Syrian Deputy Muhannad al-Haj has said that the Syrian government is preparing for the Idlib operation at all levels: both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table with Turkey.
Dealing with Turkey has been the biggest challenge, as Turkey’s policy on Syria has gone through several major revisions. Russian, Iranian, and Syrian intelligence sources have revealed that terrorists holding Idlib rely or have relied on Turkey for support. Syria’s push-back on Turkey is only possible with Russian and Iranian assistance.
Turkey has acted ‘apparently’ independently, and has used the ambiguity of their aims and desired outcomes to confuse both the U.S and the Axis of Resistance (Iran, Hezbollah, Yemen, Syria, Iraq). Now that the U.S has set new sanctions on Turkey, which Turkey hoped to avoid, Erdogan is now more ‘free’ to work in greater cooperation with the Axis of Resistance on the question of northern Syria and Idlib.
Idlib is the last foreign backed ‘rebel’ stronghold which is not a part of ISIS, and generally represented those terrorist forces which were directly supported by Turkey, through supply lines and Turkey’s control of the border. Turkey formerly directly supported ISIS, and worked alongside Israel and the US to arm and fund ISIS. This began to change when, upon Syrian invitation, the Russian Air Force began to bomb ISIS positions and supply lines. In several famous events, masses of ISIS petrol tanker trucks were destroyed in an air attack. It was known then that Erdogan’s son was the owner of these trucks, and worked alongside ISIS in appropriating Syria’s gas, and importing into Turkey.
The failure of this terrorist smoke screen to appropriate huge quantities of Syrian gas, with the aim of an indefinite project to do so, is related to Turkey’s present ‘economic crisis’.
During the period of Turkey’s general alignment with the US on the Syria question, before the attempted coup and coming after Turkey began to crack down on former Erdogan ally and AKP supporters, the Gulen ‘cult’, FRN noted that one of the US’s best known public think-tank publications, ‘Foreign Policy‘, ran analytic pieces discussing the viability and opportuneness of recognizing the ‘Islamic State’ as a country in the ‘Syraq’ region.
With regard to the Lira crisis, Turkey can be aided by China, but China will insist on Turkey’s cooperation with the AoR countries and Russia to cut off Idlib based terrorists, and ultimately withdraw from Syria (see map above).
In the map above, the physical orientation makes such a dynamic operationally possible. However, Turkey has been in long talks with Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus on how to ‘unwind’ support for the radical Sunni Islamists which Erdogan had been supporting.
The ‘Fake News’ outlet, the Qatari based Al Jazeera, is framing the coming liberation of Idlib quite differently. FRN notes that AJ is owned by the British-loyal Al Thani Dynasty, who inherited the infrastructure from the BBC (essentially AJ is a rebranding of BBC-M.E).
Therefore, predictably so, AJ has determined that the coming liberation of Idlib will ‘‘Likely be a Blood-bath”.
FRN reminds its readers that AJ and the author of the above linked piece, Farah Najjar, has consistently promoted the interests of Israel, Turkey, and the Gulf Monarchies such as Qatar and KSA, through its reportage. AJ gained credibility by initially reporting on the early phase of the US occupation of Iraq, and also because of its consistent and generally decent coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It spins this ‘street cred’, similar to any mainstream politician who is ‘good’ on a given subject, into confusing readers about the situation in Syria.
Turning reality on its head, Al Jazeera has consistently framed the foreign occupation of huge swaths of Syria as ‘liberation’, and in tandem, have framed the liberation of occupied lands by the sovereign and internationally recognized, legitimate government of the democratically elected president, Bashar al-Assad, as ‘occupying regime forces’.
FRN notes the use and abuse of ‘regime’ discourse, borrowed from the US’s conception which is better understood as ‘Human Rights Imperialism’. Likewise, ‘regime’ discourse is taken precisely from the Gene Sharp inspired and George Soros (and US-AID and NED) funded Arab Spring and Color Revolution handbook itself.
