Opinion Editorial
The Middle East and Its Grim Near-Future Development
By Markus Tozman
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(AINA) -- O my dear, they are making such a horrible muddle of the Near East, I confidently anticipate that it will be much worse than it was before the war … It's like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them. -- Gertrude Bell, 19191

Gertrude Bell certainly had brilliant foresight and a very realistic assessment of post-WWI developments for the Middle East. Yet, even she might not have anticipated the current havoc that is reigning across the whole region. The complete disintegration of Iraq, the civil war in Syria, the internal tension and violence that is striking Lebanon and Jordan to the point where these states fear for their very survival—current developments are changing the dynamics, the face and the future of the whole Middle East. Turkey's transition into an autocracy is worrying its Western allies and its foreign policy ambitions is alienating its neighbors, exacerbating the instability of an already volatile region. The dualism between Saudi Arabia and Iran fuels the sectarian violence between Sunni Muslims and Shiites as well as other minority groups.

The year 2014 has seen an escalation in violence in the Middle East, epitomized in IS' genocidal campaigns against Christians, Yazidis and other non-Sunni groups after the fall of Mosul in June 2014. Events on the ground do not give much reason for optimism about the region's short-term development. This analysis seeks to explain how this highly complex and conflict-ridden region is likely to develop during 2015, focusing on Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, while also taking into account the influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia.


"There is probably a mastermind behind this scheme [politics in the Middle East], you have to figure that out." -- Turkish President Erdogan to a selected group of journalists, October 2014.

If Turkey was at a crossroads in 2014, it will have parted ways with the West by the end of 2015. No one would doubt that the image of "secular" Turkey has changed tremendously under the 13-year rule of the AKP. Turkey has become repressive towards differing views and opinions; it has alienated its political friends in the West and the regimes in the Middle East; and it will likely feel a domestic backlash from its Islamist policies. These policies have not only manifested themselves in the government's support of Syrian Islamists but also in its out-of-touch domestic policies, including meddling in all sorts of private matters, ranging from single-shaming23, to the position of women,4 or education5 in order to raise a "pious"6, pro-AKP, Sunni youth.

In September 2014, the word spread among Syrian Orthodox Christians in South-Eastern Turkey, a region known as Tur Abdin in Aramaic, to avoid travelling to the village of Hah to celebrate the Assumption of Mary—an important pilgrimage that has hundreds of followers every year. Islamists had gathered in large numbers in the villages surrounding Hah and the vulnerable Syriac community feared attacks. The incident was reminiscent of the 1990s, when Islamists from Turkish Hezbollah had targeted the group, considering them infidels. From 1990 to 1994 alone, at least 34 Christians, including mayors and other influential figures in the provinces Siirt, Sirnak and Mardin, were killed and members of the clergy kidnapped.7

Recent events suggest that Turkish policy is returning to its dark 1990s. The Kurdish resistance against IS in Kobani that began in September 2014 and Turkey's unwillingness to act sparked massive Kurdish riots in which dozens of Turkish citizens, mainly Kurds, were killed. Kurdish youth close to PKK on the one hand and to Hüda-Par, a Turkish-Hezbollah offshoot, on the other, attacked one another in Kurdish cities.8 Consequently, PKK leaders halted the peace process. If the Turkish government does not change course, a continuation of the Kurdish civil war is likely.9 In 1999, the Turkish government dismantled Hezbollah because it was threatening the State,10 and as a result, the Islamists disappeared. Their recent re-emergence in Turkey's southeast bodes ill for the Kurds and other non-Islamist groups.

Erdogan's policies have radicalized the Turkish people. A MetroPOLL opinion poll from October 2014 found that 4 percent or 3 million Turks were sympathetic towards IS. IS supporters have gathered publicly11 and attacked students in Istanbul12 without any intervention by authorities suggesting government support for the group. The Turkish leadership has tried to brush of criticism against its policies by claiming that foreign "masterminds" have conspired against the country.13

The Syrian conflict has been a public relations disaster for the Turkish government and its leaders will feel the consequences domestically. Sources in Ankara fear attacks by Islamists and major unrest if Turkey acts against IS. However, if Turkey fails to act against IS, or fails to support the Kurds (who are actively fighting the group), Turkish Kurds are likely to radicalize and turn against the State. Turkey has sunk into a self-created quagmire, and seems to be unable or unwilling to pull itself out of it. Because of the general elections in June 2015, however, the Turkish government is not likely to take any measures. The stakes are too high to openly offend any of the two groups, who are both part of the AKP's electorate.

