South Front

Units of the Russian Military Police entered the town of Saraqib in eastern Idlib following the second liberation of the town from al-Qaeda terrorists and Turkish forces. According to the Russian military, the deployment took place at 5:00pm local time on March 2 and was intended to provide security and allow traffic through the M4 and M5 highways. In fact, the Russians came to put an end to Turkish attempts to capture the town and cut off the M5 highway in this area.

At the same time, the Syrian Army repelled attempts of al-Qaeda and Turkish forces to capture the town of Kafr Nubl in southern Idlib and recaptured several nearby villages, including Hazarin and Dar al-Kabirah. According to pro-government sources, at least 15 units of military equipment belonging to Turkish proxies were destroyed in the recent operations. The Turkish side responded to the developments on the ground with a new batch of victorious statements.

According to the March 2 remarks by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the number of ‘neutralized’ Syrian troops since the start of Operation Spring Shield reached 2,557. This is approximately 350 Syrian soldiers higher than was claimed on March 1. The main question is: “Does the Turkish defense minister really believe in the numbers that he provides?” It probably would be useful to not make such claims personally. Thus, he would be able to avoid blushing with shame. If the Syrian Army really suffers such casualties in only a few days, Turkish-led forces would easily achieve their declared goal of expelling Syrian troops of southern and eastern Idlib.

In reality, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going to Moscow on March 5 in order to negotiate a ceasefire. “My only wish is to end this struggle with victory and prevent further bloodshed, with a permanent cease-fire. For this, we are using all our diplomatic channels, along with our struggle in the field,” Erdogan told a gathering of ruling Justice and Development Party officials.

So, just a few days ago supporters of the Turkish operation were claiming that the mighty Turkish forces had already defeated the Assad regime and would soon enter the cities of Damascus and Aleppo. Now, the same sources are admiring the clever and forward-looking policy of the Turkish leader not to escalate the situation any further.

It would appear that things are not going the Turkish way in Idlib. When Erdogan and Putin reach another ceasefire, which will formally put an end to Ankara’s goal to push the Syrian Army out of the recently cleared areas, the same sources will likely declare this a Turkish victory. The 2nd strongest army in NATO appeared to be not capable of defeating Syrian forces, which are exhausted by a nearly 10-year long conflict, without suffering unacceptable losses.

The balance of power in Greater Idlib has once again changed. If the Turkish Army does not achieve some unexpected breakthrough, for example the capture of Maarat al-Numan, immediately, the main efforts of Turkish diplomacy will likely be focused on reaching an agreement that would prevent a Syrian advance on Idlib. This city is the main stronghold of al-Qaeda and the last really large urban center in the hands of militant groups in the region. The fall of Idlib into the hands of the Syrian Army would destroy all Turkish hopes to solidify its own influence in this part of Syria.

However, even a Russian-Turkish deal on Idlib city will likely not put an end to the anti-terrorism efforts of the Syrian Army and its allies. The town of Jisr al-Shughur, located near the M4 highway, is among possible targets of the upcoming operations. The town is currently controlled by the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al-Qaeda-linked group consisting of foreigners. So, mainstream media outlets can start preparing to defend another group of ‘moderate rebels’ that would be oppressed by the brutal Assad regime.

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South Front

Turkey and Syria are in a state of undeclared war. Ankara shied away to declare the war officially and the scale of its operations is much lower than in the event of a full-scale open conflict. However, Turkish forces, including troops, battle tanks and artillery, illegally entered Greater Idlib, provided local al-Qaeda-linked groups with weapons and equipment, and together with them attacked the Syrian Army.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had the audacity to describe these actions as self-defense efforts. He claimed that Operation Spring Shield, as Ankara calls its action in Idlib, was launched in response to the February 27 attack on Turkish troops and the operation is in his words “successfully” ongoing. Akar forgot to mention that the killed Turkish personnel were embedded with al-Qaeda members and already involved in attacks on forces of the Syrian government. This kind of hypocrisy is not surprising. Earlier, Turkish President Recept Tayip Erdogan claimed that the Turkish military had entered Syria under a request from the “Syrian people”; apparently he wanted to say al-Qaeda but forgot how to pronounce the names of the multiple Syrian affiliates of the group properly.

Therefore, official Turkish propaganda claims that the military action in Idlib started after February 27, while in reality clashes between Turkish-led forces and the Syrian Army have been ongoing since February 24. In the period from February 24 to March 1, the Turkish Army and radical militants captured Nayrab, Saraqib, and stopped the Syrian Army advance near Kafr Nabul recapturing several small villages near it. However, they were not able to achieve any military breakthrough on the ground.

The Turkish military tries to avoid sending its troops into an open fight. Rather, it employs waves of al-Qaeda members, including suicide bombers, supported by massive artillery and drone strikes as the main tool of warfare against the Syrians. According to the March 1 remarks by Defense Minister Akar, Turkish forces had destroyed a drone, 8 helicopters, 103 tanks, 19 armored personnel carriers, 72 artillery pieces and rocket launchers, three air-defense systems, 15 anti-tank weapons and mortars, 56 armored vehicles, nine ammunition depots, and neutralized 2,200 Syrian soldiers in the aforementioned period. Later on the same day, the Turkish Defense Ministry claimed that Turkey had shot down two Su-24 warplanes (later confirmed by the Syrian military) and destroyed 3 air defense systems operated by the Syrian government. The Turkish side even claimed that the Su-24 attack aircraft (which are designed for a close air support) were downed in response to an attempted attack on Turkish aircraft.

