Syrian Army Pounding ISIS Cells In Homs Desert. Turkey Fortifies Positions Near Saraqib

South Front

The military situation in northwestern Syria is steadily escalating.

On April 10 and April 11, the Turkish Army and its proxies shelled positions of Kurdish armed groups in northern Aleppo. The most intense shelling took place near the areas of Tell Rifaat, Sheikh Hilal, Bosoufane, al-Malikiyah, Maraanaz, Kaft Anoun, Kasht’ar, al-Irshadiyah and Menagh Air Base.

On April 12, the Kurdish-led Afrin Liberation Forces announced that they had stricken a position of the Turkish Army near in the area of Sherava in the same part of Syria with an anti-tank guided missile. According to the Kurdish group, 3 Turkish soldiers were killed and 3 others were injured. 2 vehicles of Turkish forces were allegedly destroyed.

Both Turkish forces and Kurdish armed groups claim that their attacks are retaliatory strikes only and accuse each other of regular acts of aggression and terrorism.

The Russian Military Police is reportedly working to establish four new observation posts near the town of Tell Tamr in Syria’s northeast. According to local sources, Russian forces have already checked the area and are now preparing to establish permanent positions near al-Abush, Umm Kayf, Abu Rasin and Zirkan.

Kurdish sources claim that this move is a forced measure needed to put an end to regular ceasefire violations by the Turkish Army and its proxies. Despite these claims, the Turkish-Russian ceasefire deal on the operation of Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield still works successfully preventing a resumption of large-scale hostilities in the region.

In southern Idllib, the Turkish Army is fortifying its positions near the contact line with Syrian forces near the town of Saraqib. According to the Syrian Army, at least 50 Turkish vehicles entered the region of Greater Idlib on April 12 only. Pro-government sources describe such actions as a signal that the Turkish military is not planning to fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Idlib, but rather preparing for a new round of confrontation with the Syrian Armed Forces.

On April 11 and April 12, intense artillery duels between the Syrian Army and Turkish proxies were reported near the town of al-Bara in southern Idlib and Hdadah Hilltop in northern Lattakia. Later, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) claimed that its forces had repelled a Syrian Army attack in the vicinity of the town of Kafr Taa in western Aleppo. Militants claimed  that an officer of pro-government forces was killed. Pro-Damascus sources reported no notable clashes in the area, but such claims by Idlib armed groups are a useful signal of the current level of tensions in the region. Greater Idlib is steadily moving towards the resumption of full-scale military hostilities.

The Syrian Army and its allies fully repelled ISIS attacks near al-Sukhnah and Wadi al-Waer in the province of Homs killing two dozens of terrorists, according to pro-government sources. Clashes in the area broke out last week after ISIS cells conducted a large attack on positions of Syrian troops involved in a security operation in the area. Pro-militant sources claim that up to 40 Syrian soldiers were killed in the confrontation with the terrorists.

Currently, the army is deploying reinforcements to the countryside of al- Sukhnah. Most likely, government forces are planning to conduct a new security operation against ISIS cells hiding in the desert.

Military Situation In Syria On April 13, 2020 (Map Update)

Military Situation In Syria On April 13, 2020 (Map Update)

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TURKEY’S OPERATION SPRING SHIELD: DECLARATIONS VS REALITY (MAP UPDATE)

South Front

Turkish officials, state media and affilated propaganda organizations appear to be trying to paint Ankara’s Operation Spring Shield in the Syrian region of Greater idlib as a ‘successful move’ that achieved all ‘declared goals’. So, this is a short reminder what goals Turkey declared and what it achieved employing its Armed Forces in an open military agression against Syria.

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DOCTORED FOOTAGE AND FAKE CLAIMS: TURKISH MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF OPERATION PEACE SPRING

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Since the start of Operation Peace Spring, Turkish media outlets have released a large number of videos showing Turkish strikes on positions of the Syrian Army in Greater Idlib. In general, these videos provide a useful inside into Turkish operations against forces of the Damascus government. However, some of them appear to have apparent issues and cause legitimate raising of eyebrows.
It’s interesting to note that most of these ‘strange videos’ were released by ‘Clash Report’, the media outlet that spearheaded the Turkish military propaganda campaign in social media. Among other things, this media outlet released videos supposedly showing the destruction of the Russian-made Pantsir air defense systems and a bombing of a large Syrian Army military convoy. These videos drew a notable attention of the international audience. So, let’s get a closer look at them.

