How far will Assad and Erdogan go in the new round of conflict?

MOSCOW, (BM) – Under pressure from a radical wing surrounded by Assad and sponsors of his regime in Tehran, Syrian government forces attempted to establish control over the strategically important Damascus-Aleppo motorway and the surrounding villages of the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone, where the forces of the Syrian armed opposition, radical Islamic groups and Turkish troops.

As might be expected, bombing, artillery and mortar shelling and the ensuing offensive by government forces in Idlib province provoked retaliatory military action by Turkish troops and their satellites. The immediate pretext for the next direct Turkish military intervention in the Syrian conflict was the encirclement of Turkish observation posts by the Syrian military and the death of more than ten Turkish troops. It can be stated that the next phase of open armed confrontation has begun in Syria with the participation not only of internal combatants (Damascus and the opposition), but also of foreign troops and mercenaries supporting them.

As you know, Assad’s army, which had greatly thinned during the years of the Civil War, was not able to independently conduct any serious offensive actions. Therefore, on the side of Damascus, several tens of thousands of Shiite foreign mercenaries and volunteers (Iranians, Lebanese, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Yemenis, Palestinians and others), as well as the militants of the Russian PMC “Wagner” took part in ground operations. Air support is provided to them by the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The group of forces of the Syrian armed opposition and radical Islamist groups is supported by Turkish mechanized forces, and in recent days by the Turkish Air Force. Ankara hastily strengthens its group of forces in Idlib, transfers military equipment and heavy weapons for all pro-Turkish forces and demands that Damascus return its troops to their original positions. Allegedly, as a result of the hostilities of Turkey and its satellites, several settlements have already been freed, more than 150 Syrian troops have been destroyed and two helicopters have been shot down. Earlier it was also reported about the deaths at the hands of pro-Turkish militants in the Aleppo region and four FSB officers of Russia.

The escalation of hostilities in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo is accompanied by another anti-Russian campaign in the Turkish media. There are open threats to the Russian ambassador in Ankara, in general to the Russian Federation. This could also be expected. After all, the Turkish leadership did not refuse to support Kiev in its anti-Russian rhetoric, more than once opposed the “annexation” of Crimea by the Russian authorities and for the restoration of the allegedly violated rights of the Crimean Tatars and Circassians in Russia. It seems that Russian-Turkish relations do not stand the test of time and events in Syria and Libya. Indeed, in the struggle for power in Tripoli, Ankara and Moscow also found themselves on opposite sides of the barricades.

It seems that, with all the seriousness of the situation surrounding Idlib involved in the Syrian conflict, foreign states will still be able to avoid a further escalation of hostilities in Syria. One can count on the fact that common sense among politicians in Ankara, Damascus and Moscow will prevail and they will be able to stop the further bloodshed in this long-suffering country by common efforts.

Indeed, in Erdogan’s arguments against the further offensive of Assad’s troops in Idlib there is also a rational kernel. Firstly, rockets, bombs and shells cannot distinguish between militants of moderate and radical opposition, while civilians (old people, women, children) die. Secondly, Turkey and the EU countries are simply not ready to receive more than a million new refugees from Syria. Thirdly, even if we allow the successful completion of the operation to establish control of Damascus over the province of Idlib, then, how the remaining Arab-Sunni and Turkomian population will belong to the troops occupying them from among the Alawite Arabs or Shiite foreigners. Inevitably, the continuation of a guerrilla or sabotage war against the pro-Assad invaders.

Attempts by the Russian leadership to focus on the legitimacy of the Assad government also do not always seem justified. We must not forget that the League of Arab States (LAS) expelled Assad Syria from its composition and offered to take its place to representatives of the Syrian opposition. Only a small number of Syrians took part in the latest Syrian presidential election: only about 7 million people live in Damascus-controlled territories, 7-8 million Syrians live in refugee camps abroad, and about 7 million Syrians live in territories outside of Assad. The vast majority of Syrians were simply physically unable to take part in those elections.

Thus, another outbreak of violence in Syria can not be justified. It is surprising the inability or unwillingness of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to enforce resolution No. 2254 of 2015 and other UN decisions to end the violence in Syria. Indeed, every day it becomes more and more obvious that regional predators represented by Iran, Turkey and a number of Arab Sunni states are turning the territory of Syria into the proving ground of their military confrontation and are ready to conduct military operations there until the last Syrian. The ongoing war in Syria adversely affects the overall situation in the Middle East, destabilizes the situation in neighboring countries, provokes Israel to preventive strikes by the Air Force against Shiite Hezbollah-type terrorist groups.


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Editorial team
Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta / Stanislav Ivanov

The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.