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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Eurasianism wins in Turkey even if ideologue loses election
He’s been in and out of prison during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule and is running against the president in this weekend’s Turkish elections with no chance of defeating him and little hope of winning a seat in parliament.
Yet, Dogu Perincek wields significant influence in Turkey’s security and intelligence establishment and sees much of his Eurasianist ideology reflected in Mr. Erdogan’s foreign policy.
With Mr. Erdogan likely to emerge victorious from Sunday’s election despite the opposition posing its most serious challenge to date, Mr. Perincek looks set to be a winner even if he does not make it into parliament.
Messrs. Erdogan and Perincek seem at first glance poles apart. Mr. Perincek is a maverick socialist and a militant secularist whose conspiratorial worldview identifies the United States at the core of all evil. By contrast, Mr. Erdogan carries his Islamism and nationalism on his sleeve.
Nonetheless, Mr. Perincek’s philosophy and world of contacts in Russia, China, Iran and Syria has served Mr. Erdogan well in recent years. His network and ideology has enabled the president to cosy up to Russia; smoothen relations with China; build an alliance with Iran, position Turkey as a leading player in an anti-Saudi, anti UAE front in the Middle East; and pursue his goal of curtailing Kurdish nationalism in Syria.
Tacit cooperation between Messrs. Erdogan and Perincek is a far cry from the days that he spent in prison accused of having been part of the Ergenekon conspiracy that allegedly involved a deep state cabal plotting to overthrow the government in 2015.
It was during his six years prison in that Mr. Perincek joined forces with Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakki Pekin, the former head of the Turkey’s military intelligence, who serves as vice-chairman of his Vatan Partisi or Homeland Party.
His left-wing ideology that in the past was supportive of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PPK) viewed as a terrorist organization by the Erdogan government, has not stopped Mr. Perincek from becoming a player in NATO member Turkey’s hedging of its regional bets.
Together with Mr. Pekin, who has extensive contacts in Moscow that include Alexander Dugin, a controversial Eurasianist extreme right-winger who is believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Perincek mediated the reconciliation between Moscow and Ankara following the Turkish air force’s downing of a Russian fighter in 2015. The two men were supported in their endeavour by Turkish businessmen close to Mr. Erdogan and ultra-nationalist Eurasianist elements in the military.
Eurasianism in Turkey was buoyed by increasingly strained relations between the Erdogan government and the West. Mr. Erdogan has taken issue with Western criticism of his introduction of a presidential system with far-reaching powers that has granted him almost unlimited power.
He has also blasted the West for refusing to crack down on the Hizmet movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, whom Mr. Erdogan holds responsible for an unsuccessful coup in 2016, in which more than 200 people were killed.
Mr. Erdogan has rejected Western criticism of his crackdown on the media and dismissal from public sector jobs and/or arrest of tens of thousands accused of being followers of Mr. Gulen.
Differences over Syria and US support for a Syrian Kurdish group aligned with the PKK have intensified pro-Eurasianist thinking that has gained currency among bureaucrats and security forces as well as in think thanks and academia. The influence of Eurasianist generals was boosted in 2016 when they replaced officers who were accused of having participated in the failed coup.
Eurasianism as a concept borrows elements of Kemalism, the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the visionary who carved Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire; Turkish nationalism; socialism; and radical secularism.
It traces its roots to Kadro, an influential leftist magazine published in Turkey between 1932 and 1934 and Yon, a left-wing magazine launched in the wake of a military coup in 1960 that became popular following yet another military takeover in 1980.
Eurasianism is opposed to liberal capitalism and globalization; believes that Western powers want to carve up Turkey; and sees Turkey’s future in alignment with Russia, Central Asia, and China.
Mr. Perincek’s vision is shared by hardliners in Iran, including the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who advocate an Iranian pivot to the east on the grounds that China, Russia and other members of the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were more reliable partners than Europe, let alone the United States.
The Guards believe that Iran stands to significantly benefit as a key node in China’s infrastructure-driven Belt and Road initiative and will not be confronted by China on its human rights record.
Some Iranian hardliners have suggested that China’s principle of non-interference means that Beijing will not resist Iran’s support of regional proxies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, Shiite militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen in the way the United States does.
Their vision was strengthened by US president Donald J. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran. China, Russia and Europe have vowed to uphold the deal.
Iranian empathy for Eurasianism has been reinforced by Chinese plans to invest $30 billion in Iranian oil and gas fields, and $40 billion in Iran’s mining industry as well as the willingness of Chinese banks to extend loans at a time that Mr. Trump was seeking to reimpose sanctions.
Turkey’s embrace of the Eurasianist idea takes on added significance after Russia and the European Union slapped sanctions on each other because of the dispute over Russian intervention in Ukraine. The EU sanctions halted $15.8 billion in European agricultural supports to Russia. Russian countermeasures prevent shipment of those products via Russia to China.