Turkey's Syria policy has also dealt a final blow to Turkish-US relations that have been strained since the ouster of the Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013. Turkey is likely to remain abandoned in the international arena and slide further into isolation. The next blow, however, is likely to come from the US rather than from the Turkish government itself. It is increasingly likely that the US may take a major political step towards recognizing the Armenian Genocide during the event's centennial in 2015. US Vice President Biden's anti-Turkey remarks14 and subtle signs of support for the Armenian cause15 point to that development. Turkey has become unreliable and the West, particularly the US, has put its hope in the Iraqi Kurds, its last staunch ally in a region where the US has lost major influence and even more sympathies.

The Turkish general elections in June 2015 will be a watershed event. If the AKP wins the elections and gains a 3/5 majority, Erdogan is highly likely to change the Turkish constitution and further concentrate power in his role as de-facto head of the legislative and executive. Because the Turkish opposition remains conflict-ridden and ill organized, chances are high that Erdogan will achieve his aim. The AKP has already assumed tight control of the executive and legislative branch, and moves are underway to take control of the judiciary16 and further erode rule of law.17 The upcoming year will be of historic significance for Turkey. The outcome of the elections will likely change the country for decades and might shatter any hopes for democratization, increased personal rights, rapprochement with the West, or any improvement of the Syrian people's misery.

Iraq and Syria

"Since 1500 years we did not stop celebrating … in this church … although Moghuls, Tatars and Hulaghu have invaded the region[.] [D]espite all those many wars that have wretched Iraq, we did not stop praying in our churches, neither in Mosul nor outside of it. Since 1500 years, this is the first year.. [bishop starts weeping]. This is the first year that we pray outside of our church. … Nothing that resembles humanity has remained in this world. … There is no more dignity in this world, no more honor, no more solicity. All those who talk about human rights are liars, all of them. Those who stand up for human rights have been watching what happened to this people and no one helped us. … [W]e have been calling onto the world, telling them this people is without shelter on the streets; help us before the winter comes, before the rain comes. Have you seen the miserable conditions they live in? Why, … Why is this happening to us?"18 -- Syrian Orthodox bishop of Mosul in November 2014.

It would be naive to talk at this stage about a country called Iraq. The nation-state Iraq has effectively become a failed state. Inexperienced British War Office member Mark Sykes and French diplomat George-Picot certainly did not create stability and peace for the inhabitants of the Middle East when they drew the country's imperialistic borders in 1916. The Sykes-Picot Agreement—that created the Iraq that we know today—is dead and the country will never return to its status quo pre-June 2014, when ISIS captured Mosul.

Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon all have a major issue in common: they are proxies in a war between two heavyweights who are ready to spill a lot of blood to achieve supremacy in the whole region: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Neither the central government in Baghdad, nor President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Hezbollah in Iran, the Houthis in Yemen on the one hand, or the different factions of Salafis, Jihadis and Takfiris, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other, would still be in power or have gained further ground if it was not for those two states. Turkey is powerful enough to set its own agenda; the smaller Arab states are definitely not. Iraq and Syria will not return to their former status quo—their central governments have lost too much power, and their enemies—in particular IS and Jabhat al-Nusra—are too strong to be defeated.

The US invasion of 2003 was the beginning of the end of a once vibrant multi-ethnic and multicultural Iraq. There are different estimates on the numbers of Christians in Iraq before 2003, ranging from 800,000 to 1.5 million.19 Until 10 years ago, Baghdad had the largest Christian population of any city in the Middle East;20 today, some 30 families remain. Some 90 percent of Iraq's Christians have been displaced.21 The numbers of Christians have become too insignificant to leave any mark on present-day Baghdad. The Sunnis and the Shias have their patrons; Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans, Turkmen and Shabak, do not.

The US did not intervene when Mosul fell and all of its Christians fled, nor when the Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar; they also failed to act when the Ninevah plains were emptied of all of its religious groups except the Sunnis.22 It was not until IS moved toward Erbil, the Kurdish autonomous region's capital, that the US—fearing the loss of its last steadfast ally in the Middle East—sent in its air force. The West is throwing all of its hope behind the Kurds, providing them with weapons, training and money. Indeed, the Kurds are the only force that could stop the advance of IS. Domestic and international pressure forced Former Prime Minister Maliki—whose sectarian agenda had angered and alienated the non-Shia in Iraq—to step down. His involuntary resignation will likely result in a decrease in Baghdad's sectarian politicking and improve the latter's ties with the Kurds. A December 2014 deal between Erbil and Baghdad about oil exports from the Kurdish region and the distribution of oil revenues23, a long-standing bone of contention between them,24 indicates that their relationship will improve further. The West's massive military and financial support for Iraqi Kurdistan will help consolidate the Kurdish region, further undermining the Iraqi nation state.

