situation has rapidly deteriorated due to the conflict…Ankara fears the collapse of Syria’s state structures and the emergence of a failed state along its southern border, with the attendant risk of a destabilisation of Lebanon and Iraq” (p. 4). Therefore, the current turnarounds of these wars pose a threat to Turkey’s security through their frequent aid to Syria.
Overview on the current scenario
Of latest, as history reveals that Turkey has had close ties with Syria including cooperating in international trade and businesses, offering equal opportunities for both citizens to interact freely between Ankara and Damascus, much reveals shaken Turkey’s security. According to current studies covering the impact of Syrian civil war on other neighbouring countries as well as the globe, Turkey seems to be in greater danger of insecurity due to its close relationship with Syria. Generally, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been pushing Turkey closer to Muslim nations at the expense of historical relations with the US, Europe and Israel (Phillips 2011). According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), as civil war intensifies in much of the 2011 and 2012, Syria has witnessed an increased tension and violence, as the incumbent president Assad has refused negotiations and opted using of military force against protestors and armed opposition groups. Initially, violence persisted in certain locations, but currently has affected most parts of Damascus and Aleppo.
In mentioning Aleppo as one of the Syrian capitals where the crisis has intensified, as rebels increasingly target the region, Turkey is much at risk of war consequences in Aleppo. According to Philips (2011), “Turkey has invested a considerable amount on infrastructural projects in Syria, particularly around the northern city of Aleppo” (p. 37), and this aspect remains the hitting point for rebels with several factors alleviating the intensification of attacks in this region. Davutoglu’s ‘zero problems’ strategy between Turkey and Syria primarily aimed at finding new markets for Turkey’s expanding economy, which saw Turkey’s Ankara city invest about $6.3 million to sponsor about 42 cooperative projects, as one of the new Syrian-Turkish Inter-Regional Cooperation Programme that began operating in 2011. Philips (2011) asserts that in Syria, “Turkish companies have built much-needed infrastructure, such as cement plants and hotels, and boosted the oil and tourism industry” (p. 38). As the Turkish relationship with Syria providing an entryway into the Arab world, Turkey remains at risk.
Geographically, Aleppo provides the closest point of interaction between Syria and Turkey, with several citizens of Turkey engaging in business and trade with Syrians. Currently war in Aleppo has intensified more than any other town or state in Syria. Despite members of different elites seeking concession with the opposition and rebels, the government has remained firm, with members from top regime responding with dissent towards the opposition. As war intensifies, innocent civilians have continuously suffered from defections and torture from the Syrian government and rebels armed forces, with strong business elites resuming with their normal operations. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), the government has remained unchanged in its tactics with dealing with the rebels as Syria suffers from international sanctions and disruptions of the conflict that have resulted in economical and social hardships towards ordinary Syrian. President Assad has refused to leave power, and continued to argue that opposition violence and abuses are hampering negotiation deals.
Discussing much about Syria would probably not give the possible insight into the current scenario, especially in relationship with Turkey. The unrest witnessed in Syria has forced Turkey as neighbours to Syria to intervene, in order to assist civilian suffering from the augmenting crisis. Just as demonstrated, the impact of the prevailing war is between Assad’s government and the protestors who originated from “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) group and other oppositions. In a bid to find possible solutions to assist civilians, Turkey has provided refuge, food and other amenities to Syrians refugees whose numbers are increasingly causing alarm to the Turkish security. UN Statics extracted by Sharp and Blanchard (2012) reveal, “As of August 15, 155,226 refugees have registered with the United Nations (U.N.) in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, and up to 1 million Syrians may be internally displaced” (p.3). Nonetheless, fighters from rebels and protestors forming an opposition in Syria have been seeking hiding positions in Turkey as they retaliate against the Syrian government.
As Syrian opposition’s political wrangles persist, the resilience and techniques of fighting possessed by Syrian security forces are becoming more apparent. The Centre for Security Studies (2012) affirms, “From Turkey’s point of view, a drawn-out civil war in Syria thus constitutes a fundamental threat to its national security and regional standing” (p. 4). Rebellions against the Assad’s regime are now getting to its second year as more Syrians nationalists continue becoming refugees in the neighbouring countries. Foreign fighters and insurgents have found Syrian crisis as the region to set their attacks, with violent extremist groups assertively signifying their presence in Syria (Centre for Security Studies 2012). Several factors reveal that Turkey’s involvement with the ongoing Syrian civil crisis has possible ramifications on Turkey’s security including suffering attacks from rebels, suffering attacks from dangerous militia groups, insecurity from increasing refugees, facing international sanctions, exposed to chemical weapons, insecurity to Turkey’s nationalists, as well as economic insecurity in Turkey.
