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Volume 3 - Issue 3, March 2013

Adapting NATO Partnerships Coping With The Effects of the Arab Spring As the Arab Spring reaches its two year anniversary, the region remains in a volatile state. Having brought the demise of four regimes and severely weakened the legitimacy of others, the Middle East has been mired in political turmoil. Having already intervened in Libya and with a major stake in the continuing civil war in Syria, NATO finds itself in an increasingly insecure environment where hostile forces are gaining ground throughout the region. With the risk of NATO members and Partners being directly threatened by these unfolding events, NATO’s role in addressing the security deficit in the region is critical. As the second year of the Arab Spring has

Signing of Agreement on the Security of Information Between NATO and the UAE (Photo: NATO)

Contents: The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: Stabilizing and Sustaining the Arab Spring

shown, the instability is far from being con-

Paul Price examines the role of NATO’s Istanbul Cooperative Initiative as a force for ensur-

tained and the possibility of counter-

ing security and upholding progress in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. He concludes that in

revolutions and state failure cannot be ruled

the absence of a concrete policy platform for democratization, the ICI is the best mechanism


available to prevent violence from overwhelming the region.

As NATO’s Partnerships illustrate, there

The Impact of Syria’s Conflict on NATO’s Security

exists a framework between states in the re-

Branko Lazic explores the threat of the Syrian conflict to Turkey and NATO’s wider strategic

gion for collectively addressing these ongoing

interests. He concludes that NATO must leave a military option on the table in order to re-

challenges to protect the wider transatlantic

solve the ongoing crisis by arguing that if an operation is launched against the Assad regime or

community, however their potential remains

rebel groups, it will simultaneously strengthen NATO’s dialogue with Assad’s allies in Mos-

to be realized.- Jason Wiseman

cow, Beijing and Tehran.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3


The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: Stabilizing and Sustaining the Arab Spring By Paul Pryce


n a phenomenon as diverse and tumultuous as the

NATO possesses two structures of relevance to those

Arab Spring, it is difficult to pinpoint a single event

countries caught up in the currents of the Arab Spring: the

that precipitated the process of reform and counter-

Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Ini-

reform which continues to sweep the region to this day.

tiative (ICI). The former currently encompasses Algeria,

Many observers agree that the self-immolation in January

Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

2011 of a Tunisian protester, Mohamed Bouazizi, was the

At the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, NATO member

point at which the coming revolution began to take shape.

states extended an invitation to Libya to take part in the

Regardless of when the

Mediterranean Dialogue

Arab Spring began, it

as well. As of this writing,

has confronted Arab

the new National Con-

societies in particular,

gress in Libya has yet to

as well as global society

officially respond to the

in general, with a num-

invitation.1 Still, the Med-

ber of urgent ques-

iterranean Dialogue en-

tions. To what extent

joys broad membership

can the power of the

among Arab countries,


with the partnership in-



strained? How can Is-

Bilateral meeting between Secretary General Rasmussen and Sheikh Mohammed

tended “…to create good

lamic (or even Islamist)

bin Rashid al-Maktoum (Photo: NATO)

relations and better mutu-

values be expressed in democratic society? And what role

al understanding and confidence throughout the region,

should the military play when the executive and the people

promoting regional security and stability, and explaining

part ways?

NATO’s policies and goals.”2

These are difficult questions to face, especially in socie-

As such, the principal focus of

ties where democratic traditions are lacking and civil socie-

the Mediterranean Dialogue is on inter-state security, inter

ty is at a nascent state of development. Yet the degree to

-state relations, and public diplomacy efforts intended to

which the countries caught up in the Arab Spring can an-

put forward a positive image of NATO and its efforts. But,

swer these questions successfully while balancing a vibrant

as the Arab Spring has demonstrated, at times the state

array of views and values will determine whether stability

itself can become a threat to the security of its own citi-

and prosperity predominate throughout North Africa and

zens. The Mediterranean Dialogue presents few opportu-

the Middle East in the coming years. But must these coun-

nities to address issues such as civilian oversight of the mili-

tries do it alone? Or can the Euro-Atlantic community,

tary; structuring civil-military relations; and fostering the

through tools such as NATO, be of assistance in ensuring

rule of law in states across North Africa and the Middle

that the gains of the Arab Spring are entrenched and ex-


panded upon? Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

In this sense, the ICI may hold greater potential, offer2

ing NATO opportunities to share its best practices and institutional knowledge with states struggling to reconcile

tions’ of the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence (CIMIC COE) in Enschede, the Netherlands.

competing values. The ICI, originally launched at the 2004

According to NATO, “Centres of Excellence (COEs)

