When States Choose Military Intervention: The Cases of Saudi Arabia and Turkey

  • Sara AlKaabi

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This thesis explores the reasons and rationale of previously reluctant states to intervene militarily in ongoing conflicts. The thesis aims are to examine states which choose to intervene militarily (conventionally rather than by proxy) in ongoing conflicts, and why? The author provides two hypotheses that are fundamentally connected to the research question: 'What triggers a formerly reticent state to intervene militarily in an ongoing conflict?' The two hypotheses revolve around eliminating political threats perceived by the intervening states and, in so doing, potentially increasing the intervening state's regional power. In order to answer the research question and prove or disprove the hypotheses, this thesis explores two case studies: the military intervention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in Yemen in mid-2015, and the military intervention of the Republic of Turkey in Syria in mid-2016.Additionally, the author conducted extensive qualitative analysis of a significant body of literature in order to explain the relationship between expanding a particular state's regional power and intervening militarily in ongoing regional conflicts. The importance of this thesis and its study of the factors that contributed to Turkey's and KSA's separate military interventions can be classified at three levels: national, regional, and international. Nationally, the topic and related research question are of deep and abiding strategic interest to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), given its proximity to and involvement with KSA in Yemen. Regionally, the possible escalation by other regional powers that are currently waging proxy wars in Syria and Yemen is of interest to UAE government and policy makers given its strategic geopolitical interest in the outcome of both the conflict in Syria and that of Yemen. The UAE is a growing regional power and views destabilizing influences and conflicts as detrimental to its own interests and that of its neighbors. Internationally, the current military interventions of multiple powers (by proxy and conventionally with a state's own soldiers and forces) in the ongoing Yemen and Syria conflicts affects the calculations of major powers such as Russia and the United States of America as well as would-be regional hegemons, to iv include KSA and Iran because the conflicts have the very real potential of destabilizing the existing international and regional order. In order to understand states' behavior and explain the bases of conducting and achieving disparate purposes, this thesis focused on two international relations theories in political science: Realism, particularly Structural Realism theory, and Constructivism theory. Additionally, the author explores and thus seeks to provide the foundations of foreign policy for both KSA and Turkey, in order to understand the calculus and cost benefit analyses for both states when it comes to the external threats and the balance of power. Methodologically, this thesis extensively used qualitative methodologies and methods, to include a number of the comparative analysis methods that will be explicated further in Chapter 3. The research results indicate three main differences between KSA and Turkey in terms of political and security aspects. Thus, the thesis highlights how both KSA and Turkey perceived the borders issues and how they affect their respective national security modus operandi and analyses as well as security perceptions. The research findings seem broadly applicable to other states besides KSA and Turkey. However, a caveat is in order. The findings seem only applicable for states suffering from conflicts on their own borders, particularly states that have lengthy with states in conflict. The findings do not seem applicable to states which do not share contiguous borders with conflict zones and therefore choose to intervene in ongoing conflicts based on other security and geopolitical rationale and interests. Indexing Terms: regional power expansion, military intervention, borders, security, non-stated armed actors, Houthis, YPG, Arab uprising, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, KSA, ISIS, regional wars, regional conflicts, civil war, power shift, balance of power, regional hegemon, hegemony
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageAmerican English
    SupervisorBrendon Cannon (Supervisor)


    • Regional power expansion
    • military intervention
    • borders
    • security
    • non-stated armed actors
    • Houthis
    • YPG
    • Arab uprising
    • Turkey
    • Syria
    • Yemen
    • Saudi Arabia
    • KSA
    • ISIS
    • regional wars
    • regional conflicts
    • civil war
    • power shift
    • balance of power
    • regional hegemon
    • hegemony.

    Cite this