The sheer number of high-profile players in the Syrian war has meant that, for many, Turkey has been somewhat sidelined in terms of global attention. The reality is, however, that Turkey is one of the few countries for whom the outcome of the Syrian war could present an existential threat. Turkey shares a border with Syria, is tottering under the weight of refugees from the war-torn country and is now considering sending troops into Syria.
Before the start of the Syrian war, Turkey was riding high on the back of the Arab Spring. The new order of the Arab world looked like being very favorable to what had already been considered a rising medium power in the region. Turkey’s strong military reputation, its robust and secular government and its general acceptability to most Arab nations and even to NATO meant that the future looked decidedly rose-colored back in 2010. Since that time, attempts to capitalize on this surge have gone disastrously. The revolts of the Arab Spring failed, the U.S. lost some of its keen interest in Middle Eastern hegemony, the rebellion against its adjacent rival, Assad, has stagnated, and Turkish President Erdogan’s program of nationalism through Islamism, and his hard line approach to the Kurdish problem, have alienated Turkey from its most vital ally — the U.S.
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“This is a country that has often had problems in the past, but the scale of what is happening now is beyond Turkey’s capacity for digestion.”
What all of this means is that analysts are no longer confident that they can predict what Turkey will do next. Usually, this is a simple matter of balancing national interests against the best possible outcomes, but it seems that there are no longer good outcomes available to Turkey. Professor Bacik, in comments reported in the New Zealand Herald, said that Turkey’s posture was “very strange” and could lead to “surprises.” According to French president, Francois Hollande, this unpredictability meant that there was a “risk of war between Russia and Turkey.”
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At present, Turkey’s situation looks like a lose-lose. No matter what they do, much of their regional and global influence has been squandered in a series of bad decisions and it increasingly looks as if their “nightmare scenario” of being hedged in by Kurdish autonomous zones is a virtual certainty. Given this set of circumstances, it is understandable that many analysts see this as being a situation so bad that war might actually be an option.
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