NATO Summit in Istanbul, is intended to foster practical

are nationally or multi-nationally funded institutions that

security cooperation with a select number of countries in

train and educate leaders and specialists from NATO

the Middle East. Initially, only the member states of the

member and partner countries…” and assist in expanding

Gulf Cooperation Council were invited to take part: Bah-

the Alliance’s capacity to operate in varying environments

rain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United

under diverse conditions.5 Currently, NATO has a total of

Arab Emirates (UAE). The governments of Bahrain, Ku-

19 accredited Centres of Excellence tackling topics that

wait, Qatar, and the UAE accepted the invitation and actively participate in the ICI, while Saudi Arabia and Oman have yet to do so as of this writing, but have still expressed an

range from cold weather operations to

The ICI lacks the explicit democratization agenda of NATO’s more widely known Partnership for Peace

interest in the ICI’s activities. Lack-

naval mine clearance. The CIMIC COE itself is concerned with assisting NATO, Sponsoring Nations, and other institutions “…in the field of civilmilitary interaction by providing inno-

ing the broad membership of the Mediterranean Dialogue,

vative and timely advice and subject matter expertise in the

the ICI is nonetheless more integrated and its efforts decid-

development of existing and new concepts, policy and

edly more intensive.

doctrine….”6 By becoming Sponsoring Nations of the

It must be noted, however, that the ICI lacks the explicit democratization agenda of NATO’s more widely known Partnership for Peace.3 Similarly, the Mediterranean Dialogue merely calls on its members to ‘promote’ the democratic control of armed forces, rather than setting out any terms that would apply pressure on Mediterranean

CIMIC COE as an expansion of the activities of the ICI, civilian and military officials from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE would engage closely with civilian and military officials from Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovenia on topics relating specifically to civil-military interaction.

Dialogue members to adopt comprehensive reforms.4 This

A necessary aspect of civil-military cooperation as un-

reflects the political realities of the region at the time of

derstood by the NATO member states is civilian oversight

the ICI’s establishment, at which point the inclusion of an

of the military. Simultaneously, it must be understood that

explicit democratization agenda in the ICI would have very

military personnel are expected to disobey unlawful or-

likely hindered, if not halted, cooperation on the part of

ders. Over the course of the Arab Spring, military and

the Gulf Cooperation Council member states.

police personnel have opened fire upon unarmed protest-

Given that significant changes have occurred in the region since the 2004 NATO Summit, the ICI could become an excellent vehicle for fostering necessary reforms in its member states and other countries across the region. This is not, however, to say that NATO should look to impose an explicit democratization agenda upon the ICI partners. Instead, NATO could seek to build upon the aspects of the ICI relating to practical security cooperation by inviting ICI member states to become ‘Sponsoring Na-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

ers on numerous occasions. The carnage wrought in Syria is a firm indication that that country has failed to apply adequate constraints to executive power and that the military is not at all beholden to democratic control. As such, it is doubtful that Syria under the current regime would apply to take part in the activities of the ICI and even more inconceivable that NATO would facilitate the engagement of the current regime in such a valued NATO partnership. The current ICI members have also experienced some


difficulties in striking the right balance of values, though

nama. The raid resulted in the deaths of four protesters.8

none have reached the total failure with which the rule of

The next day, military forces opened fire on protesters

Bashar al-Assad can be characterized. In the UAE, five

attempting to return to the Pearl Roundabout, fatally

political activists were charged in 2011 with insulting the

wounding one civilian. After thousands of protesters

royal family, endangering national security, and inciting

peacefully reclaimed the Pearl Roundabout days later, Bah-

the people to protest by signing an online petition that

raini military forces once again opened fire on the crowds

called for free and open elections to the country’s largely

on 22 February, killing 20 people and injuring over 100

advisory parliament. The day after the five were convicted

others. Though repression in Bahrain has certainly not

and sentenced to several years in prison, they received

reached the level of severity witnessed in Syria, the police

pardons and were promptly released.7 Widespread arrests

response in 2011 and 2012 has been characterized as a

also took place in Kuwait as protests began to intensify

‘brutal crackdown’, resulting in the arrests of dissident bloggers and even doctors who

there in October 2012.

provided medical treatment to

Of particular concern for

protesters injured in the military

NATO and the ICI, however,

response in February 2011.9

has been the response of military and police forces to pro-

Such a heavy-handed re-

tests in Bahrain. While worri-

sponse by the Bahraini authorities’

some, the actions of Kuwaiti

carries the risk of radicalizing ci-

and Emirati authorities in re-

vilians and exacerbating tensions

sponse to the Arab Spring falls

within society. As has been noted

beyond the intended scope of

by some observers, “radicalizing

the CIMIC COE and certainly

agents such as al-Qaeda have me-

beyond the ICI’s interest in

dia systems that commission, pro-

practical security cooperation.

