On Friday 15th the world witnessed an attempted coup d’état in Turkey. It was an important event due to the significant role of Turkey in many regional and international issues. This coup d’état brings back memories of Turkey’s previous frequent coups since the 1960s. These coups used to represent the schism between nationalist army factions and those who were seen as undermining the secular nature of the state.
The short-lived coup, however, did not succeed. Thousands took to the street following the urging of President Erdogan to obstruct the coup. At dawn, Erdogan announced that the coup had failed.
Yet, the attempt has come with a heavy price. The night of chaos led to the death of 294 people. In addition, many are now concerned about the future of Turkey and its democracy. Following the coup, more than 6,000 military and judiciary personnel thought to be linked to the coup have been arrested. The fear is that this coup will provide Erdogan with a pretext to further increase his executive powers and crackdown on dissidents and media.
WHY DOES TROUBLE IN TURKEY IMPACT THE CRISIS IN SYRIA?
There are 4 main reasons:
- Turkey has been directly affected by the Syrian crisis as it hosts nearly three million Syrian refugees today. It has been a very strong critic of the Syrian regime and Erdogan called on President Assad to leave power a number of times.
- Turkey is also a key supporter of the Syrian opposition. However, Turkey’s policy of allowing rebel fighters and arms shipments to pass through its territory has been criticised as it is thought to be exploited by foreign jihadists wanting to join the so called Islamic State (IS.)
- Although a key NATO member and an important ally in the war against IS, Turkey has different priorities in Syria than that of the international coalition against IS. Turkey’s main concern is checking the expanding power of the Kurds who are also a key American ally. This has strained the relationship between Turkey and the US.
- The level of instability in Turkey following the coup is the concern of many international actors. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that political instability in Turkey can affect its ability to fight IS. John Kerry raised concerns about upholding the rule of law in the country to the extent that he warned Turkey may fall foul of NATO’s requirement with respect to democracy. These concerns and warnings may negatively affect Turkey’s relationship with the west and consequently affect the international effort to find a solution in Syria and defeat IS.
It is still early to project how things will turn out for the Syrian conflict. However, with the news that the governmental forces have taken control over the only road leading into the rebel-held side of Aleppo, raising fear of humanitarian disaster, further instability is the last thing the region would need.