Back in September of 2017, almost a year ago, Turkey, Syria, and Russia agreed to ‘de-escalation’ zones inside Idlib. The three countries had the common goal of defeating the US created and backed ‘SDF’ – the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF was created by the US out of a need to rebrand their Kurdish militias in a manner which could at least nominally justify that the US backed Kurdish militias were occupying areas without a Kurdish majority.
The September 2017 “de-escalation” zones, agreed by Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran, was also raised at the UN, though no formal action was taken then. However, the agreement had some basic provisions, agreed to by the four sovereign states. Reuters reported it back in September this way:
“Under the agreement, Russians are maintaining security outside Idlib and Turkey will maintain the security inside Idlib region,” Erdogan said.
“The task is not easy … With Putin we will discuss additional steps needed to be taken in order to eradicate terrorists once and for all to restore peace.”
Erdogan also said Turkey was considering counter-measures, including imposing sanctions, against Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned referendum.
Iraqi Kurdish authorities have defied growing international pressure to call off the referendum on independence. Iraq’s neighbors fear it will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations and Western allies said it could detract from the fight against Islamic State.
Will Idlib be a Bloodbath?
Addressing AJ’s claims, FRN reminds readers that the coming liberation of Idlib has been known about for some time. What AJ is referring to is best encapsulated in a now-popular meme: ”Where will buses take Idlib terrorists?’
This refers to the fact that, in the last battle for Aleppo, as well as other battles this year, which saw ISIS and FSA forces defeated, the now famous ‘green surrender buses’ relocated the terrorist groups to Idlib. This essentially made Idlib into a ‘capital’ for Sunni Islamists, of sorts.
But once Idlib is liberated and returns to sovereign, secular, Damascus governance, AJ promotes an inevitable ‘bloodbath’ scenario because ostensibly there is ‘nowhere left’ for the terrorists to go to. However, this is not the case.
Rather, Turkey will have to use its connections with terrorist ‘rebels’ holding Idlib, in order to offer reasonable terms for surrender. On the map above, we can see that Afrin is also ‘rebel held’ but openly supported by Turkey. This indicates several things referenced above, but it also means that Turkey will play the primary role in dealing with ‘rebels’ who wish to surrender.
Turkey can play a constructive or destructive role. The ‘rebels’ are likely to surrender if Turkey works with AoR countries on the Idlib siege, by making sure that only humanitarian, and not ‘dual use’ provisions, enter into Idlib. However, if Turkey maintains ‘rebel’ supply lines in all spheres, then the occupiers of Idlib will have enough confidence to ‘fight it out’.
Military units have been concentrated on the border with the province, and now, in coordination with Russian and Iranian allies, a detailed plan for the future operation is being drawn up. The Syrian deputy explains:
“The Syrian and Russian air forces are gathering intelligence on the positions of the Fatah al-Sham Front terrorists, which have been significantly strengthened over the past 4 years. The data obtained are then recorded accurately – this is important work.
The Syrian authorities are continuing to work for a peaceful resolution, so that more militants drop their weapons and return to peaceful life, and preparations are underway to open a humanitarian corridor near Abu al-Duhur. Civilians will be able to go to safe areas under the control of the Syrian army,”
Preparations are also taking place at the political level, so that”
“Ankara’s position has become more loyal to the actions of the Syrian government. To a great extent, the problems in relations between Turkey and the United States have contributed to this.”
“The [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces have suffered a defeat in their attempts to conquer power in northern Syria thanks to the army. The military will return all Syrian territories to government control, with no armed military structures remaining, excluding the army and the Ministry of Defense. A part of the Kurds aspire to separation, but that will not happen,” said Syrian MP Muhannad al-Haj.
Most of Idlib province continues to be controlled by jihadist militants and members of the Tahrir al-Sham group, while ISIS also has dormant cells in the area and have been conducting secret operations, assassinations and attacks against terrorist organizations not loyal to them.
The question remains, if Turkey will support US-Israeli-Saudi efforts, or Syrian-Iranian-Russian efforts. Given the nature of the ongoing diplomacy, there are reasons to be optimistic that the latter will prevail.