This remarkable nonsense highlights the scale and type of Turkish propaganda efforts regarding the conflict. Fully in the framework of this approach, the Turkish state blocked social media on February 27 in an attempt to hide Turkish casualties in Idlib. Tried to force Twitter and Facebook to remove photos of destroyed Turkish military equipment and ordered security raids in the Turkish branch of the Russian news agency Sputnik over its ‘wrong coverage’ of Idlib developments. Videos and photos showing Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed militants involved in torturing and abusing captured Syrian soldiers come unnoticed by mainstream media or were described by Turkish sources as fake.

In a separate development, Turkish state media announced that Turkish artillery and drones had targeted the Al-Nayrab military airport, on the outskirts of Aleppo city.

In response to these actions, the Syrian military declared that it will shoot down hostile aircraft in Greater Idlib. The Syrian Air Defense Forces immediately turned this promise into reality engaging Turkish unmanned combat and reconnaissance aerial vehicles. According to Russian media, at least 6 Turkish drones were shot down. However, the visual evidence allows to confirm only one Anka combat drone downed in the area. When the video of the drone’s remnants first appeared online, Turkish-backed groups even claimed responsibility for the downing of aircraft claiming that it was a Syrian warplane. Later, they were forced to change the story.

On March 1, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah, that had recently suffered casualties in eastern Idlib, launched an attack on Turkish-led forces in the area of Nayrab. By the evening of that day, they have regained Kafr Battikh, Dadikh, San and Jawbas. They have also forced Turkish-backed militants to retreat from the eastern part of Saraqib. According to pro-government sources, at least 300 militants were killed or injured in the recent clashes in this area only. This number, as well as, those provided by Turkey is overestimated.

On March 2, units of the 25th Special Mission Forces Division (formerly the Tiger Forces) regained full control of Saraqib after the mighty Turkish Army and its al-Qaeda friends had fled the area.

The recent developments demonstrate that if Turkey continues avoiding employing its own troops in direct fighting, its forces appear to be not able to deliver a swift, devastating blow to the Syrian Army and achieve the goal declared by its top leadership: to force Syrian troops to retreat from all the areas liberated from al-Qaeda since October 2018.

It is likely that Turkey is trying to deliver as much damage as possible to strengthen its negotiating position before March 5, when Erdogan is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in the region.

At the same time, Turkey is trying to get support from the EU by sending migrants to Europe and blackmailing the bloc with a new migration crisis.

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Erdogan Continues Barking and Whining, SAA Cleans 11 More Towns

February 26, 2020 Arabi Souri

The Syrian Arab Army cleaned eleven more towns today in Idlib southern countryside from NATO terrorists while the Turkish madman Erdogan continues his barking, less intensified though as he still begs Mr. Putin for a meeting with his NATO backup buddies.

The towns cleaned by the Syrian Arab Army in the past 24 hours are Shanshrah, Tarmila, Der Sunbul, Maarat Mukhs, Breij, Khirbet Wubeida, Hassanah, Futaira, Kursaa, Fugaih, and Malaja in Maarat Noman.

Just as I’m concluding this post four additional villages were cleaned from terrorists as per the SAA sources, these villages are Safohin, Kafr Musa, Flaifil, and Kawkaba, making the total 15 towns and villages in the past 24 hours.

These advances come immediately after the SAA cleaned the town of Kafr Nobl, one of the main centers of the NATO-sponsored Nusra Front (HTS – Al Qaeda Levant) and its affiliates in the last Al-Qaeda stronghold in Syria, this how the US itself calls the Idlib province, the same province where Baghdadi was allegedly killed by Trump last October 2019.

Meanwhile, the Turkish madman Erdogan is feeling heartbroken and helpless while watching the Syrian Arab Army and their Russian allies decimate the terrorists he collected from all sides of the world, nourished, pampered, armed, trained them and sent them to kill the Syrian people.

Erdogan was hoping to bring the Russian President Putin to Istanbul for a summit along with Erdogan’s NATO backers Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron.

Mr. Putin so far, frustrated from Erdogan’s lies, procrastination, and the last flip flop of Erdogan was in Libya pushed by Pompeo and in Ukraine, turning against previous agreements with Putin and in exchange with only promises.

Today, Erdogan declared that the Americans failed him and that he will try to beg Trump once again for help in Idlib, good luck with that Ottoman daydreamer, even the Pentagon’s own Esper said that Trump mercenary forces (aka US Army) in Syria will not be sent to the Syrian – Turkish borders and they will be focused on fighting ISIS, as he claimed.

The SAA is fulfilling their ‘sacred duty in cleaning the country from the terrorists and their sponsors’ as per the latest statement today by the Syrian Military General Command, until the last inch.

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