duce, and distribute content that

Addressing the imprisonment

legitimates their worldview and

of the five Emirati political

actions.…”10 The gruesome acts

activists, for example, would

of repression carried out against

require adopting an explicit

the protesters at the Pearl Round-

and politically untenable de-

about in Manama provide radical-

mocratization agenda within the ICI. The Bahraini reaction to its

Protesters in Manama, Bahrain, at the height of the Arab

izing agents in the region with

Spring (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

plenty of ammunition for propa-

national off-shoot of the Arab Spring protests, however,

ganda campaigns, demonstrating to audiences the apparent

suggests a severe lack of the Bahraini authorities’ ability to

need for armed resistance and justifying acts of terror

engage constructively in civil-military relations, as well as

committed by these radicalizing agents. Thus, if the Bahrai-

an opportunity for NATO to render practical security as-

ni authorities had feared that the 2011 protests could allow

sistance through ICI and the work of the CIMIC COE.

radicalism to fester within society, the crackdown on the

Protests began in Bahrain on 14 February 2011 and continued peacefully until 17 February, when police launched a pre-dawn raid to clear protestors from the Pearl Roundabout, a central location in the capital of MaAtlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

protesters achieved that end far more effectively than any peaceful alternative might have. As evidenced by this brief review of events in Manama, the Bahraini authorities lack civil-military competencies. 4

Through engagement with the CIMIC COE, Bahraini offi-

concerned that the ICI would undermine the important

cials, both civilian and military, can develop an understand-

work of the Mediterranean Dialogue.11

ing of how to engage civilian populations constructively when tensions are running high. By understanding the broader consequences of a crackdown, these officials might

At its inception, the ICI could have understandably been perceived as a competitor to the Mediterranean Dialogue. While, as has been noted here previously, the initial

then help to shift the behaviour of Bahraini government

phase of the ICI was to be directed at

institutions, avoiding the use of violence against peaceful protesters, upholding the rule of law, and fostering intra-state dialogue. If the authorities

The Mediterranean Dialogue calls on its members to ‘promote’ the democratic control of armed forces

of states engaged in the work of the ICI are greatly concerned about the prospect of terrorist groups waging campaigns to undermine local governance, then the partnerships formed within the context of the ICI could be expanded to include not only the activities and expertise of the CIMIC COE but also the NATO Centre of Excellence – Defence Against Terrorism (COE-DAT) in Ankara, Turkey. In this way, best practices in the fight against terrorism can be readily exchanged between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council, while these

the membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the ICI is open to any interested states in the broader Middle East region. Similarly, the Mediterra-

nean Dialogue is open to any potential partners in the broader Middle East, and this institution has undergone expansion since it was first established in December 1994. Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania joined first, while Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Algeria joined later in a phase of expansion that ended in March 2000.12 It is therefore entirely possible that the membership of these two partnerships may overlap at some point in the future, with an ICI member also joining the Mediterranean Dialogue or vice versa.

partners in the Middle East region can be appropriately encouraged to refrain from potentially radicalizing activities.

But these two institutions have clearly diverged in function even if they may share similar purposes and may eventually share similar memberships. The Mediterranean Dialogue has

While the potential benefits of expanding and enabling

evolved primarily as a means of facilitating high-level contacts,

the security partnership envisioned in the ICI are clearly

holding regular talks to foster inter-state and cross-regional

significant, the question of political will remains an im-

understanding, and even taking on a parliamentary dimension

portant one. Demonstrating the benefits of engaging with

as representatives of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly meet

the CIMIC COE and potentially the COE-DAT will re-

with parliamentarians from the Mediterranean Dialogue coun-

quire intensive public diplomacy efforts on the part of

tries.13 This differs greatly from how the ICI has developed,

NATO and its member states. At the same time, NATO

since its focus is almost exclusively on practical security coop-

member states will need to strive to adopt a common posi-

eration and the ICI member states continue to express interest

tion on the role of the ICI in fostering regional coopera-

in holding joint military exercises with NATO member states.

tion. Since its establishment in 2004, NATO member

In 2013, it would be more accurate to say that the ICI and the

states have lacked consensus as to whether the hopes of the Alliance should be placed on the Mediterranean Dialogue to the exclusion of the ICI, the ICI to the exclusion of the Mediterranean Dialogue, or on both evenly. The ICI was

Mediterranean Dialogue are complementary rather than conflicting due to the differing premises upon which they were founded and the different expectations of the countries engaged in these partnerships.

originally envisioned as a more ambitious project when

Nonetheless, it may be challenging to develop a con-

first proposed but was later reined in by some NATO

sensus within NATO regarding the potentially comple-

member states – namely France and Spain – which were

mentary roles of the ICI and the Mediterranean Dialogue.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3


