More on Islamic Wars: why Saudi Arabia and Turkey are against Syria
What Saudi Arabia and Turkey Want in the Syria Conflict
September 6, 2013
As the debates continues
over whether the United States will intervene in Syria, many observers
have overlooked what Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- Washington's two main
regional allies -- want from the Americans. Both countries want the
United States to conduct a more comprehensive strike that weakens the
regime, but their interests over the fate of Syria after the
intervention differ greatly. Either way, Ankara's and Riyadh's behavior
threatens to draw Washington into its third war in the Islamic world in
On Thursday (Sept 5th) , Turkish media reported that the country deployed additional forces along its border with Syria ahead of expected U.S. miltary action.
The previous day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Arab
countries had offered to pay for the cost of any military action against
Damascus. Kerry added that there was international consensus involving
"Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qataris, the Turks and the French" on the
need to take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons
against its own people.
is right to place the Saudis and the Turks in the same broad category
of those that support Washington's use of force against Damascus. But he
ignores the fact that both Ankara and Riyadh want the United States to
topple the Syrian regime. That, however, is where their agreement ends.
Not only does Washington disagree with its two main allies on the scope
of the mission, but all three disagree on how they want the conflict to
Washington nor Ankara wants to the regime to fall completely because
they do not want transnational jihadists to assume power. In Turkey, the
political elites have divergent views on how far they should go in
pursing regime change south of the border. Certainly the Syrian civil
war presents risks; the threat of Kurdish separatism is far greater
if the Syrian regime collapses. But the conflict also presents the
opportunity to expand Ankara's regional influence. The United States,
however, wants to oust al Assad but not dismantle his regime entirely --
Washington is not interested in weakening Iran to the benefit of Sunni
Saudis have a much more hawkish position. After two years of
disappointment, Riyadh is pleased to see that Washington may finally
exercise the military option. Ultimately, it wants Washington to destroy
the Alawite government. Regime change would enable the Saudis to defend against the influence of Iran, their biggest enemy, and to undermine Tehran and its two pre-eminent allies, Iraq and Hezbollah.
knows that the collapse of the al Assad regime will create a vacuum
that will be exploited by transnational jihadists, but that is a
negligible concern. From the Saudi point of view, it is a price worth
paying if Riyadh can undermine Iranian regional influence. In fact,
Saudi Arabia believes that jihadists are the only effective tools that can be used against the Iranians and their Arab Shia allies.
Saudi perspective is also informed by the assumption it will be spared
any blowback from Syrian instability. Unlike Turkey, it does not share a
border with Syria. Between its financial power and its being the only
state to have actually defeated jihadists within its borders, Saudi
Arabia is confident that it can manage whatever jihadist threat emerges
in a post-al Assad Syria.
shares Riyadh's desire to weaken Iran -- Tehran stands between the
Turks and their regional ascendance -- but it is not willing to go as
far as the Saudis. Though both Saudi Arabia and Turkey will try to
bolster their preferred rebel factions in pursuit of their respective
goals, the decision on just how much damage to inflict on the regime
still rests with the United States.