Turkey at risk of attacks from Syrian rebels
Rebels have consistently vowed that nations proving supportive to Assad’s regime, be it indirectly or directly in terms of finance, militia force or even in others resources, are attracting warfare amongst themselves. Assad on the other hand has remained autocratic and threatened to support the Kurdish conflict in Turkey in a bid to curb Turkey’s interference. Despite the Turkey’s government publicly announcing that, there involvement in Syrian crisis is to assist the innocent civilians; President Assad has termed this move as “interference”. The Centre for Security Studies (2012) postulates, “Turkey’s security situation has rapidly deteriorated due to the conflict” (p. 4). The capital of Turkey, Ankara fears that rebels, foreign fighters, and other groups protecting against Assad regime might in turn attack the city to subdue Assad’s possible support. According to the Centre for Security Studies (2012), Sunni business elites who interact mostly with towns and cities within Turkey are among the rebels target within commercial capital of Aleppo.
Rebels and protestors in Syria have identified different techniques to hit the Syrian armed forces who have remained loyal to President Assad, including approaches, which directly or indirectly affect civilians. According to the Centre for Security Studies (2012), “some rebels believe that by recasting the conflict as a sectarian antagonism between the Sunni majority and pro-regime minorities – which include not only Alawites, but also Christians, Ismailia, and Druze – they can accelerate the disintegration of the armed forces” (p. 2). Since external forces have hampered the war attrition commencing in Syria, western countries including Turkey have furthers triggered violence in Syria. The contribution of such countries has exacerbate lack of unity within the opposition, an evidence that shows that Turkey, being the closest state with Syria, rebels might avenge on Turkey to reduce Assad’s autonomy which comes from support offered by these nations. Research reveals that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Libya are external actors in the Syrian conflict, which have also supported respective opposition groups based on the merits of close ideological perspectives with the oppositions.
Turkey is current at stake with opposition closely watching its movement and support against the Syrian government. According to report documented by Centre for Security Studies (2012), the rebels with the FSA as their popular acronym have been staging, residing and operating in Turkey as most of them, remain fragmented. Empirical and literal evidence reveal that the FSA has camped at Turkey and has recently been operating from this region, nominally in charge of rebels military strategies that aim at fighting Assad’s loyal armed forces. This aspect might reflect the previous enmity, when the long serving president Hafez, who served from 1970-2000 decided to support the worst Turkey’s enemies, the PKK, by providing them with training camps, with the city of Damascus being Ankara’s suspect for the support. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has now unified and established camps in the Southern part of Turkey, putting Turkey at risk of militia attacks, and other consequences that may result from oppositions camping in Turkey.
As mentioned, the southern part of Turkey, which borders Syria through Aleppo is at much higher risk of attacks from both anti-rebels supporting Assad’s regime as well as Assad’s government supporters including most of the Syrian armed forces. According to report documented by Chatham House (2012) affirms, “The Turkish authorities face the most immediate challenges in managing the growing conflict on the country’s southern border” (p. 22). This region is the closest to the Syrian border near Aleppo where the two rivalry sides have found comfortable to stage their attacks. Due to their presence in Turkey, the FSA rebels have threatened to hit Turkey in case of any commitment towards assisting Assad’s government, of which they are aiming in their opposition and attacks. With the increasing numbers of rebels in Turkey, the local authorities have found it difficult to offer maximum security to the Turkey’s nationalists, whose exposure to the FSA is triggering tension and confusion amongst them.
Suffering attacks from dangerous militia groups
The prevailing civil war in Syria as postulated before has invited attacks from foreign fighters, activists and a range of unknown militia hibernating in Syria, with mixed reactions against the political opposition. Almost all opposition groups in Syria have demonstrated the willingness to unite with other dangerous militia including Al Qaeda and other extremisms. Intelligence investigation reports documented by the U.S officials have shown possibilities of opening opportunities for Al Qaeda operatives and other violent Islamist extremists to penetrate through Syria and set attacks (Taspınar 2012). As war intensifies and attacks planned by these militias persist, there are possibilities that may not only operate in Syria but also find their way into Turkey being the closest country within Syrian borders, as well as a great actor in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Research has already noticed insurgence by terror groups in the Southern part of Turkey, where civil war has strengthened, with Sunni extremists posing a threat to Turkey’s national security.
