Foreign interventions in Syria started in March 2011 after the furious people of Dara predominantly Sunni Muslims city in Syria cited as (cradle of revolution) came down to the street to demonstrate against Bashar Assad. Demanding the government to improve fundamental services in the country, soldier reacted the protests by shooting and killed several civilian among them children, young and women.

This fueled the demonstrations and more people came down to the street to participate and the slogan against Bashar Assad was raised, anti- government protests started in all cities in Syria including Damascus the capital of the country.  In a short period, most of the Syrian cities rose up against Bashar Al-Assad. In contrast to all other states in the Region, demonstrations led up to internal fighting and civil war throughout Syrian cities. Governments such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya toppled under the pressure of their population. But the case about Syria was different. Bashar Al- Assad reacted with an armed attack on demonstrators, consequently, the people were compelled to take up arms aiming at defending themselves and deterring the regime to kill more civilian people. Regional states such as Saudi, Qatar, and Turkey on one side and Iran on the other side intervened in Syria. Each of them was inciting their proxy groups inside the country, over time the situations in Syria entered into the large scale civil war. Over course of time, international powers such as United States and Russian Federation joined the conflicts. The aim of this article is to explore the factors behind the interventions of regional and international powers in Syrian conflicts. Foreign interventions could be multidimensional, there are political, economic, cultural, and religious and trade aspects perceived in the context of the Syrian crises. There were three main elements that induced foreign powers to interfere in Syria’s internal conflicts, firstly the geopolitical impetus secondly Balance of power in the Middle East and, thirdly ambition of pipeline construction.

Geopolitical factors

The Syrian geopolitical is considered one of the most strategic location in the Middle East.  Syria is the only country which competes Turkey for its strategic location in the Mediterranean.  Therefore eyes of regional and international powers are in Syria, it is a strategic location for Russia too that helps Moscow to access to Mediterranean. Iran too, has not access to Mediterranean, therefore, keeping Assad on power as its ally is in its interest. Due to long standing relations and historical ties in terms of politics and religion, Tehran exerts utmost effort to prevent regime change in the interest of Istanbul. Turkey in the north through straits of Bosporus and Dardanelle connects east Europe to west-Europe, and from the south, through Mediterranean connects Asia and Africa to Europe. Thanks to its location have been dominating decision making in the Middle East. Turkey is the intersection among extractive and transformative nations, it means raw materials and manufactured goods through straits of Turkey enters into west and vice versa.  Access to Mediterranean has been a subject of interest regional and international powers from old times until now, therefore all states scramble for obtaining sea power. Alfred Mahan a geopolitical scholar has once said that ‘’national greatness inextricably associated with the sea power’’ the dominance over sea leads to ascending as a super power. The old Empires such as Britain and France were fighting each other for dominance over Mediterranean, they were perceiving that Mediterranean was a focal point in international politics and believed that without control over Mediterranean, Empires cannot survive. Historically all superpowers have been originating their might in the dominance of Middle East, and have been defeated there too. Through exploring the history, it is sensed that most of the powers have started to take up sea harbor so as to control other countries activities for example England had hegemony over all Sea straits from Malacca Strait in Singapore to Cape of hope in South Africa which through these all Sea movements that was controlled by Great Britain. Sea power through history demonstrated that Sea hegemony will give rise to dominate over other countries. Due to Tartu’s port and Mediterranean in Syria, regional and international powers intervened in there. War on Syria will continue in many years to come and potentially that extends to neighbor countries in the near future.

Balance of powers

 Regional powers in the Middle East are fighting for equilibrium strategy that dragged Syria in a quagmire which made the country a hell for its population. Turks according to most Syrian and Shia militant groups has logistically assisted ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) aiming at capitalizing on them as a means of pressure in the region. Turkey hopes to be a transit country for oil and gas in the region, and preventing Syria to play this role. Ankara in the trees of guarantee that Turkey stays from north and south as an only corridor for energy transport to European markets.  And at the same time impeding Moscow to use gas as a pressure against West Europe as Putin did in 2008 which threatened Europe by cutting gas in flowing to their markets. Erdogan’s dream in the region is to be a leading gas transporter to Europe and aims to dominate all the region through making Ankara as an energy hub. Turks so far in this respect have been extremely successful by helping Daesh (Islamic State) and Sunni states in the region to counterbalance the Shia expansion on one side and cutting Russia's role in the region on the other hand. ISIS hegemony expansion in the region was a major threat to Iran, Russia, and the USA, therefore all of them, in this case, were unified to fight against ISIS. Sunni Militia groups were the main supporter to Ankara through their role could impede the Kurdish development in Syria and at the same time disallowing Iranian expansion. The most important is cutting the Shia crescent which has been an Iranian dream for a long time that connected Shia from Mazar Sharif in Afghanistan to the coasts of Lebanon which could be helpful for Iran to bring Shia from Afghanistan to Lebanon to fight and Vis versa. But Turks cut this line by entering Al- Bab city in Syria.Iran in need of Syria to unify the Shia in the region and establish free movement among Shia states in the region from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Turkey on the other side wanted to topple Bashar regime and institute Sunni regime in Damascus aiming at uniting Sunni countries under its umbrella. Geopolitical importance of Syria made Damascus a center of confrontations among regional powers. Showdowns still continue, who will win the time to come will tell us what will happen with Syria .but most of the signals tell us that due to the importance of the location the conflict will continue many years ahead. Both of Ankara and Tehran exerts their utmost efforts to prevent tilt of balance in the region against their own will and interests.

