23 October 2012

Interesting Survey on Syria

The Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, a Turkish think tank, has just published the results of an opinion poll on Syria (in pdf format and in English). They surveyed a sample of 1500 people in 17 Turkish cities.

It appears that 51% of Turks are opposed to a military intervention.

People supporting the opposition parties favored the impartiality option in even higher numbers: 60% of the sympathizers of the social democratic CHP and the ultra-nationalistic MHP ticked that box. With the supporters of the pro-Kurdish BDP impartiality option went even higher to 83%.

Men were more likely to choose the "impartiality" option than women (56% vs 47%). The same difference held for age groups as well, with 55+ group supporting impartiality and only 41% of the 18-24 group viewing impartiality positively.

In all groups (save for the supporters of the ruling AKP) mediation was very poorly received.

Conversely, when these questions were posed to 266 foreign policy experts, the number one response was "mediation."

The experts were also much more supportive of the idea of a military intervention than the rest of the population.

A couple of observations.

One, it looks like the Kurds living in Turkey share the suspicions of Syria's PYD and do not share Barzani's optimistic outlook about collaborating with Turkey. Given PKK's influence in that region and the heavy-handed military operations that led to significant loss of life, this is not entirely surprising.

But it shows that if Turkey were to make peace with Kurds, it has to do a lot more than reach to Barzani. It has to convince the Kurds in other regions that it can be a more benevolent regional power.

Secondly, it is interesting that older men were more in favor of impartiality that women and younger people. This is curious since older men tend to be more religious and more conservative. And in Syria the majority of fighters are fundamentalist Sunni militias. You would think that they would support them much more strongly.

If they are that reluctant to fight for their Sunni brothers you could interpret the results as suggesting that Turkish Muslims are not jihadist in their outlook. Not only are they not keen in extending their vision to the rest of the Muslim world but they won't even support a tangible scenario, which is typically presented as an oppressed Sunni majority rising against a dominant Alewite minority. In the Sunni Arab world, there is not even a slight hesitation about this.

But above all, this opinion poll shows that Turkish people instinctively figured out that nothing good would come out of an intervention and that Syria would be the mother of all quagmires.

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