Giving an example of Sunni extremists does not exclude others, though this group of insurgents has publicly demonstrated their morale in the war. Sharp and Blanchard (2012) affirm, “As of July 2012, Sunni extremist groups appear to be increasingly active in Syria, and some observers and officials fear that more groups may be sympathetic to or directly affiliated with Al Qaeda” (p. 7). The group is not likely to spare Turkey as it forms part of the Syrian border as well as sharing the civil war menace itself. Other groups of terror militia prominent in the Syrian crisis include Nusra Front (popularly alias as (Jabhat al Nusra li-Ahl al Sham), the
Ummah Brigade (Liwa al Umma), Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Islam Brigade (Liwa al Islam), are also interactively participating in Syrian crisis. The Turkish security has found if difficult to control its borders especially in the Southern Turkey, where borders have become porous due to the prevailing condition.
There is great evidence of involvement of the Al Qaeda group and other militia in the Syrian civil war. Through intelligence coordination, much investigation by intelligence officers from neighbouring countries including Russia, Iraq Turkey and as far as from the United States have documented report on their investigations revealing considerably high possibility of Al Qaeda supporting rebels in Syria. According to their reports, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has of late released statements in the year 2012 calling for support to the Syrian fighters. As this reality dawns on Turkey, the border police in charge of Turkish security at their boundaries have lynched several hiding points for the militia, who could possibly sneak into turkey. Generally, the civil conflict in Syria has provoked international intention, with Turkish support seemingly becoming questionable. The increasing insurgents and war along the Turkish Syrian borders is highlighting the danger that Turkey is likely to face if militia group decides to attack this nation.
Insecurity from the increasing refugee’s populace
Since the eruption of civil crisis in Syria, Turkey is almost the only country that has refused to withdraw its support to Syrian, providing thousands of Syrian refugees with asylum. Due to the humble support offered to the Syrian refugees by the Turkish government, most of the expatriates are finding possible refuge in Turkey to escape the flaming war that has persisted in Syria. Efforts by other nations in aiding in the Syrian crisis are of course important to consider. Several international organisations including the United Nations, NATO, and the Arab League have proved helpful in providing Syrians with financial aid (Sharp and Blanchard 2012). The funds have so far, only managed to provide Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) or even contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities in Syria, with few organisations providing taskforce to help in the peace keeping mission. However, Turkey is probably the only nation that has been providing Syrian refugees with refuge and security.
Several nations have commended the Government of Turkey and its leadership in calling for the end of violence in Syria and its responsiveness to humanitarian aid of refugees from Syria. However, the augmenting number of refugees currently tallying at about a hundred and fifty thousand is causing alarm in the Turkish governance as it has become difficult to distinguish between real refugees, illegal immigrants, and insurgents. According to Naftalin and Harpviken (2012), the existing situation in Syria that has forced some Syrians to become immigrants and refugees in Turkey, a situation that has in turn pushed Turkey to intensify its security within the borders. Naftalin and Harpviken (2012) affirm, “Turkey’s refugee camps are not the exclusive preserve of civilians and are increasingly utilised by groups intent on overthrowing the current regime in Damascus” (p. 1). This aspect precisely means that the Turkish borders can no longer prevent intruding of security from rebels and even terror groups who use Turkey as their hiding place.
Research has outlined several ways in which the increasing numbers of Syrian refugees are posing great security danger in the Turkish government. The FSA, as mentioned earlier in this report, a communist rebel group that erupted to challenge Assad’s governance, has been freely interacting with the refugees in the Turkish grounds. According to investigations conducted by Naftalin and Harpviken (2012), there is considerably high direct and voluntary recruitment of refugees into the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which are also used as logistic, organisational, and coordination centres by the elements of the FSA rebels and its affiliated supporters as well as convalescence zone for the rebels. Refugees have also been joining the FSA from their own willingness following the consistent interaction with the FSA. Refugee’s campsites are now no longer aiding grounds for homeless by quarters for rebels, a situation that highly risks the Turkish security in its own home. Turkey has also been willing to hide rebels a situation that creates tension.