The Iraqi Kurds have promised the West to protect Assyrians, Yazidis and other minorities in their sphere of influence. However, these minorities are wary of depending upon the mercy of the Kurds for their survival. Both the Yazidis and the Christians distrust Kurdish intentions.25 Their distrust is fueled by regular sectarian violence by Kurdish Islamists26 and Kurdish soldiers (Peshmerga) against Christians27, and the feeling that the Peshmerga abandoned the Yazidis when IS attacked.28 Complicating the situation for Christians in Iraq is the fact that they are not part of the tribal structure; nor do they have militias like the Sunnis and Shiites. They remain an exposed group—and thus an easy target.29

The Assyrians, the region's indigenous population for over 6000 years, as well as Turkmen and Yazidis demand weapons and training from the international community.30 These groups yearn to be in charge of their own destiny and demand a safe haven in the Ninevah plains, a region squeezed between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan, whose population used to be 90 percent Assyrian or Yazidi.31 If the international community does not support them and enforce autonomy for minorities in Iraq's Ninevah plains, the remnants of these proud cultures will disappear for good. Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi's promise to protect Iraqi Christians32 will not change their perspective, given his predecessor's failure to follow up on the same promises.

Iraq will not return to normalcy in 2015. IS has a strong grip on the Sunni regions and has forestalled any attempts by the central government to encourage a Sunni uprising similar to the 2007 Anbar Awakening33, a campaign in which Sunni tribes and the US fought together against al Qaeda.34 It will take more than simple gestures from the central government or the Kurdish Peshmerga to win over Iraq's Sunnis. In order for Iraq to survive as a nation-state, it will need to be organized along sectarian and ethnic lines, with fully autonomous regions. To fight IS effectively, particularly the Sunnis will need to feel that they can govern themselves, rather than be governed by Iran through a Shia central government in Baghdad. Making matters more difficult, Iran is taking a more overt and active involvement against IS in form of military advice35 and air strikes.36 This will feed into IS rhetoric and keep Sunni support for IS high.

Iraq's current state will not change in the short term: The central government is too weak and does not possess a functioning army37 to change the status quo. Iraq's Kurdish government will also continue to strengthen its autonomy and international standing, undermining Iraq as a nation-state. Iraq's most vulnerable minorities remain without prospect for a future in the country and will therefore continue to flee. Without a viable and unified Sunni representation in Iraq, IS will keep its grip on the Sunni regions.

The situation in Syria is little more promising. Although the protagonists on the ground are different to those in Iraq, the actors in the background – Iran and Saudi Arabia – remain the same. Edward Dark, a Syrian correspondent who lives in Aleppo bemoans how foreign powers have strangled his country and people, yet the Syrians, he says, want nothing more than an end to fighting.38 Without further scrutinizing the vast array of opposition groups fighting in Syria who want to install Shariah law and purge the country of everyone but Salafi Sunnis, one has to understand the aims of the actors supporting these groups. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia support radicals either because they believe that the "infidel" Assad is suppressing Sunnis (Turkey); because they want to broaden their influence in the region through those groups (Qatar)39; or because they want to deal a major blow to growing Shia influence in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia).

The key to ending the conflict in Syria is to stop arming Assad and the Jihadists who have completely taken over the Syrian opposition.40 Another crucial element is to give Syria's minorities convincing guarantees for autonomy and self-protection. The Alawites, the Christians and the Kurds, understandably fear for their lives if the Islamists topple Assad. The purge of Mosul in Iraq and the direct targeting of Christians and Yezidis in that same country has sparked fears amongst the Syrian minority communities, emblematic in the struggle for the Syrian Kurdish enclave Kobani. The ongoing fighting for this strategically insignificant town that began in September 2014 has already resulted in several hundred – possibly more than 2000 – casualties and is not likely to end soon. Although IS simply does not want to lose face in Kobani, the Kurds depict the fight as existential, for their defeat would mean extinction at the hands of IS.

Attempts to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program will determine developments in Syria. The ongoing "P5+1" talks are promising. Iran is eager to break out of its international isolation and to see the removal of sanctions against it. The Syrian conflict is a useful bargaining chip for Iran, Assad's main sponsor. Europe in particular dreads the potential political and security implications of European Jihadists who fought in Syria or Iraq returning,41 increasing Europe's incentive to make the Iran-talks succeed.