Video 1 – Destruction of a first Russian-made Pantsir air defense system

A simple example is the following Twitter post, in it, a Turkish drone strike reportedly destroyed a Russian-made Pantsir S-1, used by the Syrian Arab Army.
After the attack on its soldiers, Turkish Armed Forces destroyed one of the Syrian regime’s Russian-made Pantsir S-1 (Sa-22) air defense system. Aerial footage clearly shows the radar was active when it was hit.
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On the exact same day, with the exact same video, but in Arabic, the post claims that the Pantsir S-1 is being operated by the so-called Russian private military company – “Wagner” (Turkey regularly claims that Turkish-backed forces are fighting Russian mercenaries in Libya) – and that the radar was on and it was still destroyed in a drone strike, but in Libya.
جيش التركي ، دمر نظام الدفاع الجوي Pantir S-1 (Sa-22) الروسي الصنع. يبدو أن رادار النظام فعال..
ميليشيات Wagner الروسية في ليبيا.
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Both posts are followed, however, by a description of how much the Pantsir S-1 costs and that only 12 countries have the equipment, in the respective language.
The Pantsir S-1, said to be worth in excess of 75 million dollars, sits in the inventory of 12 countries, and was recently deployed by the Russian mercenary company in .
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إن Pantir S-1 ، نظام الدفاع الجوي الذي دمرته القوات الجوية التركية ، هو يستعمل 12 دولة. وتفيد التقارير بأن بانتسير ، بقيمة 75 مليون دولار ، تم استخدامها من قبل ميليشيات Wagner الروسية في ليبيا.
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Both of these claim Wagner deployed them in Libya.

Video 2 – Destruction of a second Russian-made Pantsir air defense system

A second video, purportedly showing a Pantsir-S1 system in Saraqib also raises some questions, as specifically to its content. It was published on March 3rd.
Images du système de défense aérienne (SA-22) abattu par des drones de combat turc à dans la nuit du 3 mars alors que son radar était actif.Des traces de caméras thermiques sur le côté de la batterie déterminent que le système a été tiré contre un avion turc
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The video is 16 seconds and is very obviously consisting of two glued fragments. The first fragment actually shows the installation of a rotating radar. The second begins with an explosion. Moreover, two fragments are glued in such a way as to create the feeling that this is a continuous video. However, a closer look allows to see that the second part was shot a little from a different angle.
Here are the shots between second 11-14, when the explosion happens, it fades to black, there’s a little flash and it resumes. It can be seen that the explosion is centered so that it is in the same place where the presumed Pantsir stood before gluing.
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Then if the footage around second 14-16 is added here, it becomes obvious that the shooting is from a different angle. The tracks left from the Pantsir is now turned almost horizontally.
There are serious suspicions of falsification, as it can clearly be seen that there was an attempt to show the viewer something that this video does not specifically show.
Another problem is identical debris. After the explosion, a cloud of debris rises into the air. If one looks closely at them, it turns out that some of them are exactly the same.
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Did the Pantsir system disappear? And finally, the main thing. Let’s see the “last” second before the explosion and the last second before the video ends. If one looked “closely” you could see that the Pantsir is mounted to a rather large four-axle vehicle, much larger than a normal truck. From it should remain quite large debris, parts of the chassis. There is nothing, nothing at all remains.
Red circles on the image show debris that have already landed on the ground, the smoke that one sees in the frame flies over them and sometimes covers them. That is, one can clearly see the surface of the earth, but the installation has disappeared. The identical debris flying in the air is in blue.
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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These lacks are so so obvious that there is even a sarcastic video presenting some of the issues the video has.