The three activities mentioned above are unfolding parallel to each other. Despite their efforts in assisting refugees acquire asylum, observations made by intellectuals reveal that Turkey is condoning the activities along its southern border and sources reveal that the Turkish government is actively promoting them. The FSA armed protestors are among the target for Assad’s government troops with research linking their presence in Turkey with some attacks witnessed in the southern part Turkey. Refugee camps in the southern part of Turkey have now been engaging with militia and Syrian oppositions groups against Assad’s regime, making it difficult for the security personnel in Turkey between civilians and terror men. Naftalin and Harpviken (2012) assert, “As evidenced by activities in Turkey, the conflation of rebel and refugee space continues to defy humanitarian and legal norms” (p. 1). The UN Security meetings conducted on Syria revealed that this interaction has been hampering humanitarian aid, with Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian conflict remaining in question.
Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian conflict might seem wicked as the interaction between Free Syrian Soldiers and the Turkish government intensifies. The increasing population of the Syrian refugees has hampered the government’s efforts in providing their citizens with maximum security including threatening the securities at Turkey’s capital Ankara. Refugees have now become familiar with all parts of Turkey, with others finding their way into the city of Ankara, something that poses a danger to the Turkish securities. Rebel groups interacting with refugees, who are simply civilians from Syria is causing a legal humanitarian and logistical quandary for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office and officials operating in Turkey, and the UN whose primary objective is to protect refugee’s rights during their peace keeping mission. Following the humanitarian principles and international laws regarding refugees, Turkey is not providing refugees with adequate security as it has continuously allowed rebels from Free Syrian Soldiers and other Syrian fighters to interact freely.
Exposure to chemical and biological weapons
Perhaps the most terrifying thing to the Turkish national security regarding the existing Syrian civil war is their exposure and worriers of facing serious attacks from Syria, who are great manufactures of chemical and biological weapons. Since time immemorial, nations have feared Syria due to its ability to manufacture heavily toxic arsenal. The ongoing Syrian civil war and the presence of terror groups in Syria and parts of Turkey are posing a danger since chemical and biological weapons produced by Syria may reach into the hands of international terrorists (Clarke 2012). At this end, insecurity issue will no longer be Syrian- Turkish issue, but a global security menace. According to Clarke (2012), “the US officially stated in 2002 that Syria has a long-standing chemical warfare program, first developed in the 1970s…and may be trying to develop advanced nerve agents as well” (p. 20). Turkish, Arab, and Western intelligence agencies have estimated 1000 tonnes stockpile of chemical weapons manufactured by Syria, and stored in over 50 cities in Syria.
Israel is among the countries with highly intelligent detectives, who have continuously warned other nations to be extremely careful while interacting with Syria. Public statements by the Defence Ministry of Israel has highlighted and accumulation of the largest stocks of chemical weapons (CW) across the world, with Syria greatly contributing to its manufacturing (Clarke 2012). The world, especially world super powers including the U.S have been cautious about the battle on chemical weapon. For years, Syria is one of the countries that the world has been fighting against Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Chatham House (2012) asserts, “Syria is widely believed to have developed and deployed chemical weapons including blister and nerve agents” (p. 15). The Assad regime has been on frequent blames by the UN intelligent agencies and other humanitarian organisations for an inherent tendency in the employment of chemical weapons. Turkish involvement in the Syrian crisis, which Assad terms as interference may result in an increase in the war that may lead to release of chemical weapons by Syria, which will in turn become dangerous to the Turkish security.
Syria has refused to sign any chemical weapon treaty including the global Chemical Weapon Convection (CWC) or even acknowledging the existing Biological and Toxin Weapons Convection. The two organisations normally aim at curbing or rather protecting populations against harmful weapons. In a bid to defend itself of this scenario, the Syrian government persistently claimed that chemical weapons are part of Arab states strategy against regimes, with conditions that they will only sign these convections if Israel joins them in signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Clarke 2012). The Assad government is in itself in hatred with several western countries including Israel, with ethnic bias becoming the greatest reflection to this relationship.