Soon, though, the case must be made for this consensus. In order to capitalize on the historic opportunity afforded by the Arab Spring, NATO must be decisive and coherent as to its manner in fostering democratic values even when a formal democratization agenda is absent. The ICI, enhanced by the work of relevant NATO Centres of Excellence, is the best vehicle for pursuing this on the practical level. This does not diminish the vital contribution of the Mediterranean Dialogue on the level of political partnership; on the contrary, the highlevel contacts fostered by the Mediterranean Dialogue



serve to enhance regional



ensure that the intellectual


triggered by the Arab Spring favour moderation and liberal democratic values. Still, preventing the kind of violence

or Support for US Foreign Policy, ed. Jack Covarrubias and Tom Lansford, 197-216. (Hampshire, UK: Ashgate, 2007), p.204 5 NATO. Centres of Excellence. (2011). Available from: <http://> 6 CIMIC COE. CIMIC Centre of Excellence. (2011). Available from: <> 7 Al-Jazeera. UAE Pardons Jailed Activists. (2011, November 28). Available from: < middleeast/2011/11/20111128135953601809.html> 8

Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry. Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry. (2011, November 23). Available from: <> 9 Siraj Wahab. Bahrain Arrests Key Opposition Leaders, Arab News. (2011, March 18). Available from: < article320723.ece> 10

Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin, War and Media: The Emergence of Diffused War (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), p.147 11 Ana Echague, “The Gulf Cooperation Council: The Challenges of Security,” in The European Union and Democracy Promotion: A Critical Global Assessment, ed. Richard Youngs, 135-153. (Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), p.149 12 Sarah Wolff, The Mediterranean Dimension of the European Union’s Internal Security, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p.117 13 Graeme P. Herd, “NATO Partnerships: For Peace, Combat, and Soft Balancing?” in Leaders Meet For the Istanbul Summit in 2004 (Photo: NATO) Understanding NATO in the 21st Century: Alliance Strategies, Security, and Global Governance, eds. Graeme P. witnessed at the Pearl RoundHerd and John Kriendler, 67-84. (New York: Routledge, 2013), p.72

about requires the utmost effort on the part of NATO member states to intensify the practical security cooperation in the region for which the ICI is so uniquely suited.

About the author Paul Pryce is a researcher at the European Geopolitical Forum. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Calgary (Canada) and a Master of Social Sciences in International Relations from Tallinn University (Estonia), he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Bibliography 1

NATO. Chicago Summit Declaration. (2012, May 20). Available from: < official_texts_87593.htm> 2 NATO. Mediterranean Dialogue. (2012, June 15). Available from: < selectedLocale=en> 3

Rebecca R. Moore, NATO’s New Mission: Projecting Stability in a Post-Cold War World (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2007), p.138 4 Chris Zambelis and Eva Svobodova, “NATO and the Middle East: The Road to Greater Engagement,” in Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3


The Impact of Syria’s Conflict on NATO’s Security those allied with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. If that

by Branko Lazic


happens in the near future, neither Assad’s regime nor the rebels wo years after the beginning of the Syrian revolu-

and their Western allies will feel secure in what will become an

tion and its transformation into a civil war, there

increasingly unpredictable environment. This uncertainty has led

are no signs that officials in Damascus are going to

Israel to carefully monitor the civil war in Syria, as it anticipates

reach any kind of compromise with rebel leaders to end the

a serious threat on its northern border from militant Islamist

violence. The negative implications of the conflict for Middle

insurgents from Syria if these groups prevail in the conflict. At

Eastern and global security have the potential to cause serious

the moment, less extreme groups still hold power in the bloody

instability within the North Atlantic Community. Turkey, a

Syrian war; as such, the conflict is primarily based on demands

NATO member state, borders Syria to the north. Therefore,

for political reforms, particularly for Sunni rule versus Alawi

the Syrian war poses a direct threat to NATO as a whole, espe-

Shia rule (represented by the Assad family since 1970).

cially since Turkey could potentially invoke Article 5 as the crisis continues to escalate.

Unfortunately, since the uprising began in March 2011, these ‘less extreme’ forces of regime and rebel troops have

The Syrian crisis, as the longest-lasting phase of the Arab

caused the deaths of more than 70,000 people within Syria,

Awakening, is not only a Syrian issue, but it is also an issue for the broader Middle East since it is already causing instability throughout the region. Bordering Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon, Syria’s

