The Syrian army is getting ready to liberate Idlib, which borders Turkey. Russia is paying a huge diplomatic effort to coordinate with the main actors, especially Turkey, in this regard. Still there are many challenges facing the Idlib operation. One of the most important ones is Turkey. No less important is the American challenge.
Over the past three years since Russia launched its successful counter-terrorism operation in Syria, terrorism has retreated dramatically. What has been done is really a miracle. But remnants of terrorism are still there, alive and quite strong in Idlib. Eliminating terrorists from Idlib is urgent and inevitable. Idlib is the last stronghold for terrorists in Syria. All terrorists from across Syria along with Al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as it is known now, and ISIS are in Idlib. Al-Nusra has targeted Russians in Hmeymim and Tartus with its drones from Idlib. Idlib is also the last chapter of military operations, after which the political process would have a big push forward. Settlement in Syria will remain subject to the end of terrorism in Idlib and the new realities on the ground at this moment. Without liquidating that “festering abscess”, as Mr. Sergei Lavrov said, there will no peace for all.
The Syrian army is getting ready to liberate Idlib, which borders Turkey. Russia is paying a huge diplomatic effort to coordinate with the main actors, especially Turkey, in this regard. Still there are many challenges facing the Idlib operation. One of the most important ones is Turkey. It is well known that Ankara played a key role in creating that “monster,” considering it the main tool for reviving its “Islamic Caliphate.” The tension between Ankara and Washington may allow some Turkish flexibility towards Moscow. But the question remains about the extent of this flexibility. Despite the Russian-Turkish understandings, some statements from Turkish officials raise many questions over how far Ankara is ready to abandon its allies. In a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Ankara in mid-August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned that bombing Idlib would be a “massacre.” On August 31, he confirmed from Vienna that his country was taking all necessary measures to prevent the Syrian army from carrying out a large-scale operation in Idlib. That leaves some doubts concerning the Turkish policy.
No less important is the American challenge. The United States and its regional allies have invested in those terrorists. Washington cannot accept wasting its money and training without achieving the intended goals. Among them are dividing Syria, redrawing the entire Middle East map, and opening a new terrorist front encircling southern Russia with a deadly crescent of terrorism in the Middle East and Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on August 31 that any attack by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia on the province of Idlib would be “an escalation of an already dangerous conflict” in Syria. The United States may take an idiotic step through a triple strike in coordination with Britain and France on Syria, repeating the scenario of Douma and Khan Sheikhoun. That may delay the Syrian army but will not block it.
Syrian army has been massing around Idlib and seems ready to launch what could be the last major battle against terrorism and of the civil war that has torn the country apart since 2011. No one can deny the right of the Syrian government to defend its people from terrorism. The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, admitted that right at a press conference in Geneva on August 30. He mentioned that a large number of foreign terrorists are concentrated in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 “terrorists” belonging to Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. To reduce humanitarian costs, safe corridors can be opened in cooperation with the United Nations to isolate terrorists and separate them from civilians. Reconciliation with Syrian militants may also be their last chance to be reintegrated in society.
The presence of terrorists has catastrophic repercussions for Syria and its neighboring countries, including Turkey, as well as Europe and the whole world. Concerning those who protect terrorists, under the cover of civilians, they should remember millions of innocent victims who lost their lives by terrorists’ hands and millions who may become their victims.