28 January 2021

First joint project about Turkish proxies and militias builds on MoU signed by both institutions in 2020

January 18, 2021 — TRENDS Research & Advisory of Abu Dhabi and the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) published a first-ever research paper by Israeli and UAE experts. The study, which reveals the extent to which Turkey aggressively deploys proxies and militias to project power across the Middle East, is the first fruit of newly established cooperation agreements between UAE and Israeli think tanks.

The authors, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak and Dr. Jonathan Spyer of JISS (in cooperation with experts at TRENDS), find that Turkish president Erdoğan has created a private military and paramilitary system which he deploys for domestic and foreign operations without official oversight. The proxies have delivered modest achievements for Turkey in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan – but hold the potential to cause more significant disruption.

“Turkey seeks to be the dominant regional force, projecting power over neighboring countries and across seas,” the study finds. “In cooperation with a variety of bodies, most significantly the SADAT military contracting company and the Syrian National Army, Turkey has developed a large pool of well-trained, easily deployed, and effortlessly disposable proxy forces as a tool of power projection, with a convenient degree of plausible deniability.”

Dr. Mohammed Al Ali, Director-General of TRENDS, said that “the new partnership with JISS already is generating important results. We will continue to research together regional military and security issues. We also intend to conduct symposia and maintain academic exchange programs. Policymakers and observers of Middle East affairs truly will benefit from this new intellectual partnership.”

“This policy-relevant research cooperation is based on the ‘Abraham Accords’ vision for a bright Arab-Israeli future,” said Prof. Efraim Inbar, President of JISS. “We intend to develop robust policy recommendations for greater stability and enhanced national security in the region.”


Established in 2017, the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) offers security expertise for a strong Israel. It provides counsel to the highest echelons of Israeli government and trains the next generation of Israeli national security specialists.

TRENDS Research & Advisory strives to present an insightful and informed view of global issues and challenges from a strategic perspective. Established in 2014 as an independent research center, TRENDS undertakes rigorous analyses of current issues and global and regional developments, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. TRENDS’s growing global network facilitates innovative cooperative research projects that cover the most important political, social, economic, security and technology issues.