The current Syrian crisis has proven strong with non of the states especially countries in the European Union is willing to intervene, possibly fearing the threats posed by Syrian Assad’s government against nations interfering with the ongoing conflict. International efforts in curbing manufacturing, the use, and distribution of chemical weapons have continuously been futile in Syria, as it poses threats to nations revolting against its weapon production. According to report by Chatham House (2012), Turkey stands a better chance of controlling the release of chemical weapons as sources have linked it with humanitarian aid in Syria. However, Turkey has consistently maintained that protecting civilians is the UN’s obligation not for the Turkish government. Engagement of Turkey further into matters affecting the Syrian government are putting it at risk of chemical weapon attacks, and the fading away enmity that persisted in decades ago might further erupt. Syria has been providing Islamist fighters who support the government with weapons and there are possibilities of providing them with chemical weapons.
Given its connectivity with the Free Syrian Soldiers, Turkeys is currently at risk of facing attacks from Syria, with President Assad being a great fan of chemical weapon attacking techniques, popularly known as ‘Halabja-style’ in Syria. Turkey has been offering refuge to about 50,000 refugees who have been fleeing from the ongoing crisis. Apart from offering refugees with abodes, Turkey seems rebellious on Syrian government headed by Assad, in that its support towards the FSA opposition fighters has involved providing them with weapons and training grounds (Chatham House 2012). Bashar al-Assad on the other hand has been closely contacting the long-term Turkey’s rivalry group PKK. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party
(PYD) is currently controlling most of the northern Syrian towns and sources reveal that is now in close ties with the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) with has historically been attacking Turkish forces in the southeastern parts. This aspect clearly shows that Syria might be revenge mission.
Facing international sanctions
Since its engagement with civil war issues affecting Syria, the relationship between Turkey and other nations is currently on the verge of collapse. An international harmony between nations is normally an imperative aspect, considering the political and socio-economic challenges the current world poses towards national governance. Prior and current studies conducted to oversee the relationship between Turkey and Syria has had several controversies in the latest days. Despite the fact that AKP has consistently argued that their relationship is specifically aiming to provide humanitarian aid to the surging population of refugees from Syrian, other nations have remained doubtful about their statements. According to Philips (2011), President Assad appeared in the government as a powerful person who promised both political and economic reforms, a vision that changed dramatically, for people of Syria to continue believing. The Turkish-Syrian relationship is making other countries uneasy about the two countries, as Turkey remains firm that it is assisting the Syrian civilians.
Following the doubts held by other nations against Turkey’s relationship with Syria, several intelligence officers from other nations including powerful states are now residing in Turkey carrying out intellectual security investigations. Research has revealed several screenings are underway to ensure that Turkey does not possess any dangerous weapons, which might have originated from Syria. Turkey was the first target in signing the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and the 1925 Geneva Protocol that aimed at forbidding the use of poisonous, asphyxiating, and other gases (Chatham House 2012). Global news is indicative that Turkey, among other several nations has consistently undergone military contingency and plans have always been underway to curb such vices. The latest global military reports provided by the UN have revealed that such unforeseen circumstances in the military sections are likely to provoke nations to introduce other dangerous fighting techniques, with Turkey getting closer to toxic weapons following its current close relations with Syria.
For its own merit however, Turkey has been using Syria as a gateway into the Arab nations, a fact that research has in numerous years, indicated that Turkey has been considerably linking with Syria for its economic benefits. Despite making several strides towards ensuring good governance in Syria, to the extent of supporting the FSA rebels with financial, equipment and abode to stage attacks against the Syrian government, the Turkish side has been playing safe cards. The government of Turkey is currently in dilemma, not sure whether to continue supporting the anti-Assad rebels or take diplomatic stance towards the prevailing civil crisis in Syria. According to the Centre for Security Studies (2012), the Turkish neighbourhood policy of “zero problems” that aimed at improving the development relationship between Turkey and Syria has deteriorated since the emergence of the civil crisis in the year 2011. This aspect worries Turkey most as it had invested a considerable amount of finance in developing trade and business hubs in Aleppo.
Turkey is also in dilemmatic situation not understanding if its support to the rebels or its support to the civilians belonging to the Assad’s government may kill the rapport between the nation and other countries. This element simply makes Turkey insecurely challenged. The peaceful coexistence and cooperation that existed between Turkey and other European nations before the breakout of the Syrian crisis is gradually emaciating with research demonstrating surged questioning and intelligence measures on Turkey. Walker (2012) postulates, “the breakdown in Syrian-Turkish relations is having a severely negative effect on Turkey’s regional prestige” (p. 4). The prestige in this context refers to the democratic homage given to the Turkish government following the recent governance and progressed economic relation with the Syrian government. Countries that sided with sided with the Turkish government over its appraisal in ensuring economic progress and peaceful cohesion between the two neighbouring countries have now become reluctant towards Turkish democratic supportive bid in Syria.