For Iran, removing Assad from office would not be a red line.42 For Saudi Arabia, however, lifting Iranian sanctions would be unacceptable. The Saudis have no desire to see Iran become an accepted member of the international community and an economically powerful player in the Middle East. Syria is pivotal in the Shia-Sunni competition.43 Saudi Arabia thinks that if Syria were to fall into the hands of Sunni Jihadists, Lebanon's Shiite Hizbollah might fall too, which would strongly undermine the position of Shiism in the Middle East as a whole.

Although the Syrian war will likely drag on for years, a further rapprochement between the West and Iran on the one hand, and declining support from the Sunni patrons for the Syrian Jihadists (for fear of domestic reprisal)44 on the other, will likely tilt the balance in favor of Assad's dictatorship. US president Obama has bluntly said that the US is not actively discussing ways to remove Assad in plans for Syria's political transition.45 Saudi Arabia, too, had to change its policies regarding IS. After IS attacked Shiites on Saudi soil and publicly threatened to topple Saudi rulers, the Saudi regime was forced to stop its support for the group.

If the West could reach peace with Iran and reach a consensus on a Sunni leader in a decentralized multi-ethnic and multi-denominational Syria, many of the current sponsors and fighters of the Syrian war would lose their legitimacy. For 2015, however, such a scenario does not seem very feasible.

The fate of Syria's Christians and other minorities will depend on the further gains of the regime or the Islamists. The kidnapping of the Greek and Syrian Orthodox Bishops from Aleppo in April 2013 – who remain without a sign of life – was symbolic to the Christian community; an event indicative of the larger collapse of interfaith communal relations in Syria. It marked the end of a long era of relative peace and safety for this vulnerable group. As Edward Dark described: "Fear of a new kind permeates this ancient and deeply rooted community. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are very real threats that haunt the collective conscience of Syria's Christians. The terrible fate that befell their co-religionists across the border in Mosul has driven these points home in a rather blunt and frightening way."46 The US Committee on International Religious Freedom is equally gloomy stating that "in the city of Homs the number of Christians dwindled to as few as 1,000 from approximately 160,000 prior to the conflict. … After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike."47 While Christians in Syria made up 10 to 15 percent of the population before the war, the group has become a shadow of its former self. Without its own power base or effective militia, it will continue to leave the country with little incentive to return. Hence, the remaining Christians can only rely on the regime – which the majority despises – or on the Kurds.

In northern Syria, the Kurds will likely improve their standing in their fight against IS. Unlike Iraq's Peshmerga, the YPG, PKK's paramilitary wing, cooperates with Syria's Christians.48 Reportedly, YPG fighters also saved thousands of Yezidis on mount Sinjar from IS while the Peshmerga abandoned them.49 In Qamishli, different Syriac Christian paramilitary organizations have formed to defend themselves against the regime and IS.50 Yet, they are internally divided and militarily inexperienced. Their survival is likely dependent upon the success of the Kurdish YPG.

Syria is much more volatile and fractured than Iraq but it suffers from similar issues of sectarian and ethnic strife and more importantly from the meddling of foreign actors. Syria has become Iran and Saudi Arabia's bloodiest proxy war and 2015 will not bring an end to the conflict. The steady flow of fighters and weapons into the country will inevitably prolong the fighting; this includes Western arms shipments to allegedly "moderate" factions, too.51

Lebanon and Jordan

Although the war in neighboring Syria has largely spared Lebanon, the country is inherently at risk of being more deeply drawn into the conflict, which would tear the whole country apart. The memories and marks of the longstanding Lebanese civil war, fought ferociously along sectarian lines, are still visible everywhere in Lebanon. Although Lebanon's army is predominantly Sunni, it has done well so far in keeping the country together without following a sectarian agenda52 and will likely further fulfil this role in 2015. IS' attempts to draw the country through its Sunni population into the war, have so far been spoiled by the Lebanese army which won important battles against IS and its allies in the Sunni hotspots Arsal53 and Tripoli.54

