Last month, 140 analysts from Wikistrat’s global community of 2,200 wargamed a scenario in which Turkey invades northern Syria to establish a buffer zone in the country’s Kurdish region.
The analysts were divided across two mirrored groups (Alpha and Bravo) which had seven teams of ten analysts each, playing Russia, Assad loyalists in Syria, Turkey, the Kurds, ISIS, anti-Damascus and Western-backed rebels, as well as Iran and its proxies.
The two groups progressed simultaneously from the same starting scenario. But the divergent courses they took revealed key insights into some of the main actors and dynamics in the Syrian Civil War:
- If Turkey were to cross the border and establish a buffer zone in Syria, it would be unlikely to advance much further and seek to avoid a direct confrontation with Russian forces.
- Assad has an interest in encouraging Russian and Kurdish coordination in Kurdish-held areas in order to free resources to fight anti-Assad rebels in the north.
- Anti-Assad rebels are likely to suffer greatly in the face of escalating tensions, as their backers (the U.S. and Turkey) will hesitate to increase the risk of hostilities with Russia by providing them with significant support.
- If Russia manages to keep its focus on ISIS while checking Turkey, it could gain significant international public support which could be leveraged on behalf of Assad.
- ISIS aggression was a major determinant regarding the direction and intensity of both games. However, ISIS aggression was more likely to result in sustained victory if the focus was on insurgent warfare in Syria (e.g., an attack on Russian forces within Syria) rather than terrorist attacks abroad (e.g., an attack against Russia itself).
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