Video 3 – Strikes on a Syrian Army column near Maarat al-Numan

Moving on to another video published by Clash Report, this time on March 3rd. It purportedly showed a Syrian Arab Army convoy being punded by Turkish strikes.
Starting from the 13th second of the video, an individual supposedly exist the tank, and begins moving towards the other armored vehicle. What is questionable is the manner of his movement, as if he’s experiencing some sort of “video game lag,” but in real life.
Compared to the soldiers running in a file to the right, the movement of the individual on the left appears as if separated into specific frames, and rather odd, since the movement of everybody else in the footage is quite fluid.
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Then, the next explosion, which also obviously has jumps in footage, of where the specific parts were glued together, also has entirely identical debris resulting from the explosion that happens at the 41st second of the video.
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
Click to see full-size image
The final segment shows troops and a tank, being struck and then the camera rapidly pans to the side, not showing any of the aftermath, just the flash of the explosion and some partial debris.

***

Therefore, Turkish media outlets intentionally released doctored footage and made false claims in an attempt to paint the Turkish military operation in Syria more successful than it was. This is a common approach for any side of the conflict. However, it’s interesting to note that no of ‘high-professional’ maisntream media outlets adressed these gaps in Turkish-provided video reports.
A summary of Turkish Defense Ministry claims on the supposed casualties and equipment losses of the Syrian Army during Operation Peace Spring:
Doctored Footage And Fake Claims: Turkish Media Campaign In Support Of Operation Peace Spring
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Erdogan The Liar

Hezbollah & Syrian Army Ground Victory in Idlib Obliged Erdogan to Fly to Moscow: Report

March 6, 2020

In an article published by RT, Scott Ritter, a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, stressed that his week’s meeting between Presidents Putin and Erdogan in Moscow was cast as preventing a war between Russia and Turkey in Syria.

Ritter, who served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, considered that the meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, accompanied by their respective senior national security advisers, in Moscow on March 5 aimed at negotiating the terms of a ceasefire that would bring an end to heavy fighting in Syria’s Idlib province that threatened to draw their two nations into direct military conflict.

“After more than six hours of meeting, a new agreement, packaged as an ‘additional protocol’ to the ‘Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the De-escalation Area as of September 17, 2018’ (better known as the ‘Sochi Agreement’), was agreed to by both parties.”

“Over the course of a week, from February 27 through March 5, Syria’s Idlib province transitioned from being ground zero for a war between the Syrian army and allied forces, and heavily armed groups opposed to the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, into a geopolitical powder keg that threatened to pull the Turkish and Russian militaries into direct conflict with one another. On March 1, Turkey, following up on threats previously made by President Erdogan to drive the Syrian Army and its allies back to the line of demarcation set forth in the original Sochi Agreement, unleashed a major offensive, dubbed “Operation Spring Shield” and involving thousands of Turkish troops fighting alongside anti-Assad formations.”

According to Ritter, this operation soon fizzled; not only was the Turkish advance halted in its tracks, but the Syrian Army, supported by Hezbollah and pro-Iranian forces, was able to recapture much of the territory lost in the earlier fighting.

“Faced with the choice of either escalating further and directly confronting Russian forces, or facing defeat on the battlefield, Erdogan instead flew to Moscow.”

“The new additional protocol, which entered into effect at midnight Moscow time on Friday, March 6, represents a strategic defeat for Erdogan and the Turkish military which, as NATO’s second-largest standing armed force, equipped and trained to the highest Western standards, should have been more than a match for a rag-tag Syrian Army, worn down after nine years of non-stop combat.”

“One of the major reasons behind the Turkish failure was the fact that Russia controlled the air space over Idlib, denying the Turks the use of aircraft, helicopters and (except for a single 48-hour period) drones, while apparently using their own aircraft, together with the Syrian Air Force, to pummel both the Turkish military and their allied anti-Assad forces (though neither side has officially confirmed the Russians bombing the Turks – that would be a disaster for the talks).”

“In the end, the anti-Assad militants were compelled to take shelter within so-called ‘Observation posts’– heavily fortified Turkish garrisons established under the Sochi Agreement, intermingling with Turkish forces to protect themselves from further attack. Operation Spring Shield turned out to be a resounding defeat for the Turks and their allies.”

“The agreement also focuses on another critical, yet unfulfilled, aspect of the original Sochi agreement – the guarantee of safe passage along the strategic M4 and M5 highway corridors connecting the city of Aleppo with Latakia (M4) and Damascus (M5). The inability and/or unwillingness on the part of the Turks to follow through with this provision was the major impetus behind the current Syrian offensive in Idlib. Indeed, the Syrian Army was able to gain full control of the M5 highway and was in the process of doing the same for the M4 highway when the Moscow agreement brought an end to the fighting.”