NATO’s send Patriot missiles to the southern Turkish border has increased its stake in the ongoing crisis

sectarian conflict has already caused serious internal security difficulties in countries like Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq. It must not be forgotten that the regime in Damascus relies heavily on support from the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon in order to stay in power and fend off the threat of state collapse. In addition to the turmoil it has caused inside Syria, the Arab Awakening has led to some kind of closure within the Ba’ath party and was followed by a cessation of Syrian cooperation with Turkey. Now, the Turkish government strongly supports Syrian rebels organized in the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces under the leadership of Moaz al-Khatib. The re-

mostly civilians. At the same time, there are several hundred thousand refugees located mainly in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Additionally, an estimated four million people inside Syria are in need

of humanitarian aid. Syria’s Threat to Turkey The Syrian conflict is extraordinarily complex and has major implications for regional security. As a consequence, Turkey’s security as a NATO member country is a critical issue. This obviously impacts NATO’s stance on Syria directly since Turkey has suffered numerous attacks against its border areas as part of the ongoing crisis. Moreover, since missiles coming from Syria have already caused deaths on Turkish soil, NATO’s decision in December 2012 to send Patriot missiles to the southern Turkish border has increased its stake in the ongoing crisis.

gional issue of Kurdish sovereignty is also prevalent, as the

Between the end of 2012 and mid-February 2013, the Unit-

Kurdish population dominates large swaths of territory cover-

ed States, Germany, and the Netherlands deployed Patriot mis-

ing areas of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, many

siles to Turkey amid fears of a chemical weapons attack from

of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict fear a possible rise

Syria, a notion repudiated by Damascus. Regardless, if Islamist

of Islamic extremism in the country. In such a case, Syria could

groups in Syria gain control of these weapons, Turkey and Israel

become a long-term battlefield of various groups, including

will be seriously threatened. Following these developments,

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3


NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that there

Iran’s importance in controlling Assad, have already organized

is a need for effective defense and protection for Turkey. The

a series of trilateral meetings with Iran and Egypt, Iran and

United States, Germany, and the Netherlands agreed to deploy

Russia, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Many analysts believe that

two batteries of Patriot mis-

Russia’s role is vital for

siles each. Their main objec-

reaching a peaceful solu-

tive is to detect new launches

tion in the Syrian crisis,

of ’Scud-type missiles’ against

since Moscow has strong

rebel fighters. The United

ties to the Assad regime.

States approved the deploy-

Turkey also moved 250

ment of 400 troops to Incirlik

tanks to the Syrian border

Air Base, while Dutch and

as an additional security

German troops number 300

measure, while at the same

each. The German, Dutch and

time the U.S. deployed

Turkish defense ministers paid

150 Special Forces in Jor-

a joint visit to NATO Patriot

U.S. troops with Patriot missile systems in Gaziantep, Turkey

batteries in Turkey on 23

(Photo: United States European Command – EUCOM)


February, showing the Alliance’s solidarity. The Syrian crisis marks the first time Patriot missiles have been located in Turkey since the 2003 campaign in Iraq.

Regional Implications The issue of Kurdish sovereignty remains important and

Officials in Damascus have denied the use of ballistic missiles

relevant. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s (PKK) presence in

in military activities. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) controls the

Turkey and its tumultuous past must be included in the overall

northern parts of the country (the cities of Idlib and Hama and

analysis, especially because it is a vital factor in understanding

the area around the city of Aleppo), in addition to smaller areas in

Turkish economic and security interests in the Middle East.

other parts of Syria. They are currently launching attacks on the

Turkish companies like Genel Energy are very interested in

capital of Damascus and Aleppo. Even though some analysts be-

exploiting natural gas reserves located in the Kurdish parts of

lieve that Assad’s regime is in retreat from the north, these areas

Iraq. In August 2012 Genel Energy acquired interest in two oil

bordering Turkey remain extremely fragile and still could poten-

blocks in Iraq: Bina Bawi and Miran. Genel Energy is the larg-

tially provoke Ankara to act against Assad’s forces.

est stakeholder in Bina Bawi, owning 44% of the shares, which

Considering that it currently houses 150,000 Syrian refugees and has been susceptible to insurgent attacks from the south, it is not surprising that Turkey insists on concrete actions to secure the fragile 900 km border next to Syria’s ‘bloody conflict’. In October 2012 Turkey shelled Syrian targets after a series of cross

leaves 20% to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and 36% to Austrian OMV. Turkey made a direct deal with the KRG without Baghdad’s official approval in May 2012, leading to the current deadlock between the KRG and the Baghdad government over Iraqi oil sales.

-border attacks. Turkey has claimed that the Syrian army and its

Genel Energy has interests in six oil production contracts

martyrs might use chemical warheads against Turkish border

with the KRG, specifically related to the Taq Taq, Ber Bahrm,

communities, alarming its NATO allies. Therefore, the Turks

Miran, Tawke, Dohuk, and Chia Surkh fields. They are plan-

demanded the installment of Patriot batteries in order to inter-

ning a vast drilling campaign with the aim of developing a pro-

rupt possible warhead attacks on Turkish soil. The Turks believe

duction sharing contract in the next 12 months. Large oil

that Assad’s regime possesses Soviet-era Scuds and North Korean

companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total also have

SS-21 missiles. Along with other observers, they also believe that

interests in northern Iraq. At the same time, Genel Energy is

the Syrian regime holds stocks of mustard gas, sarin nerve gas,

reviewing its plans to deploy its oil export pipeline system in

and probably VX nerve agents. Officials in Ankara, aware of

Kurdistan. The first pipeline in the northern Kirkuk field is

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

already under construction, and any lack of security and stabil8

ity in that area, which borders Syrian Kurdish lands, poses an

causing various obstacles to NATO initiatives in the region as

obstacle for the free distribution of oil and gas toward Turkish

well as promoting serious instability on a global level due to

and Western markets. Projects such as Nabucco with links to

Iran’s flouting of international law.

