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Oil, gas and geopolitical dimensions of the Syrian Civil War: A neoclassical realist assessment

This thesis considers the geopolitical dimensions of the Syrian Civil War. It addresses three key questions, including: (1) how sectarianism in Syria has impacted the geopolitical landscape; (2) how Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have responded to political instability in Syria; (3) and how these stakeholder states have positioned themselves to gain influence over the global oil and gas trade in Syria, which has regional and international implications. Neoclassical realism is used to examine the role sectarianism has played in causing and perpetuating the Syrian Civil War. Historically, sectarianism has always played a role in the Syrian geopolitical landscape, but prior to the Syrian Civil War the Ba’athist party, under Bashar al-Assad’s leadership, was able to balance the interests of competing sectarian groups using the threat of military force and the promise of Pan-Arab liberal reform. The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings were the catalyst for the Syrian Civil War, and highlighted sectarian tensions between Alawite Shia, Sunni and Kurds. While initially united in their opposition to the Assad Government Arab Spring protesters split along sectarian lines, seeking support from allied states in the Middle East. Balance of power theory and the Heartland theory are used to explain the policy decisions of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in response to political instability in Syria. It is argued that these stakeholder states utilised existing sectarian alliances within Syria to gain strategic influence over Syria’s land power. This contains the potential for Syria to act as an energy corridor and makes it a contested territory for two competing pipeline projects that pre-date the Civil War: Iran-Iraq pipeline, favoured by Iran, and the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, favoured by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Type of thesis
Hartley, O. T. (2018). Oil, gas and geopolitical dimensions of the Syrian Civil War: A neoclassical realist assessment (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12725
The University of Waikato
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