“Under the terms of the additional protocol, the new zones of de-escalation will be defined by the frontlines as they currently exist, securing the hard-won advances made by the Syrian Army and embarrassing Erdogan, who had promised to drive the Syrians back to the positions as they existed at the time of the original Sochi Agreement. Moreover, the M4 highway will now be buffered by a 12-kilometer security zone (Six kilometers on each side), and will be jointly patrolled by Turkey and Russia, guaranteeing secure passage for commercial vehicle traffic. These patrols will begin on March 15, which means the Turks have ten days to oversee the evacuation of anti-Assad militants from this corridor–in effect, pushing them back north of the M4 highway, which was the goal of the Syrian offensive to begin with.”

“While couched as a ceasefire agreement, the additional protocol produced by the Moscow summit between Putin and Erdogan on Thursday is a thinly disguised instrument of surrender, the writer concluded, “The Syrian government got everything it was looking for by launching its offensive, and the Turks and their anti-Assad allies were left licking their wounds in a much-reduced Idlib pocket.”

Source: RT

سورية تنتصر سياسياً بعد الانتصار العسكريّ

ناصر قنديل

سينفق المحللون والإعلاميون الأتراك والمؤيدون لتركيا، ومثلهم المعادون لسورية ولمحور المقاومة، جهداً ووقتاً لتظهير نتائج القمة التي جمعت الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين بالرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان، كانتصار تركي روسي على حساب سورية، لأن أحداً لن يستطيع القول إن روسيا خسرت. فالأفضل أن يلجأ المشككون والمعادون إلى تصوير القمة كتقاسم مصالح روسيّ تركي على حساب سورية، لكنه سيكون من الصعب أن يمتلك أحد من هؤلاء جواباً على أسئلة من نوع، أين أصبح تهديد أردوغان بعملية عسكرية اختار لها اسم درع الربيع وحدّد لها موعداً وهدفاً هو إعادة الجيش السوري إلى النقاط التي كان فيها قبل بدء عملياته العسكرية؟ وأين أصبح الحديث عن إخراج الجيش السوري إلى ما وراء نقاط المراقبة؟ وماذا عن الطريق الدولية التي تربط حلب بدمشق، التي باتت بيد الجيش السوري بعد معارك ضارية كانت أهمها معركة سراقب؟ وأين مصير الأحياء الشمالية والغربية لحلب التي صارت بيد الجيش السوري؟

القراءة البسيطة لنتائج القمة، تقول إن ما تناوله الاتفاق يطال ما لم يُنجزه الجيش السوري من تطبيق تفاهم سوتشي بالقوة، فالاتفاق تجاهل كلياً ما أنجزه الجيش السوري، مكرساً أن هذا الجزء من مناطق خفض التصعيد ليس على طاولة التفاوض، وأن المطروح هو الاختيار بين ان يواصل الجيش السوري مع حلفائه مدعوماً بالنار الروسية ما تبقى من تطهير لمناطق يسيطر عليها الإرهاب بحماية وشراكة الجيش التركي، خصوصاً في مناطق تأمين الطريق الدولي بين حلب واللاذقية، أو أن يقوم الرئيس التركي لحفظ ماء وجهه بتجديد تعهّده بالتعاون لتنفيذ هذه المهمة التي تلكأ بتنفيذها، عبر ضمان فتح الطريق من جهة، ومواجهة الجماعات الإرهابية من جهة أخرى. وهنا يمكن بدء النقاش فقط، فما مضى قد مضى وما كُتب قد كُتب، وما قبل سراقب غير ما بعدها.