Iraq are very important for a diversified energy supply in Turkey

Is NATO Ready To Intervene?

and its NATO partner countries. One of the most important gas supplying initiatives is the Arab Gas Pipeline Project connecting Egypt’s El Arish with Turkish Kilis through Syrian territory. Ongoing conflict stopped that project with 230 km of pipeline left to complete from Homs in Syria to Turkey. Before the Arab

One of the most important topics regarding current developments in the Syrian crisis is the issue of whether NATO or its member states are unilaterally ready and adequately equipped to militarily intervene in the ongoing conflict.

Awakening Turkey had a very pragmatic approach, trying to

Some security analysts believe that small stockpiles of pre-

build friendly relations with all of its neighbors. Now, it is very

cision guided munitions (PGMs) can serve as NATO’s crucial

difficult to keep that kind of foreign policy balance given the

weapon in an air strike campaign, especially in densely popu-

regional upheaval. The decades-long strategy of ‘Zero Problems

lated areas. Since Syria has a substantial air defense network

with Our Neighbors‘ must be reconsidered after new develop-

supported by Russia and Iran, any operation would likely re-

ments in the region. Turkey is heavily engaged in efforts to over-

quire significantly more PGMs than the Libyan campaign in

throw Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; at the same time, rela-

2011. The NATO-led and UN Security Council-backed Libyan

tions with Syria’s only regional ally, Iran, are declining. Finally,

intervention, known as Operation Unified Protector, depleted

oil pipelines can cause problems in Turkish-Iraqi relations. Parts

energy and resources within NATO and its Gulf allies. Nine-

of the PKK are located in the northeastern areas of Syria, bordering Turkey and Iraq. The Syrian government forces withdrew from Kurdish majority

teen countries participated in the

The decades-long strategy of ‘Zero Problems with Our Neighbors’ must be reconsidered after new developments in the region

areas last July. Since then, these areas are under Kurdish control near the oil pipeline routes. It is important for Turkey to prevent these groups from threatening Turkish interests. If Assad’s regime regains control over the Kurds in Syria and decides to block Turkish economic interests in that area, it could cause serious economic problems for Turkey and the wider EU-NATO area which are very dependent on the Middle East’s oil and gas supplies.

Operation, fourteen of whom were NATO member states. There are some estimates that many of the European member states involved in

the Libyan campaign have relatively light reserves of PGMs.

These missiles are quite expensive and there are only a few production lines of PGMs in the world. Many European NATO member states are reducing military expenditures in the equipment sector. Therefore, for most of them, a unilateral approach is not an option. A multilateral approach could provide sufficient PGM stockpiles for a possible intervention against Assad’s regime. However, a NATO military

The Turkish government is obviously cautious about the possible renewal of Syria’s links with the PKK, and as such is primarily concerned with diversifying its energy supplies which, for now, are mainly related to doing business with Iran.

intervention in Syria is not a likely approach at the moment. NATO can consider several military options but it is very difficult to say whether these options can be implemented on the field in the near future. It is unlikely that the UN will

This energy issue could cause serious economic problems in

allow any kind of military campaign against the Syrian gov-

Turkey since Turkey is one of the largest importers of Iranian

ernment at the moment. Therefore, the only possible op-

crude oil, accounting for 7% of Iranian exports. After China, the European Union is the largest importer of Iranian crude oil. At the same time, NATO member states and the Iranian regime strongly disagree on the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

tion is a unilateral intervention, probably led by the US and its NATO partners. In this case, NATO has three viable strategies: declare no fly zones; prompt an air invasion without ground support or deploy a full scale military inter9

vention including air power and ground troops. If NATO

controlled by Assad’s troops, including chemical weapons.

chooses to avoid direct intervention but still seeks to influ-

NATO must be careful in preventing other groups such as

ence the outcome, it can choose to provide training and logis-

Jabhat al-Nusra from gaining possession of such weaponry.

tical support to the rebels. In that case, NATO must tactically

The newly created umbrella organization of the Syrian op-

consider to whom they deliver military assistance if they do

position, known as the National Coalition under the lead-

not want to provoke wider and more violent conflict within

ership of Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, is still insufficient-