By engaging itself in the civil war experienced in Syria, Turkey is currently riding on its toes, with its security facing tough challenges in fears that it may suffer from international sanction. International organs responsible for providing global security including famous UN agencies are supportive, though remains cautious about Turkeys bid to restore peace and sanity in Syria. Turkey’s troops are currently interacting with the SNC and the FSA rebel soldiers, a step that Turkey took without consultation with any international organ (Walker 2012). International bodies situated in Turkey have seriously warned Turkey’s army over their direct confrontation with Assad’s troops in Aleppo and other towns in Syria, a situation that may result into fresh stalemate between the two nations. A strong statement given by the UN peace agencies warned that Turkey’s movement into Syrian combating deal set by Assad’s opposition, with the UN approval might likely cause problems to the humble city of Ankara.
Turkey’s relationship with the European nations is gradually dwindling, as countries in the Middle East and North Africa are impressed with their decision in joining them. This element actually puts Turkey at higher risk of sanction as well as facing consequences of its decisions in times of regional differences with these countries. AKP being an Islamic affiliated government has continuously preferred working with Arabic and Middle East countries than coordinating with the European states, with the Kemalist group consistently showed discontentment in any efforts made by Turkish government to embrace the EU (Taspınar 2012). It was only after bold steps by democratic leaders of AKP that motivated the nation into accepting negotiations between Turkey and the European Union that took place in the year 2005, a stem that has had very little impact on the current Turkey. On understanding the aim of Turkey with the Middle East countries, as it continuously interacted with Syria, some European Nations have vowed never to intervene in case of a clash between them.
Raising of Turkish Rivals
The frequent involvement of Turkish troops and its government in civil woes consuming the Syrian nation is putting this nation at high security risks. Analysts of Turkey’s security system have feared that Turkey’s engagement in the Syrian civil war as the main nation with bold support towards Assad’s rebels may negatively affect the Turkish security sector. The government of Turkey as explained earlier suffered from civil war as well as confrontation with other nations. Despite there frequent support to rebels against Assad’s government, Turkey also fears that this move might lead to a fresh impasse between the historical rivals of the Turkish PKK and others. History reveal that the outbreak of war between the Kurdish PKK party and the Turkish government was a plan motivated by Damascus. Russian, being in strong support of the incumbent Syrian government may collaborate with Assad to launch attacks against Turkey, a case that may be quite detrimental to the flourishing government in Turkey.
The Turkey’s research system has undertaken an investigation and demonstrated that Turkey in near future might lock horns with their traditional rivals motivated by Assad in a bid to carry out revenge on the Turkish government. Syria’s support for the separatist Kurdish PKK terrorists greatly affected the economical and political stability of the Turkish government in the early days, something that the Turkish government would never wish to occur again. Despite several warning buy other Turkish friend nations on the possibility of the awakening of the PKK, Turkey has broadly dismissed such notions calling them negative stereotypes ridiculed by certain villains. Taspınar (2012) postulates, “the fear that Assad might use the Kurdish card against Turkey by helping the PKK, and the emphasis on international law, multilateralism, and international legitimacy before taking any action, are vintage Kemalism” (p.138). This assertion simply means that the current Turkish government does not acknowledge the presence of the PKK as a strong group as they faded away with the Kemalist epoch.
However, the truth remains that there are considerably high possibilities of occurrence of the PKK attacks if rejuvenated by the Assad’s government as a way of retaliating against what Assad terms as Turkish interference. Latest investigative reports undertaken by Naftalin and Harpviken (2012) have shown traces of fresh awakening of the PKK rebels, who terrorised Turkey a way back in 19th century and some years in the 20th century. The recap of the terror events that took over the Turkish nation is actively threatening the government with its memories still dark. Investigations by Naftalin and Harpviken reveal, “The summer (referring to the current moment of Syrian crisis), also brought a corresponding and dramatic upsurge in violence between the Turkish military and the country’s own rebels, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)” (2012, p. 2). However, the Kurdish appraisal deal sponsored by against the Turkish government remains unnoticed, under-reported, and under-analysed, given the upsurge of rebellious activities in Syria, with Turkey playing key roles.
