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Turkey’s Unwinnable Three-Front: COVID-19, Syria and Libya?

Author: Michaël Tanchum

Affiliation: AIES researcher                             

Organization/Publisher: Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ)

Date/Place: April 16, 2020/ Istanbul, Turkey

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1586


Key Words: Turkish Security, Turkish Geopolitical Risks, PKK, PYD

This analysis argues that although Turkey faces an untenable challenge from the combination of COVID-19 and its extensive military commitments/operations in Syria and Libya, it will ultimately cope with COVID-19 as its population is youthful (median age 31.5 years), its public health care system is strong and experienced in humanitarian crises, but that its current level of foreign military interventions is economically untenable. While knowing an economic recession and “currency shock” in the past couple of years, Turkey is now combating wars on three fronts: the outbreak of COVID-19, commitment of its military in Syria and military operations launched in Libya. The author believes that Ankara will be forced to select among these choices to maintain its geopolitical interests. The outbreak of the pandemic complicated the economic situation in the country. Ankara is knowing a decrease in exports to its top importing states, which is exacerbated by the decline of oil prices particularly for its trade partners Iraq and Russia. Turkey is also facing a tourism crisis as the global pandemic continues during what is typically Turkey’s peak tourism season, which sector represents 12% of its GDP. Export and tourism sectors constitute close to half of the Turkish GDP.  Further, with the shutdown of some industries as a measure to fight the pandemic, the government must inject money to revive and maintain the country’s economy. Despite the medical capabilities the country has to cope with the pandemic and Turkish resilience, the country’s economy is ostensibly critical to deal with the three front wars. However, the pandemic also affects Turkey’s adversaries in Syria and in Libya, thus Turkey is likely to persist its current play on all fronts to maintain its strategic and geopolitical interests in the short-term. 

By: Imad Atoui, CIGA Research Associate



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