Middle East. NATO’s need for restraint can be described in

ly interconnected, posing another problem for Western

the Secretary General’s words: ‘Syria is ethnically, politically,


religiously much more complicated than Libya.’ Keeping postwar Libya in mind, NATO’s caution has strong justification.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) led by Brigadier General Selim Idris is already under strong control of Islamist struc-

The ‘Afghanization’ scenario of Syria becoming deeply

tures and NATO needs to be careful when engaging the

embroiled in sectarian war poses risks not only to Turkey but

numerous factions of rebels. There are some signals that

also to Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and the wider region. If

the FSA has some ties with Salafists and the Muslim Broth-

it continues to develop into an unstoppable sectarian war

erhood. At the same time, there are heavy sanctions against

without any chance for compromise between Assad and the

the Damascus regime, which was previously selling 98% of

rebels, Western democracies might be pressed to intervene in

its oil to the EU states. Already, Syria has lost around $4

order to stop the humanitarian disaster. At this moment Rus-

billion of revenue in terms of oil trade on the annual level.

sia and China are strongly opposed to any UN-mandated in-

Even though there were signals after 2000 that Syria might

tervention against the Syrian Government. Moscow and Bei-

build some friendly relations with Western democracies,

jing have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions aimed

chances of such a development are out of the question since

at isolating Assad’s regime, as they disagree with the view

the start of the conflict. Demands for Assad’s departure are

that the Syrian government is solely responsible for the cur-

very strong and there are no signals that the U.S. or EU are

rent conflict. Even still, these developments within the UN

willing to cooperate with his regime.

are some kind of explanation and ‘excuse’ for why NATO has not

As of February 2013, U.S. policy is still focused on



some kind of military




and economic pressures the

troops. NATO

for resolving

willing to deliv-


er military assis-


conflict. The

tance to the re-

US also sup-

bels, but there

plies deliver-


ies of humani-

fears that these weapons might



states might be



Former Leader of the Syrian National Coalition Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib (Photo: Reuters)

end up in the hands of extremists who would cause further instability within Syria. For example, some groups like Hezbollah could potentially obtain advanced weaponry currently Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

tarian aid to the


tion forces. Some in the media speculate that certain Western intelligence services are involved in coordinating arms deliveries to the rebels in concert with Saudi Arabia and 10

Qatar, but there are no signs that there is a systematic ap-

dialogue with Damascus, Moscow, and if possible, Tehran.

proach regarding this issue.

At the same time, if NATO decides to begin a military in-

What Can NATO Do To Stop The Syrian War?

tervention, it needs to reconsider its strategy in dealing with rebel groups. Regardless of the chosen strategy, all require

It is obvious that there are several scenarios that could lead to the resolution of the Syrian civil war. Some of them, however, are unrealistic, such as reconciliation. The collapse of

action not only on the part of NATO, but also Russia and China in order for diplomacy to be an active player in ending the ‘blood games’ in Syria.

the regime could be a realistic outcome, but it depends on the cessation of Iranian and Russian support to Assad. The option

About the author

of a negotiated exit appears to be an acceptable solution for

Branko Lazic holds a M.A. degree in Regional Studies of

rebels and Western states, but it seems that Assad does not

Asia from the University of Belgrade. He has graduated at

consider this an option. As such, the conflict risks developing

the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Acade-

into a long civil war with elements of sectarian conflict. It

my. Currently he is engaged in the Serbian Government as a

could become ‘Multileveled Syrian Chaos’ consisting of small-

national security analyst. Lazic is an active member of the

er disputes on religious, ethnic, cultural, political, and eco-

Atlantic Council of Serbia’s Youth Organization.

nomic levels within the bloody conflict. The most dangerous


effect of such an outcome might be the rise of Islamist groups, which would cause great political instability within the region. Any spillover effect would drastically change the security of any neighboring country in addition to putting

BBC, Kurdistan Pipeline Deal: Iraq warns Turkey over Kurdistan Pipeline deal, Internet, May 2012, 22 May 2012 (accessed 14 Feb. 2013)

Regardless of the chosen strategy, all require action not only on the part of NATO, but also Russia and China

added strain on Turkey. In that case, conflict could spill over into not only Lebanon and Iraq,

BBC,NATO Deploying Patriot Missiles to Turkey – Syria Border, Internet, http://, 4 January 2013 (accessed 15 Feb. 2013)