Mr. Perincek may, however, be pushing the envelope of his influence in his determination to restore relations between Turkey and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The first thing that we will do after victory in the election is that we will invite Bashar Assad to Ankara and we will welcome him at the airport. We see no limitations and barriers in developing relations between Turkey and Syria and we will make our utmost efforts to materialize this objective,” Mr. Perincek vowed in a campaign speech.
More in line with Mr. Erdogan’s vision is Mr. Perincek’s admiration for China. “China today represents hope for the whole humanity. We have to keep that hope alive… Every time I visited China, I encountered a new China. I always returned to Turkey with the feelings of both surprise and admiration,” Mr. Perincek told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
Bahrain’s Peaceful Gandhi might be executed
Tomorrow, Thursday, 21 June 2018, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court is expected to hand down the maximum sentence possible against the opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, which might be the death penalty. Sheikh Salman’s trial is politically motivated and based on fabricated and arbitrary charges of espionage. Sheikh Salman; detained in December 2014 in his capacity as the now-dissolved Al-Wefaq opposition bloc’s Secretary-General, was sentenced to four years on alleged charges of “inciting disobedience and hatred.”
However, in November 2017, he was shockingly charged for “conspiring with Qatar” to overthrow the regime. Bahrain’s Public Prosecution relied its accusation on the well-known telephone conversation between Shiekh Salman and the Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem, in 2011; which aimed to resolve the 14 February 2011’s unrest. This call, indeed, stems from an open and documented mediation attempt that was originally encouraged by the United States.
In April 2018, the U.S. State Department issued a report in which it expresses concern over the continued arbitrarily prosecution of Sheikh Salman. Urgently, the international community, the United States and the United Kingdom, mainstream media, press, human rights organisations, activists and all free people around the globe must pressure Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Salman as well as all other prisoners of conscience. In addition, the government must halt this political unfair trial and reinstate all arbitrarily dissolved political blocs.
It is worthy to mention that Sheikh Ali Salman was detained in 2014 due to his bloc; i.e. Al-Wefaq’s boycott to the parliamentary elections, then. Al-Wefaq has long complained the political and economic discrimination, lack of impunity and the absence of an independent judiciary. Interestingly, the bizarre allegations were raised once the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s states witnessed a diplomatic dispute with Qatar, since June 2017.
Bahrain’s Public Prosecution has called in March for the “maximum penalty” against Sheikh Salman and his two in absentia co-defendants, who are too figures in Al-Wefaq. The three could face capital punishment on politically motivated charges of establishing “intelligence links with Qatar […] to undermine its political and economic status as well as its national interest and to overthrow the political system.”
The Bahraini authorities have long suppressed the opposition particularly this time; prior the elections for the lower house of Bahrain’s National Assembly in November, which constitute a quite vivid and blatant violation of the fundamental rights to freedom, fair trial, free expression, and free association. In fact, this groundless trial and the ongoing clampdown have virtually left no political freedom in the country. Clearly, Bahrain has been openly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Sheikh Salman is currently serving his 4-years sentence in Jau Central Prison, along with the rest of the opposition leaders. His co-defendant, in this unfair trial, Sheikh Hassan Sultan was publicly defamed in pro-government media, in June 2017. At the same time, the National Security Agency (NSA), repeatedly detained and tortured his son, in an attempt to coerce him into becoming an informant in order to target his father; who is exiled and has been arbitrarily stripped of his citizenship in 2015.
In 2016, Bahrain forcibly dissolved Al-Wefaq; seized its assets, blocking its website, and closing its headquarters. It has taken similar action against nearly all opposition groups, including Amal and leftist blocs Al-Wehdawi and Wa’ad. The government’s systematic campaign against the opposition has intensified despite the UN Universal Periodic Review’s recommendations, in May 2017, which called on Bahrain to “review convictions, commute sentences, or drop charges for all persons imprisoned solely for non-violent political expression.”
The Saudi-Moroccan spat: Competing for the mantle of moderate Islam
Lurking in the background of a Saudi-Moroccan spat over World Cup hosting rights and the Gulf crisis is a more fundamental competition for the mantle of spearheading promotion of a moderate interpretation of Islam.
It’s a competition in which history and long-standing religious diplomacy gives Morocco a leg up compared to Saudi Arabia, long a citadel of Sunni Muslim intolerance and ultra-conservatism.
Saudi Arabia is the new, baggage-laden kid on the block with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asserting that he is returning the kingdom to a top-down, undefined form of moderate Islam.
To be sure, Prince Mohammed has dominated headlines in the last year with long-overdue social reforms such as lifting the ban on women’s driving and loosening restrictions on cultural expression and entertainment.
The crown prince has further bolstered his projection of a kingdom that is putting ultra-conservative social and religious strictures behind it by relinquishing control of Brussels’ Saudi-managed Great Mosque and reports that he is severely cutting back on decades-long, global Saudi financial support for Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative educational, cultural and religious institutions.