Pipeline construction

World eyes are on the south Iranian gas deposits, the existence of huge amounts of gas in Arabian Gulf that locates between Qatar and Iran which both of them intended to export it to European markets. On the other hand, Russia owns huge amounts of gas which intend to export it to Europe too. Clash of interests among gas producers and gas consumers dragged Syria into an international conflict. Ankara and Tehran were two major powers that wanted to dominate gas route through Syria. Pipeline construction divided the region and the world powers into two competing sides, each of them was trying to steadfast their foothold in Syria. Qatar approached Damascus to build Arab gas pipeline and on the other hand, Tehran asked for construct Iran-Iraq-Syria project pipeline. Due to historical and religious affinity Damascus gave a positive response to Iranian offer and by supporting Iran plan, Qatar-Saudi Arab pipeline was revoked. For Syria pleasing Iran as a historical ally was more important than Turkey or Qatar, moreover, Russia as an ally to Damascus was preferring Iran pipeline over Turkey-Saudi- Qatar project. Moscow believed that treating with Tehran is better than Doha in the gas market. Pipeline construction gave rise to intensify rift and conflict among regional and international powers. Turkey as a transit country of oil and gas to Europe faced by Syria. When Syria’s leader Bashar Assad in 2009 declared Four Seas Strategy (Caspian Sea, Mediterranean, Gulf and the Black Sea), aiming at making Syria a hub of energy. Bashar was planning to fill the revenue gap that inflicted the economy of Syria by the financial crisis, and Damascus like other states, its budget faced a deficit. In 2010 Bashar Assad convened an agreement with Baghdad and Tehran to build oil pipe line from south Iran through Iraq to Mediterranean in Syrian ports to resolve this financial deficiency.  China and Russia sided with the plan but United State of America and Turkey rejected this idea.

 Conclusion

The war in Syria resulted to destabilize the whole Middle East, thousands of inhabitants in Syria for the sake of protecting their lives from internal fighting were compelled to leave their homeland and resorted to other countries. The demographic situation in Syria changed in a way that cannot be repaired in the near future, and this laid the volatile foundation to future generations. The most important motivation behind the regional and international powers involvement, were geopolitical factors, the balance of power and pipeline construction. These elements were considered as a leading cause of foreign interventions. A war in Syria tends to continue for many years to come and its implications will potentially spill over to other countries in the region. Syrian crisis resolution is emanated from inside the country, by waiving bigotry and tolerating each other. Prospects in Syrian internal showdowns heralding evil for all ethnic groups in the region and collapsing of the state system in the Middle East is inevitable. 

References;

1)            John, Hannah, Foreign policy, Does Trump intend to thwart Iran’s Thwart Iran’s ambition in Syria, August 24, 2017.Web. http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/24/does-trump-intend-to-thwart-irans-ambitions-in-syria/

2)            Milad, Jokar, Huffington post, War in Syria, Geopolitics of the conflict, Web.

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/milad-jokar/war-in-syria-geopolitics-_b_2378683.html

3)            Reva,Goujon ,  Worldview Stratfor ,The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War ,August 4,2015,Web. https://worldview.stratfor.com/weekly/geopolitics-syrian-civil-war

4)            Nafeez ,Ahmed, Middle East Eye ,The US-Russian Gas Pipeline War could destabilize Putin, Friday 30 October 2015, Web.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/us-russia-gas-pipeline-war-syria-could-destabilise-putin-103505758

5)            Joe Hood and Alia Dharssi, National post, Balance of power; How Russia’s entrance into Syria has altered the geopolitical calculus of the Middle East, October 2,2015, Web.

http://nationalpost.com/news/world/balance-of-power-how-russias-entrance-into-syria-has-altered-the-geopolitical-calculus-of-the-middle-eaat

Bayezid Rasheed Amin

Bayezid Rasheed Amin is a freelance journalist.He is now a student of diplomacy and Public Relations at the University of Human development in Sulaymaniyah/Iraq. He is a political analyst and he is a contributor writer to multiple online websites in Kurdistan.He worked as coordinator of refugee services in the country of Norway.

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