Shiite Hezbollah, too, plays an important role for Lebanon's unity. Although the organization has actively been fighting in Syria as ally of Assad to stem the rise of a Sunni regime, Hezbollah has become wary of a Sunni resurgence in Lebanon. Knowing that Shiite resources are limited and that their numbers eventually are smaller than those of their Sunni opponents in the region, already in 2012, Hezbollah started reaching out to Christians. Their media outlets were strikingly warm to Lebanese Christians, praising Jesus Christ's birth and even playing Christian religious songs during Christmas.55 Although Christian sympathies towards Hezbollah are not necessarily widespread, inter-denominational divisions and the fear for the Jihadist's advance from Syria has pushed many Christians to join ranks with Hezbollah. Adroitly promoting Hezbollah's domestic arm – the Lebanese Resistance Brigades – as an interreligious group, Christians have followed Hezbollah's call and started joining these brigades.56 If IS further advances in Syria or Lebanon, it is likely that more Lebanese Christians will join Hezbollah's fight. As a Lebanese Christian put it: "What has happened in Mosul has been a message to all Christians of the East that the world will not protect them and that they need to rely on themselves to defend their existence."57 If Christians are committed to stay in the Levant, they do not seem to have a choice either as there is no other country left to turn to. Emblematically, the Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean and Assyrian church have all moved their headquarters from Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.58

Domestically, political issues have paralyzed the country and its democratic system. Particularly, the presidential vacuum since 25 May 2014 and the failure to conduct parliamentary elections since the term of the current parliament expired in 2013, have not been conducive to the country's stability.59 When in November 2014 the Lebanese parliament voted to extend its term for the second time for an additional 3 years without calling general elections,60 the legislative branch has de facto voted to further undermine its constitution and democracy. This will likely not change in 2015, reducing Lebanon to a state ruled by the army, Hezbollah and differing militias. The porous borders will likely see increased fighting between Lebanese forces or Hezbollah on the one side and Sunni Islamists in the other.

The situation in Jordan is complicated, yet arguably stable. Although the country struggles to cope with the influx of immigrants from Syria and Iraq, the rise of homegrown Salafism poses a much bigger challenge. In April 2014, in Maan, the country's largest governorate in South-Jordan, violent clashes broke out after security forces killed a 19-year-old fundamentalist while trying to arrest him. The situation escalated and an armed confrontation between locals and the security forces ensued that lasted for several days.61

Maan is just an example of Jordan's growing extremist presence that threatens its internal stability. The borders to Syria are porous and as early as August 2013, Jordan asked the US for support through intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to better control its border crossings,62 resulting in airstrikes against weapons transports and supplies of Islamists in southern Syria.63 More than 2,200 Jordanians fight for Jabhat al Nusra and their numbers are growing daily. Yet, the situation is not likely to escalate in 2015. The US has more than 1,000 troops stationed within the country and has announced a USD 5 billion counterterrorism partnership fund to shore up partner countries in their fight against terrorism.64 Even Israel has suggested it could come to Jordan's defense if IS or al-Nusra were to breach Jordan's borders in the North.65 In short, Jordan is strategically too important for Israel, the US or Saudi Arabia66 to fall into Islamist hands. Those countries would do everything possible to keep the integrity and stability of the small monarchy intact, because the consequence of a failure would inflict massive damage to their own interests.


Hisham Melhem, former head of news media platform Al-Arabiya, described the near future of the Arab world in very gloomy words: "The Islamic State, like al Qaeda, is the tumorous creation of an ailing Arab body politic. Its roots run deep in the badlands of a tormented Arab world that seems to be slouching aimlessly through the darkness. It took the Arabs decades and generations to reach this nadir. It will take us a long time to recover—it certainly won't happen in my lifetime."67

Irrespective of the views one may have on developments in the Middle East, there can be no doubt that the Middle East is changing tremendously and irreversibly. The occurrence of IS, the collapse of Iraq and Syria, the Arab uprisings which were turned from pro-democracy aspirations to totalitarian Sharia-implementation wars, have changed the Middle East in ways no one could have imagined at the beginning of 2011. The analysis of the status quo in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and all its devastating consequences for the rest of the Middle East, do not leave much room for optimism. It is not likely that the Levant and Iraq will stabilize. To the contrary, all signs point to continuous destabilization and further escalation in 2015. There is no organized, legitimate counterforce in the Middle East that could change the tide of events. Many Arab states "oscillate between despair and disintegration".68 In 2015, the likelihood for improvement of these countries' status quo resembles their present reality; it is grim.


1 Quoted in Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers. The Paris Conference of 1919 and its Attempt to End War, London 2001, 411.