Similar investigations by other researchers, security intelligences, and political science analysts are portraying significant realities over the uprising of the ancient PKK regime. Research conducted by Chatham House (2012) reveals that the Turkish Minster of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has hinted on the PKK movement and in his statement, without mentioning PKK, postulated, “We will not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria and threaten Turkey” (p. 22). Despite the frozen approach of the PKK, there are possibilities of PKK teaming up with Assad’s Alawite fighters who have remained loyal to the current president Assad in fighting the Turkish government. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party
(PYD) as explained earlier has been making constant meetings with their fellow members of the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) over a possible deal to collaborate and support Assad’s government troops in the underway Syrian civil crisis. Currently in July 2012, the Turkish prime Minister notified the securities in Turkey and warned them to remain vigilant on the PKK movement.
Turkey is nonetheless unsecured from its enemies of 19th centuries, Russia who promised not to engage in any deals with the Turkish government after noticing their growing relationship with Israel, a long time enemy with Russia. Despite taking zero public stance on whether President Assad should continue governing or expelled from government, Israel knows much about the secret deal held by Syrian intelligence team about the production of chemical weapons and its stockpile (Chatham House 2012). The Russian state has remained sceptical on the U.S intervention and the UN securities guarding the Syrian state over the current crisis. This aspect might be another meeting point for the Turkish government and the Russian government to revive their long time stalemate over the NATO issue. One must remember that the Russian government is quite against the steps taken by the European nations over the underway crisis in Syria. Russian troops have come out as strongly in their bid to oppose the ongoing interventions in Syria.
The underway Syrian crisis has called for exterior support, with Turkey playing an imperative role in helping both civilians and the rebels in undertaking attacks against the incumbent president Assad. However, the findings of this study have revealed that the increased Turkish government intervention over the Syrian crisis may turn detrimental on Turkey. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), Turkey is considerably at high risk of vengeful attacks by Assad and his supports over its alleged support on the SNC, the FSA, and the NCB. Substantial and credible investigations conducted by researchers, intelligence crew, political analysts and other individual organisations have portrayed significant chances that the underway crisis might fully involve the Turkish government and finally lead to the collapse of Ankara. Therefore, as the quest for political democracy, ethnic equity, and human justice propels the igniting war in Syria, it is wise for the government of Turkey to remain vigilant, updated, and cautious on its engagement with the Syrian civil war.
Bishku, M 2012, ‘Turkish-Syrian Relations: A Checkered History’, Middle East Policy, vol. 19 no.3, pp. 36-53.
Centre for Security Studies 2012, The Syrian civil war: Between escalation and intervention, Web.
Chatham House 2012, Syria: Prospects for Intervention, Web.
Clarke, M 2012, A collision course for intervention, Web.
Damla, A 2012, ‘Turkish-Syrian Relations Go Downhill’, Middle East Quarterly, vol.19 no.2, pp. 41-50.
Idrees, M 2011, ‘Turkey and Iran Rivalry on Syria: Alternatives’, Turkish Journal of International Relations, vol.10 no.1, pp. 87-99.
Karen, K 2012, ‘Turkey and the Arab Spring’, Military Review, vol. 92 no.4, pp. 26-32.
Mathison, S 1988, ‘Why Triangulate’, Educational Researcher, vol. 17 no. 2, pp. 13-17.
Montalvo, J & Reynal-Querol, M 2005, Ethnic polarization, potential conflict and civil wars, Web.
Naftalin, M & Harpviken, K 2012, Rebels and Refugees: Syrians in Southern Turkey, Web.
Özlem, T 2010, ‘Turkish-Syrian Relations – Where are we going’, UNISCI Discussion Papers, vol. 23, pp. 163-175.
Philips, C 2011, Turkey and Syria, Web.
Pollack, K, Kagan, F, Kagan, K & Sullivan, M 2012, Unravelling the Syria Mess: A crisis simulation of spillover from the Syrian civil war, Web.
Saad, J 2012, ‘In a Lebanese City, fighting over Syria conflict is deadly’, The New York Times, p. 13.
Saban, K 2011, ‘Syrian Uprising Tests Turkey’s Middle East Policy’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol.8 no.90, pp. 5-7.
Sharp, J & Blanchard, M 2012, Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response, Web.
Taspınar, O 2012, ‘Turkey’s Strategic Vision and Syria’, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 127-140.
Walker, J 2012, Turkey’s time in Syria: Future Scenarios, Web.
Zanotti, J 2012, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, Web.