النقاش المجدي فقط هو حول ما إذا كان أردوغان سيلتزم هذه المرّة بموجباته أم سيعود للمراوغة والتلكؤ، والرهان على المتغيرات والخداع، وتاريخ أردوغان حافل بمثل هذه الرهانات الخاطئة، ولا يوجد عاقل يستطيع أن يقول إن الوفاء بالتعهدات من خصال أردوغان، فكيف إذا كان مرغماً، لكن ما يجب وضعه في الحساب كمتغير جديد على أردوغان وفريقه قراءته جيداً، هو أنها المرة الأولى التي يأتي فيها التفاهم الروسي التركي ليكرس نتائج نصر عسكري سوري بالمباشر الميدانيّ وليس بالحصيلة الإجمالية السياسية للتفاهمات، ويقلص مسافة الجغرافيا والزمن وفقاً لنتائج هذا النصر، فما تمّ حسمه حسم وانتهى، وما بقي فهو مفتوح لخياري العودة للحسم أو فتح المجال لفرصة، ويعلم اردوغان هذه المرة أن الموازين التي ستحكم المعارك المقبلة ستكون أشد اختلالاً لصالح الجيش السوري والحلفاء، وستكون روسيا أشد انخراطاً بصورة علنية فيها، وربما لا تكون فرصة بعدها، وإن كانت فستكون لمساحة أضيق في الجغرافيا والزمن، بما يتناسب مع خطة القضم والهضم التي يعتمدها الجيش السوري منذ بدء معركة حلب الأولى قبل ثلاثة أعوام، وتدحرجت بعدها الانتصارات.

السياق الوحيد الذي تفتحه تفاهمات موسكو واضح، وهو استعادة الدولة السورية لكامل جغرافيتها، وصون وحدتها وسيادتها، وفتح الباب لتراجع تركي تحت سقف الإقرار بهذه المعادلة، لأنها الإطار الذي لا تراجع عنه لبناء استقرار قابل للحياة من جهة، ولضمان تبديد الهواجس التركية تجاه الملف الكردي من جهة أخرى، ويبقى اتفاق أضنة مطروحاً على الطاولة.

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PUTIN AND ERDOGAN SIGN AGREEMENT ON IDLIB, CEASEFIRE BEGINS AT 00:01 MARCH 6