2 Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet, In Turkey, a late crackdown on Islamist fighters, Washington Post, 12.08.2014: www.washingtonpost.com/world/how-turkey-became-the-shopping-mall-for-the-islamic-state/2014/08/12/5eff70bf-a38a-4334-9aa9-ae3fc1714c4b_story.html

3 Tulay Cetengulec, Turkey's Family Ministry shames singles in new ad, Al-Monitor,19.09.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-family-ministry-battle-aloneness.html

4 Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish PM Erdogan reiterates his call for three children, 03.01.2013: www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-erdogan-reiterates-his-call-for-three-children.aspx?pageID=238&nid=38235 or Elahe Izadi, Turkey's president says women are not equal to men, Washington Post, 24.11.2014: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/11/24/turkeys-president-says-women-are-not-equal-to-men/

5 Tulin Daloglu, Turkey allows headscarves for young students., Al-Monitor, 24.09.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-headscarves-early-education-allowed.html

6 Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Erdogan's reforms meant to educate 'pious generation', Al-Monitor, 26.06.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/cengiz-produce-religious-generations-erdogan-akp-islamist.html

7 Compare Abrohom Mirza, Dokumentation über die Ermordung und Verfolgungen der assyrischen Christen in der Türkei 1976-2007, Gütersloh 2007; Naures Atto, Hostages in the Homeland, Orphans in the Diaspora: Identity Discourses Among the Assyrian/Syriac Elites in the European Diaspora, Leiden 2011.

8 Hussein Gemmo, Battle for Syrian town could have wide regional repercussions, Al-Monitor, 13.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/10/syria-kobani-ayn-al-arab-attack-islamic-state-turkey.html

9 John T. Nugent, The Defeat of Turkish Hizballah as a Model for Counter-Terrorism Strategy, in: Middle East Review of International Affairs, 8.1 (2004), 69-76; Human Rights Watch, What is Turkey's Hizbullah? A Human Rights Watch backgrounder, 16 February 2000; Bulent Aras and Gokhan Bacik, The Mystery of Turkish Hizballah, in: Middle East Policy, 9.2 (2002), 147-160; Metin Gurcan, Kurd vs. Kurd: internal clashes continue in Turkey, 09.10.2014:www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/turkey-syria-kurds-kobani-pkk-kurdo-islamists.html; Compare to Markus Tozman, Turkey's Hezbollah: Transformation from a pawn to leviathan?, Johns Hopkins University, 2013.

10 John Gorvet, Discovery of 50 murdered bodies spotlights links between Turkish government, Kurdish Islamist group, in: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Apr2000, 19.3, 30-32.

11 Talin Daloglu, Group with alleged links to Islamic State gathers in Istanbul, Al-Monitor, 30.07.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/daloglu-isis-syria-iraq-istanbul-gathering-islamic-state.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+[English]&utm_campaign=f3d4626827-July_31_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-f3d4626827-93111661

12 Raphael Satter and Isil Sariyuce, Turkey's Largest City Is Rattled By Growing Signs Of ISIS Support, Al-Monitor, 14.10.2014: www.businessinsider.com/turkeys-capital-is-rattled-by-growing-signs-of-isis-support-2014-10

13 Mustafa Akyol, The Middle East 'mastermind' who worries Erdogan, Al-Monitor, 31.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/turkey-erdogan-middle-east-mastermind.html

14 Gopal Ratnam, Joe Biden Is the Only Honest Man in Washington, Foreign Policy, 07.10.2014: www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/10/06/joe_biden_is_the_only_honest_man_in_washington

15 Gonul Tol, 'Armenian Orphan Rug' displayed by White House, Al-Monitor, 19.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/11/turkey-united-states-orphan-armenian-carpet.html

16 Mustafa Akyol, Turkish judiciary battle: AKP 1, Gulenists 0, Al-Monitor, 14.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/turkey-judiciary-battle-hsyk-akp-gulen.html

17 Pinar Tremblay, AKP proposes 'German model' for Turkish police, Al-Monitor, 24.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/turkey-police-german-model-judicial-reform-package.html

18 Ephrem Ishac, Bishop of Mosul is Weeping, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljA08GZ615g

19 Markus Tozman, A short overview of the status quo of Christian minorities in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, 2013 Open Doors International.

