In recent days, as the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's regime has attacked the last rebel stronghold in Idlib province, Russia is helping them with air strikes.
Turkey is attacking Damascus regime forces in response to a firing on Turkish surveillance posts by Syrian troops, according to Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 14 Turkish troops have already been killed in the region since the action of the Syrian army, and another 45 have been injured.
Russian and Syrian air strikes also hit civilian targets such as hospitals, bakeries and markets, observers said. Observers say the strategy is to drive civilians out of towns and villages so that the Syrian army can come in without any resistance.
People in Idlib who had to leave their homes once or more during the war flee to the Turkish border, but are denied entry. Trapped, they are forced to seek shelter in unfinished buildings, abandoned schools or under trees.
Syrian expert Elizabeth Tsurkov at the Institute for Foreign Policy Research in Philadelphia told The Washington Post that Russia and Syria were carrying out an attack that killed 3 million. Idlib's civilians will leave a small piece of land along the Turkish border. Another reason for the attack, she said, was to break the spirit, sow fear and suffering.
Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer of the Jamestown Foundation told the Washington Post that Russia does not care about the damage to civilians.
“The Russian military says their attacks are accurate and not civilian. Of course, everyone understands that this is nonsense, “he said.
The Washington Post writes that Idlib is a test for Turkey and Syria. Erdogan's government will not easily reconcile itself with its border enclave of several million lost and impoverished people. According to Tsurkov, this causes Ankara to threaten large numbers of refugees into Turkey.
As of September 2019, there were $ 3.66 million in Turkey. registered refugees from Syria. The country's weak economy and high unemployment are fueling Turkish displeasure with Syrians fleeing the war.
A test of friendship
“Russia's support for Syria to reclaim Idlib threatens another strategic prize for Moscow: its attempts to build closer relations with Turkey,” writes The Washington Post.
Recently, friendships with Moscow have wedged the wedge between Ankara and NATO, especially the United States.
Last year, Turkey tested S-400 systems on military aircraft, including the American-made F-16 fighter jets. The United States fears that if NATO member Turkey integrates the S-400 into its defense system, Russia may gain access to sensitive data on Western equipment. The purchase of S-400 systems resulted in the removal of Ankara from the American F-35 fighter program.
With the deterioration of Turkish-US relations, Russia has become the most powerful player in the Middle East.
Reviewer Bobby Ghosh writes in The Moscow Times that Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his regional and international ambitions in order to maintain his status as the best friend of R.T.Erdogan.
“Following the example of two American presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Putin pretended not to hear militant rhetoric against Russian allies, such as Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and Libyan general Khalif Haftar,” the commentator wrote.
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According to Ghosh, R. Erdogan's actions complicated Putin's ambitions. “The Turkish military invasion of northwestern Syria has eroded any hope that Assad will be able to take control of the country again. Turkish forces and mercenaries are now preventing Khalifa Haftar from occupying Tripoli, ”he wrote.
Escalating the situation in Idlib, Turkey has already accused Russia of violating an agreement signed in Sochi in 2018 to create a demilitarized zone between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters.
True, Russia also accuses Turkey of failing to fulfill its treaty obligations. Under the deal, Idlib had to be left behind by radical fighters such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda unit. It is currently the largest militant group in Syria against the Assad regime.
Last April, Syrian regime forces launched an offensive against rebels in Idlib province, ending this week with the occupation of the M5 motorway linking Damascus, the capital of the country, with Aleppo. Syria and Russia claim that their offensive is a response to terrorist attacks.
Not interested in conflict
According to Ghosh, the Russians are beginning to discover what Americans and Europeans have discovered in the past: that with E.Erdogan, things are always in crisis, accompanied by threats of ending alliances. R.T. Erdogan has already warned Putin that the situation in Syria could ruin bilateral relations.
Putin's choices about Erdogan are limited. Turkey is a potentially important economic partner for Russia. Both leaders want trade between the countries, which currently stands at about $ 30 billion. to $ 100 billion.
Turkey's membership is crucial to Russia's hopes of maintaining international organizations in the Caucasus and Central Asia. And, of course, Putin wants to fuel NATO's insecurity about Turkey's commitment to the Alliance, “Ghosh wrote in The Moscow Times.
The Washington Post writes that once the Syrian regime regains the M5 highway, Russia and Turkey are likely to reopen an agreement to de-escalate the situation. Neither Putin nor R.T. Erdogan are interested in a complete breakdown of friendship.
But analysts say the threat of further escalation of the conflict remains.
The Syrian army, reinforced by Iranian-backed Shiite groups from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, showed no sign of stopping the offensive.
E.Surkovov: “I think Turkey is too involved in Idlib. Deploying his forces in a very vulnerable position. They are unprotected. “
“I think Turkey is too involved in Idlib. Deploying his forces in a very vulnerable position. They are unprotected, '' Tsurkov told the newspaper.
It looks as if Russia expects R.T. Erdogan to step down.
“The positions on both sides are drastically incompatible. In Moscow, it is believed that Erdogan cannot risk confrontation with Russia that he will retreat with sufficient pressure, “Felgenhauer told The Washington Post.