South Front

Putin And Erdogan Sign Agreement On Idlib, Ceasefire Begins At 00:01 March 6
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On March 5th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow to discuss the situation in Idlib, Syria.
🇷🇺🇹🇷 President received President @RTErdogan at the Kremlin. The two leaders are discussing possible solutions to the taking into consideration the aggravation of the situation in the de-escalation zone 🔗https://is.gd/yiS9RX 
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Prior to the meeting, the two leaders made the following statements:
Vladimir Putin:
“Good afternoon, Mr President.
Thank you for coming to Russia. As usual, we have things to discuss. The situation in the Idlib zone in Syria has deteriorated so much that we need to have a direct and personal discussion.
First of all, I would like to express our sincere condolences over the death of your military personnel in Syria. Loss of life is always a big tragedy.
Regrettably, as I have told you by telephone, nobody, including the Syrian military, was aware of your troops’ location. At the same time, there were casualties among Syrian servicemen as well. The Syrian army reported major losses.
Therefore, we need to discuss everything and analyse the current developments so that, first, this does not happen again and, second, that this does not damage Russian-Turkish relations, which I know that you value as well.
As you requested, we are ready to begin our talks one-on-one, and then our colleagues, who are with us in this room, will join us, if necessary.
Once again, welcome to Moscow.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
“Yes, Mr President, I would like to also thank you for your welcome.
As you know, we were going to hold this meeting in Turkey but due to your ongoing work on constitutional amendments, we decided to accept your invitation and come here. Certainly, this meeting on Idlib talks is very important.
The situation in Idlib is indeed very tense. I know that the entire world is watching us today and I think that the action and decisions we take today will definitely have a mitigating effect.
This is a time when the relations between our countries have indeed reached a peak. Of course, this concerns the defence industry, trade and other areas; they continue developing.
We believe and say that we need to make progress in this area. In fact, this is our biggest task, to move forward and develop our relations. I believe we will succeed.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your welcome.”
Erdogan previously said he had asked Putin to “step aside” in Syria and allow him to deal with Damascus “face to face”, while Syrian President Bashar Assad stated in an interview just one day before the Putin-Erdogan meeting that the conflict between the Turkish people and the Syrian people is “illogical”.
Around the same time that the meeting was taking place, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Turkey’s right to self-defense in connection with the situation in Idlib, during a press briefing.
“We are firmly convinced that our NATO partner, Turkey, has every right to defend itself against the risks created in Syria by Assad, Russians and Iranians,” said Pompeo, answering a question about how he assesses “the partnership between Russia and Turkey.”
He recalled that a few days ago, US President Donald Trump held talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The US Secretary of State did not comment on the ongoing negotiations between the leaders of Turkey and Russia in Moscow.
“The Turkish government has requested a number of things, we are evaluating all these requests. Our team (the US State Department) together with the Department of Defense team are deciding how best to reduce violence and a larger world there and stop the ongoing large-scale humanitarian crisis,” said Pompeo.
Catherine the Great, served as empress of for more than three decades in the late 18th century. She captured lots of Ottoman territories.
LMAO, Russians never stop trolling.🤣
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The two leaders spoke tete-a-tete for approximately 3 hours, and then they were joined by their respective delegations. The entire negotiation ended after 5 hours 40 minutes.
Erdoğan ve Putin başkanlığında Moskova’da yapılan heyetler arası görüşme sona erdi. Baş başa ve heyetler arası görüşmeler 5 saat 40 dakika sürdü.
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The briefing, following the negotiations can be seen here:
Erdogan Invited Putin to Visit Turkey to Celebrate Anniversary of Bilateral Relations. Putin, on his part said that Russia, Turkey agreed on common document on settlement in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he has negotiated an agreement to resolve the ongoing tensions in Idlib province with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two countries have agreed following “uneasy, but productive” talks that they should not reduce their efforts in the fight against terrorism.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that his country will be sending additional forces to Idlib province under a new agreement with Russia, but that the status of Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield will be “changed”. Erdogan added that starting at midnight between 5 and 6 March a ceasefire regime will be established in Idlib for both Turkish and Syrian forces. At the same time, the Turkish president said that the army reserves the right to respond to any actions of the Syrian forces.
It includes the following items:
  1. The cessation of all hostilities along the existing line of contact from midnight on March 6th;
  2. Russia and Turkey create a six-kilometer-long security corridor north and south of the M-4 highway in Syria
  3. Russia and Turkey agreed on March 15th to begin joint patrols along the M-4 highway in Syria.
“It is inevitable to establish a new status in Idlib after the sad events of the regime’s aggression targeting our soldiers,” President Erdogan said.
“The spirit of cooperation between us and Russia has made an unprecedented contribution to international efforts to end the conflict in Syria,” President Erdogan explained.
The entire document is to be published in English, Russian and Turkish “soon,” when more details will follow. It is showing, however, that a direct military intervention by Turkey is unlikely to work, and Erdogan went to the negotiating table.
The following map shows the gains and setbacks of Turkish forces and the “moderate opposition” have made since Turkish operation Spring Shield began.
Putin And Erdogan Sign Agreement On Idlib, Ceasefire Begins At 00:01 March 6
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The new Turkish-Russian agreements have several important implications for the situation in Greater Idlib:
  • Turkey declared that it will keep forces in the region (It cannot withdraw them because this will mean a total surrender and lead to a full-scale political crisis in Turkey itself), but officially accepted all the gains made by the Syrian Army since September 2018 (Sochi agreements). Earlier, the top Turkish leadership declared that the goal of the Turkish military operation in Idlib is to push the Syrian Army back from all this area.
  • The Syrian Army kept control of the M5 highway and significantly improved its military position in the region.
  • The terrorists, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda groups, still remian outside the framework of the ceasefire deal and legal target in the framework of it.
  • The agreed buffer zone (M4) is located inside the militant-held area. It can be created and joint patrols can be launched only if radical militants (all militants that control the area) are removed from there. It’s hard to imagine how Russian Military Police vehicles can be deployed there safely in any another case. Therefore, if militants are not removed, this will create conditions f0r another operation in the area fully in the framework of the agreement signed by Turkey.
  • Turkey publicly accepted that it is not capable to defeat the Syrian Army without suffering unacceptable losses. So, Damascus and its allies officially won in this stage of the conflict.
  • Both sides declared that they support a political solution of the conflict. However, the March 5 deal and another ceasefire are only a half measure to achieve this goal. A political solution is not possible as long as terrorist groups (backed by Turkey) present in the area. This creates conditions for further tensions and escalations.
On January 14, 2020, SF released the following video analysis on the Idlib ‘ceasefire efforts’ and their results for the anti-terrorism fight in Greater Idlib. It still remains useful to explain the situation in general:
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Empires of the steppes fuel Erdogan Khan’s dreams