20 In Pieter Omtzigt, Markus Tozman & Andrea Tyndall, The Slow Disappearance of the Syriacs from Turkey, Münster 2013

21 Ghassan Rifi, Bishop: 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq displaced, Al-Monitor, 21.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/10/christians-iraq-displaced-killed-war-conflict.html

22 Jihad al Zein, Regional collapse puts Christians in peril, Al-Monitor, 28.09.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/09/httpnewspaperannaharcomarticle173457----.html#ixzz3JI0VLz1L

23 Mushreq Abbas, Oil deal a sign of hope between Baghdad, Erbil, Al-Monitor, 05.12.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/iraq-kurdistan-oil-agreement-relations.html

24 Denise Natali, Turkey's Kurdish oil gamble, Al-Monitor, 29.05.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/05/turkey-kurdish-oil-gamble-risky-baghdad.html

25 Patrick Franke, Richten sich westliche Waffen gegen Minderheiten?, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.08.2014: www.sueddeutsche.de/meinung/jesiden-und-kurden-im-irak-waffen-fuer-die-falschen-1.2106836-2

26 Otmar Oehring, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung: Zur Gegenwärtigen Situation der Christen im Nahen Osten, Berlin 2001

27 Assyrian Homes Being Looted By Kurdish Forces, AINA News, 15.11.2014: /news/20141115145804.htm

28 Christine van den Toren, the Daily Beast, 17.08.2014: www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/17/how-the-u-s-favored-kurds-abandoned-the-yazidis-when-isis-attacked.html

29 Mina al Droubi, Iraq's Vanishing Minority. Kurdistan region no longer a safe haven for Iraqi Christians as many flee abroad, The Majalla, 24.09.2013: www.majalla.com/eng/2013/09/article55245583

30 Ali Mamouri, Iraq's minorities demand weapons, training, Al-Monitor, 19.09.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/iraq-minorities-calls-for-international-protection-arms.html

31 Konstantin Sabo, Further Arming the Kurds could prove Dangerous, AINA News, 01.09.2014: /guesteds/20140901185145.htm

32 Nidal al Laythi, Abadi promises to protect Iraqi Christians, Al-Monitor, 06.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/11/iraq-christian-church-abadi-protect-ninevah.html

33 Stephen Biddle, Jeffrey A. Friedman and Jacob N. Shapiro, Testing the Surge. Why did Violence decline in Iraq in 2007, in: International Security, 37.1 (2012), 7-40.

34 Ali Mamouri, IS uses intelligence to purge opponents, Al-Monitor, 28.10.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/islamic-state-iraq-intelligence-services.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+[English]&utm_campaign=9ec9fb2cac-Week_in_review_November_2_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-9ec9fb2cac-93085265

35 Ali Mamouri, To promote wins against IS, Iran's Soleimani emerges, Al-Monitor, 28.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/iran-soleimani-interference-shiite-militias-iraq.html

36 Kerry calls Iran airstrikes on Islamic State 'positive', Al-Monitor, 07.12.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/iran-kerry-islamic-state-airstrikes.html

37 Shukur Khilkhal, Iraqi army crippled by flaws, Al-Monitor, 10.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/iraq-army-history-protect-internal-security-governments.html

38 Edward Dark, Why arming rebels will fuel Syria's inferno, Al-Monitor, 06.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/syria-rebels-arming-dangerous-extremists.html

39 David Blair and Richard Spencer, How Qatar is funding the rise of Islamist extremists, The Telegraph, 20.09.2014: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/qatar/11110931/How-Qatar-is-funding-the-rise-of-Islamist-extremists.html

40 Alessandria Masi, Syria's New Super-Opposition Coalition Unites Moderates, Islamists -- And Leaves US With Limited Allies, International Business Times, 10.12.2014: www.ibtimes.com/syrias-new-super-opposition-coalition-unites-moderates-islamists-leaves-us-limited-1735154

41 Martin Robinson, The homegrown jihadists fighting for ISIS, The Daily Mail, 21.08.2014: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2730602/The-homegrown-jihadists-fighting-ISIS-How-one-four-foreigners-signed-Islamic-State-British-half-ALREADY-UK.html

42 Iran nuclear deal could be key to resolving region's conflicts, Al-Monitor, 16.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/iran-nuclear-deadline-iraq-syria-conflict-resolution.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+[English]&utm_campaign=9bc98279f1-Week_in_review_November_17_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-9bc98279f1-93085265

43 Frederic Wehrey and Karim Sadjadpour, Elusive Equilibrium: America, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in a Changing Middle East, Carnegie Endowment, 22.05.2014: carnegieendowment.org/2014/05/22/elusive-equilibrium-america-iran-and-saudi-arabia-in-changing-middle-east

44 Madawi Al Rasheed, Saudi Arabia forced to rethink ideology in fight against IS, Al-Monitor, 03.12.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/saudi-kingdom-versus-caliphate.html

45 Obama says no plans to remove Assad, Al-Monitor, 22.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/obama-says-no-plans-to-remove-assad.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=623a328891-Week_in_review_November_24_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-623a328891-93085265#ixzz3LtxYTdMg

