The security zone in Idlib has two guarantor states: Turkey and Russia. Assad is not fully out of the game because his biggest supporter and most important ally, Russia, is both on the ground in Idlib and sits at the table in Sochi to find an appropriate solution for Idlib. Assad would probably focus on the other problematic regions in Syria.
The agreement between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his counterpart Vladimir Putin can be counted as a success in regard of preventing the new refugee wave to Turkish borders that can occur as a result of an operation to Idlib. Assad regime’s first reaction to the agreement was not recognizing Sochi Agreement and they claimed that their troops would attack Idlib. Nevertheless, Assad’s attack without a Russian permission which can ruin Russia’s plan seems quite impossible for now. But Turkey should be especially careful in case of any provocative attempts to the 12 Turkish military posts there. Because the situation in Idlib has been quite complex nowadays and the battleground is too complicated.
Here, it should be noted that Turkey is the most experienced country in combatting terrorism in its region. In Syria, the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch Operations are the clear instances of it. Though, there is still a probability of confronting a resistance of radical militants there. At that stage, Turkey can initiate an operation against these radical groups to create, based on agreement with Russia, a demilitarized zone borders of which are determined according to the statement of the Turkish Ministry of Defense. Free Syrian Army will presumably be active with Turkish forces during a possible operation in Idlib. Maybe we can see joint air operations by both Turkey and Russia according to the following events in the region.
The Assad regime wants Idlib to be a symbol of their improving status over the opponent forces in the Syrian territories. This is why Assad insists on the offensive to the town. However, the power of the Syrian regime has its own limits. The future of Idlib depends on the middle and the long-term outcomes of the agreement between Turkey and Russia. In addition, the consequences for the 2 million people in Idlib are vital for the future of the town. Turkey took the responsibility of eradicating terrorism in about 15/20-kilometer line. Any failure in this plan will open a road to Russia’s and Assad’s military operations to Idlib which is undesirable for Turkey in terms of its border security, refugee wave and its statue in the town. At the same time, Idlib is a test for the Turkey-Russia relations which was defined as “strategic partnership”. The fate of Idlib is also coupled with the future of the rapprochement period between Turkey and Russia.
On the other hand, if Sochi Agreement works, Turkey will expand its domain in Syria. Hence, defeating radical terrorism in the town is favourable for all parties. It is noteworthy that the Western intervention to the Syrian conflict alleging the use of chemical weapons has started to be denounced less after the reconciliation in Sochi. The security zone in Idlib has two guarantor states: Turkey and Russia. Assad is not fully out of the game because his biggest supporter and most important ally, Russia, is both on the ground in Idlib and sits at the table in Sochi to find an appropriate solution for Idlib. Assad would probably focus on the other problematic regions in Syria according to him. The only place which Assad cannot control is not Idlib. Almost 1/3 of Syria is under US/PKK-YPG occupation. Assad should concentrate on these regions if he wants to re-establish the territorial integrity of Syria.