Turkey’s Syrian Dilemma: Testing the ‘Regional Solutions for Regional Problems’ Proposition

9 July 2012
Joshua W. Walker (External authors)

Since the beginning of the uprisings in Syria, Turkey has been cautiously weighing its options as it decides how to deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown and the ongoing humanitarian disaster unfolding in its own backyard, writes Joshua W. Walker in this Commentary. Having claimed regional leadership for itself and proclaiming a policy of ‘zero problems with neighbours’, Ankara’s lofty rhetoric has put Turkey in the international spotlight over Syria. Due to Turkey’s own domestic evolution, and the resulting self-confidence vis-à-vis the world that it has developed over the last decade of reform, it is uniquely placed to play a decisive role in Syria. At the same time, the domestic and international dimensions for Turkey of the Syrian situation make it one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges that Ankara has ever had to face.

Regardless of whether Ankara keeps its strategic options open by seeking to preserve the status quo, events on the ground in Syria could rapidly force Ankara into moving beyond rhetoric and intervening in either a limited humanitarian or full-scale manner. Having called for Assad’s removal, the status quo is also untenable given the fact that the Pandora’s Box unleashed by Damascus directly affects Turkey’s interests and broader strategic vision as a regional leader. Having sought the role of regional leader over the last decade, Ankara’s time has clearly come in Damascus.

Turkey’s Syrian Dilemma