46 Edward Dark, Aleppo's forgotten Christians, Al-Monitor, 11.08.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/aleppo-christians-syria-war-iraq-mosul-isis-islamic-state.html#ixzz3LukM0tfL

47 USCIRF, 2013 International Religious Freedom Report, Executive Summary.

48 Andrea Glioti, Syriac Christians, Kurds Boost Cooperation in Syria, Al-Monitor, 20.06.2014: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/syria-syriacs-assyrians-kurds-pyd.html

49 John Beck, Meet the PKK 'Terrorists' Battling the Islamic State on the Frontlines of Iraq, Vice News, 22.08.2014: news.vice.com/article/meet-the-pkk-terrorists-battling-the-islamic-state-on-the-frontlines-of-iraq

50 Carl Drot, A Christian Militia Splits in Qamishli, Carnegie Endowment, 06.03.2014: carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=54794

51 Edward Dark, Why arming rebels will fuel Syria's inferno, Al-Monitor, 06.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/syria-rebels-arming-dangerous-extremists.html

52 Esperance Ghanem, Long-awaited Bekaa Valley security plan implemented, Al-Monitor, 26.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/lebanon-bekaa-security-plan-brital-kidnappings-theft.html

53 Jean Aziz, Arsal clashes a threat to Lebanon's future, Al-Monitor, 03.08.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/arsal.html

54 Sami Nader, Lebanese army makes strides in Tripoli, Al-Monitor, 28.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/lebanon-army-tripoli-arsal-terrorist-hezbollah.html

55 Nasser Chararah Hezbollah Media Outlets Warm to Christians in Lebanon, Al-Monitor,30.12.2012: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/hezbollah-media-outlets-warm-to.html#ixzz3LvAAWITG

56 Ali Hashem, Hezbollah prepares to fight IS in Lebanon, Al-Monitor, 07.09.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/lebanon-islamic-state-caliphate.html

57 Hezbollah calls for resistance against IS, Al-Monitor, 27.08.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/hezbollah-resistance-arsal-counter-islamic-state-attacks.html#ixzz3LvFpP89d

58 Jean Aziz, Lebanon a safe haven but Middle Eastern Christians still at risk, Al-Monitor, 13.08.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/iraq-christians-fate-lebanon-christians.html

59 Jean Aziz, Recent events a good sign for Lebanon, Al-Monitor, 19.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/lebanon-positive-external-developments.html#ixzz3LvIvuxQ9

60 Jean Aziz, Lebanon's MPs extend own terms, Al-Monitor, 10.11.2014 www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/lebanon-parliament-extension-foreign-decision.html; Jean Aziz, Lebanon may lose either judiciary or legislative branch, Al-Monitor, 26.11.2014: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/lebanon-constitution-council-parliament-extension-judiciary.html

61 Alice Su, Fade to black: Jordanian city Ma'an copes with Islamic State threat, Al Jazeera, 02.09.2014: america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/9/2/jordan-maan-daashthreat.html

62 David Schenker, Salafi Jihadists on the Rise in Jordan, Washington Institute, 05.05.2014: www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/salafi-jihadists-on-the-rise-in-jordan

63 Ed Adamczyk, Jordanian warplanes hit convoy entering from Syria, UPI, 17.04.2014: www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2014/04/17/Jordanian-warplanes-hit-convoy-entering-from-Syria/1301397753664/

64 Obama Announces New Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund US Department of Defense, 28.05.2014: www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=122354

65 Nikita Malik, As the Islamic State's threat grows, Israel and Jordan seek security ties, The National, 06.07.2014: www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/as-the-islamic-states-threat-grows-israel-and-jordan-seek-security-ties

66 Jordanzat, 21.07.2014: www.jordanzad.com/index.php?page=article&id=166606

67 Hisham Melhem, The Barbarians within our gates, Politico Magazine, 18.09.2014: www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/the-barbarians-within-our-gates-111116.html#.VLK6j3s2e1E

68 Hisham Melhem, The Time of the Assassins, Politico Magazine, 09.01.2015: www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-the-time-of-the-assassins-114115.html#ixzz3ORXAb1cA

Markus Tozman graduated from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Relations in 2014 and concentrated on Middle East Studies. He has professionally been working on minority rights in the Middle East since 2010, both in the public sector and for NGOs, which included extensive fieldwork in Turkey and Egypt. He published a book on the Syriacs in Turkey in 2012 and regularly writes analyses on the Middle East for Open Doors International.

Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
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