PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Wikistrat: Turkey’s Intervention in the Syrian Civil War

In April 2016 Wikistrat completed two role-playing simulations that explored the dynamics of Turkish intervention in the Syrian civil war:

140 analysts from Wikistrat’s global community of 2,200 recently wargamed a scenario in which Turkey invades northern Syria to establish a buffer zone in the country’s Kurdish region.

The analysts were divided across two mirrored groups (Alpha and Bravo) which had seven teams of ten analysts each, playing Russia, Assad loyalists in Syria, Turkey, the Kurds, ISIS, anti-Damascus and Western-backed rebels, as well as Iran and its proxies.

The two groups progressed simultaneously from the same starting scenario. But the divergent courses they took revealed key insights into some of the main actors and dynamics in the Syrian Civil War.

Key Findings

  • In the event of a Turkish intervention in Syria, providing Turkish forces stayed within a ten-kilometer buffer zone and avoided direct confrontation with Russia, they would likely not face significant pressure to withdraw — and could even gain international support if they were able to stabilize the border and slow the flow of refugees to Europe.
  • Assad has an interest in encouraging Russian and Kurdish coordination in Kurdish-held areas in order to free resources to fight anti-Assad rebels in the north.
  • Anti-Assad rebels are likely to suffer greatly in the face of escalating tensions, as their backers (e.g., the U.S. and Turkey) will be hesitant to increase the risk of hostilities with Russia by providing them with significant support.
  • The potential for NATO involvement in Syria will likely constrain Turkish, U.S. and European actors far more than Russia.
  • If Russia manages to keep its focus on ISIS while checking Turkey, it could gain significant international public opinion support which could be leveraged on behalf of Assad.
  • ISIS aggression was a major determinant regarding the direction and intensity of both games. However, ISIS aggression was more likely to result in sustained victory if the focus was on insurgent warfare in Syria (e.g., an attack on Russian forces within Syria) rather than terrorist attacks abroad (e.g., an attack against Russia itself).

The findings are interesting to compare with actual developments since the analysis was undertaken, notably the launching of Operation Euphrates Shield in August against ISIS and even more so the PYD/YPG (Syrian Kurds, and their allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces), and recent Russian-Turkish-Iranian cooperation on a ceasefire and proposed Syrian peace negotiations.

You’ll find the full report at the Wikistrat website. For more on their role-play methodologies, see here.

h/t Shay Hershkovitz

4 responses to “Wikistrat: Turkey’s Intervention in the Syrian Civil War

  1. museodelsoldatino 05/01/2017 at 2:24 pm

    I was leader of the Red (Russia) Alpha Team and I have to say that insight we got on Russian decision-making was indeed very useful for understanding their approach when Turkey really started op. Euphrates Shield and several aspects were confirmed.

  2. Lorenzo Nannetti (@LorenzoNannetti) 05/01/2017 at 2:25 pm

    I was leader of the Red (Russia) Alpha Team and I have to say that insight we got on Russian decision-making was indeed very useful for understanding their approach when Turkey really started op. Euphrates Shield and several aspects were confirmed.

  3. Lorenzo Nannetti (@LorenzoNannetti) 05/01/2017 at 2:26 pm

    (sorry for the double post with a different account that I usually don’t use here)

  4. Micaiah 10/02/2017 at 11:23 pm

    The Syrian “Civil War”/ Conflit which started off as Arab Spring revolution.. dealing with the democratic uprising that arose & spread quickly, ending up in Syria. This conflict has quickly re shaped the country & relocated thousands .. maybe millions of people to different places around the world. The Syrian conflict has seen many casualties. With conflicts like these it makes you wonder how different it would be if the government simply complied with requests and made it work. Though this will never happen, because of different views.

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