Turkey-Syria Earthquake and Regional Security

With rescue efforts still underway following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on February 7, the full scale of the disaster’s catastrophic impact still remains to be seen. At the time of writing, the death toll has just surpassed 40,000, and is expected to continue to rise in the coming days. While the focus is now on the rescue of additional victims and provision of assistance to survivors, the long-term consequences for Turkey and Syria, and for the broader region, are starting to become more apparent. The devastating incident is likely to shed light on the importance of good governance, coordinated emergency response, and international humanitarian response efforts. There are also expected to be direct and indirect effects on the security situation that will resonate across the region.

Of the developments that may present challenges to regional security, the following will warrant monitoring over the coming period:

-General deterioration of the security environment – An almost exclusive focus on emergency response in Turkey and Syria may result in non-state actors’ attempts to capitalize on minimized attention given to areas including border control and counterterrorism to undertake illicit activities

-Large-scale migration – Hundreds of thousands of the earthquake’s victims have been left homeless in Turkey, and there were already millions of internally displaced persons in Syria following the Syrian civil war, which signals the potential for massive population flows across the region and beyond that would exacerbate existing security threats.

-Leveraging of humanitarian disasters – Non-state actors have in the past seized the opportunity to leverage humanitarian disasters to undermine existing governments by providing services to those most vulnerable and impacted by disasters, and this could be the case here given the perceived shortcomings in response efforts.

While attention is expected to rightfully remain on providing emergency relief efforts in the short-term, the other potential consequences on the horizon are likely to come to the forefront in due course, thereby necessitating a more comprehensive approach to response efforts both regionally and globally.

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