Yet, Prince Mohammed has also signalled the limits of his definition of moderate Islam. His recurrent rollbacks have often been in response to ultra-conservative protests not just from the ranks of the kingdom’s religious establishment but also segments of the youth that constitute the mainstay of his popularity.
Just this week, Prince Mohammed sacked Ahmad al-Khatib, the head of entertainment authority he had established. The government gave no reason for Mr. Al-Khatib’s dismissal, but it followed online protests against a controversial Russian circus performance in Riyadh, which included women wearing “indecent clothes.”
The protests were prompted by a video on social media that featured a female performer in a tight pink costume.
In a similar vein, the Saudi sports authority closed a female fitness centre in Riyadh in April over a contentious promotional video that appeared to show a woman working out in leggings and a tank-top. A spokesman for the royal court, Saud al-Qahtani, said the closure was in line with the kingdom’s pursuit of “moderation without moral breakdown.”
Saudi sports czar Turki bin Abdel Muhsin Al-Asheikh said “the gym had its licence suspended over a deceitful video that circulated on social media promoting the gym disgracefully and breaching the kingdom’s code of conduct.”
Mr. Al-Sheikh’s sports authority moreover apologized recently for airing a promotional video of a World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., event that showed scantily clad female wrestlers drawing euphoric cheers from men and women alike.
To be sure, the United States, which repeatedly saw ultra-conservative Islam as a useful tool during the Cold War, was long supportive of Saudi propagation of Islamic puritanism that also sought to counter the post-1979 revolutionary Iranian zeal.
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia’s more recent wrestle with what it defines as moderate and effort to rebrand itself contrasts starkly with long-standing perceptions of Morocco as an icon of more liberal interpretations of the faith.
While Saudi Islamic scholars have yet to convince the international community that they have had a genuine change of heart, Morocco has emerged as a focal point for the training of European and African imams in cooperation with national governments.
Established three years ago, Morocco’s Mohammed VI Institute for Imam Training has so far graduated 447 imams; 212 Malians, 37 Tunisians, 100 Guineans, 75 Ivorians, and 23 Frenchmen.
The institute has signed training agreements with Belgium, Russia and Libya and is negotiating understandings with Senegal.
Critics worry that Morocco’s promotion of its specific version of Islam, which fundamentally differs from the one that was long prevalent in Saudi Arabia, still risks Morocco curbing rather than promoting religious diversity.
Albeit on a smaller scale than the Saudi campaign, Morocco has in recent years launched a mosque building program in West Africa as part of its soft power policy and effort to broaden its focus that was long centred on Europe rather than its own continent.
On visits to Africa, King Mohammed VI makes a point of attending Friday prayers and distributing thousands of copies of the Qur’an.
In doing so Morocco benefits from the fact that its religious ties to West Africa date back to the 11th century when the Berber Almoravid dynast converted the region to Islam. King Mohammed, who prides himself on being a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, retains legitimacy as the region’s ‘Commander of the Faithful.’
West African Sufis continue to make annual pilgrimages to a religious complex in Fez that houses the grave of Sidi Ahmed Tijani, the 18th century founder of a Sufi order.
All of this is not to say that Morocco does not have an extremism problem of its own. Militants attacked multiple targets in Casablanca in 2003, killing 45 people. Another 17 died eight years later in an attack in Marrakech. Militants of Moroccan descent were prominent in a spate of incidents in Europe in recent years.
Nonetheless, protests in 2011 at the time of the popular Arab revolts and more recently have been persistent but largely non-violent.
Critics caution however that Morocco is experiencing accelerated conservatism as a result of social and economic grievances as well as an education system that has yet to wholeheartedly embrace more liberal values.
“Extremism is gaining ground,” warned Mohamed Elboukili, an academic and human rights activist, pointing to an increasing number of young women who opt to cover their heads.
“You can say to me this scarf doesn’t mean anything. Yes, it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s isolating the girl from the boy. Now she’s wearing the scarf, but later on she’s not going to shake hands with the boy . . . Later on she’s not going to study in the same class with boys. Those are the mechanisms of an Islamist state, that’s how it works,” Mr. Elboukili said.
Mr. Elboukili’s observations notwithstanding, it is Morocco rather than Saudi Arabia that many look to for the promotion of forms of Islam that embrace tolerance and pluralism. Viewed from Riyadh, Morocco to boot has insisted on pursuing an independent course instead of bowing to Saudi dictates.
Morocco refused to support Saudi Arabia in its debilitating, one-year-old economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar but recently broke off relations with Iran, accusing the Islamic republic of supporting Frente Polisario insurgents in the Western Sahara.
Moroccan rejection of Saudi tutelage poses a potential problem for a man like Prince Mohammed, whose country is the custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities and who has been ruthless in attempting to impose his will on the Middle East and North Africa and position the kingdom as the region’s undisputed leader.
Yet, Saudi Arabia’s ability to compete for the mantle of moderate Islam is likely to be determined in the kingdom itself rather than on a regional stage. And that will take far more change than Prince Mohammed has been willing to entertain until now.
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