Chatam House, Scenarios for Syria, Internet, default/files/public/Research/Middle% 20East/1211mtgsummary.pdf, December 2011 (accessed 12 Feb. 2013)

but also to Jordan and Israel. It could also be a source of daily

Flynt Leverett, Inheriting Syria – Bashar’s Trial by Fire (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 2005)

unrest in Turkey. Few, if any, participants in the Syrian war

Jonathan Masters, Syria’s Crisis and the Global Response, Council on Foreign Relations, Internet,, 5 February 2013 (accessed 15 Feb. 2013)

are interested in the bloodiest scenario. Therefore, NATO must carefully consider all options, including the military campaign against insurgent elements, no matter if they belong to the official regime or to rebel factions in Syria. Any action will be very expensive in terms of human resources and equipment, but a passive approach could cost the global community much more. The U.S. and NATO-led ‘Friends of Syria Group’ must cooperate with the Assad regime’s protectors from Moscow and Tehran if they don’t want to create a new al-Qaeda headquarters in the heart of the Middle East. NATO, therefore, needs to reconsider its current approach to the Syrian conflict. It is not enough to focus solely on the humanitarian dimension; it is necessary to consider a diplomatic and military approach too. The Alliance must strengthen its

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 3

Jubin Goodarzi, Syria and Iran: Diplomatc Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East (London – New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2006) Julian Borger, Turkey requested NATO Missile Defenses over Syria chemical weapons fears, The Guardian, Internet, world/2012/dec/02/turkey-syria-chemical-weapons-fears, 2 December 2012 (accessed 12 Feb. 2013) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Defense Ministers Visit Patriot Deployment, Internet, news_98819.htm, 23 February 2013 (accessed 25 Feb. 2013) Ozturk Selvitop, Turkish Gas Network Pipelines Recent Developments, Internet,, 10 September 2009 (accessed 12 Feb. 2013) Radwan Ziadeh, Power and Policy in Syria (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011) Ray Duprey, U.S. NATO Driven to Wage War on Syria,, Internet,, 20 October 2012 (accessed 10 Feb. 2013) U.S. Energy Administration, Iran – Country Analysis Brief, Internet, http://, (accessed 5 Mar. 2013) Zachary Fryer-Biggs, NATO Allies Might Be Unprepared for Syria, Internet, http:// NATO-Allies-Might-Unprepared-Syria, 17 December 2012 (accessed 12 Feb. 2013)


ATA Programs From 4-6 April, the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association (EATA) will host a NATO-EU Roundtable in Tallinn to discuss

Atlantic Voices is the monthly publication of the Atlantic Treaty Association. It aims to inform the debate on key issues that affect the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its goals and its future. The work published in Atlantic Voices is written by young professionals and researchers.

various topics related to the work and cooperation of NATO and

The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an international non-

the EU. This event will bring together 60 students in order to in-

governmental organization based in Brussels working to facilitate global

crease the knowledge of young people in foreign and security poli-

networks and the sharing of knowledge on transatlantic cooperation and

cy to discuss the working principles of NATO.

security. By convening political, diplomatic and military leaders with academics, media representatives and young professionals, the ATA promotes

From 4-6 February,

the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty: Democracy, Freedom,

the ATA organized its

Liberty, Peace, Security and Rule of Law. The ATA membership extends to 37

58th annual General As-

countries from North America to the Caucasus throughout Europe. In 1996,

sembly in Rome.

the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) was created to specifially


Assembly was held at the

include to the successor generation in our work.

Sala della Regina of the

Since 1954, the ATA has advanced the public’s knowledge and

Italian Parliament and

understanding of the importance of joint efforts to transatlantic security

the NATO Defense College. Full reports are available online.

through its international programs, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum, the Ukraine Dialogue and its Educational Platform.

Visit to learn more about the

In 2011, the ATA adopted a new set of strategic goals that reflects the

Slovak Atlantic Commission’s upcoming Globsec Conference on

constantly evolving dynamics of international cooperation. These goals include:

18-20 April. Don’t miss the opportunity to apply for the Young

Leaders Forum and join one of the leading security and foreign policy forums in the world. Atlantic Voices is always seeking new material. If you are a young researcher, subject expert or professional and feel you have a valuable contribution to make to the debate, then please get in touch. We are looking for papers, essays, and book reviews on issues of importance to the NATO Alliance. For details of how to submit your work please see our website. Further enquiries can also be directed to the ATA Secretariat at the address listed below. Editor: Jason Wiseman Images should not be reproduced without permission from sources listed, and remain the sole property of those sources. Unless otherwise stated, all images are the property of NATO.

the establishment of new and competitive programs on international security issues.

the development of research initiatives and security-related events for its members.

the expansion of ATA’s international network of experts to countries in Northern Africa and Asia. The ATA is realizing these goals through new programs, more policy

activism and greater emphasis on joint research initiatives. These programs will also aid in the establishment of a network of international policy experts and professionals engaged in a dialogue with NATO.

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

Atlantic Voices Vol 3. no. 3  

Paul Price examines the role of NATO’s Istanbul Cooperative Initiative as a force for ensuring security and upholding progress in the post-A...

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