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March 04, 2020

Refugees wait Saturday to cross the border between Turkey and Greece near the Pazarkule border post, in Turkey. Thousands of migrants and refugees, including Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis, have massed at Turkey’s border with Greece after Erdogan announced on February 28 that Turkey would no longer prevent them from leaving for the European Union. Photo: AFP / Burcu Okutan / Sputnik

By Pepe Escobar : posted with permission

As Putin meeting looms, no one in Moscow believes any word, promise or cajoling from Erdogan anymore

The latest installment of the interminable Syria tragedy could be interpreted as Greece barely blocking a European “invasion” by Syrian refugees. The invasion was threatened by President Erdogan even as he refused the EU’s puny “offer you can refuse” bribe of only one billion euros.
Well, it’s more complicated than that. What Erdogan is in fact weaponizing is mostly economic migrants – from Afghanistan to the Sahel – and not Syrian refugees.

Informed observers in Brussels know that interlocking mafias – Iraqi, Afghan, Egyptian, Tunisian, Moroccan – have been active for quite a long time smuggling everyone and his neighbor from the Sahel via Turkey, as the Greek route towards the EU Holy Grail is much safer than the Central Mediterranean.

The EU sending a last-minute emissary to Ankara will yield no new facts on the ground – even as some in Brussels, in bad faith, continue to carp that the one million “refugees” trying to leave Idlib could double and that, if Turkey does not open its borders with Syria, there will be a “massacre.”

Those in Brussels spinning the “Turkey as victim” scenario list three conditions for a possible solution. The first is a ceasefire – which in fact already exists, via the Sochi agreement, and was not respected by Ankara. The second is a “political process” – which, once again, does exist: the Astana process involving Russia, Turkey and Iran. And the third is “humanitarian aid” – a euphemism that means, in fact, a NATO intervention of the Libya “humanitarian imperialism” kind.

As it stands, two facts are inescapable. Number one: the Greek military don’t have what it takes to resist, in practice, Ankara’s weaponizing of the so-called “refugees.”

Number two is the kind of stuff that makes NATO fanatics recoil in horror: Since the Ottoman siege of Vienna, this is the first time in four centuries that a “Muslim invasion” of Europe is being prevented by, who else, Russia.

Fed up with sultan

This past Sunday, Ankara launched yet another Pentagon-style military adventure, baptized as Spring Shield. All decisions are centralized by a triumvirate: Erdogan, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the head of MIT (Turkish intel) Hakan Fidan. John Helmer has memorably called them the SUV (Sultan and the Ugly Viziers).

Behlul Ozkan, from the University of Marmara, a respected Kemalist scholar, frames the whole tragedy as having been played since the 1980s, now back on the stage on a much larger scale since the start of the so-called Syrian chapter of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Ozkan charges Erdogan with creating “conquering troops out of five unlikely fundamentalist groups” and “naming the armed groups after Ottoman sultans,” claiming they are a sort of national salvation army. But this time, argues Ozkan, the results are much worse – from millions of refugees to the terrible destruction in Syria, and “the emergence of our political and military structures affecting national security in a dangerous way.”

To say that the Russian General Staff are absolutely fed up with the SUV’s shenanigans is the ultimate understatement. That’s the background for the meeting this Thursday in Moscow between Putin and Erdogan. Methodically, the Russians are disrupting Turk operations to an unsustainable level – ranging from renewed air cover to the Syrian Arab Army to electronic countermeasures totally smashing all Turkish drones.

Russian diplomatic sources confirm that no one in Moscow believes any word, promise or cajoling emanating from Erdogan anymore. So it’s useless to ask him to respect the Sochi agreement. Imagine a Sun Tzu-style meeting with the Russian side displaying the very picture of self-restraint while scrutinizing Erdogan on how much he is willing to suffer before desisting from his Idlib adventure.

Those non-nonsense proto-Mongols

What ghosts from the past evolve in Erdogan’s unconscious? Let history be our guide – and let’s go for a ride among the empires of the steppes.

In the 5th century, the Juan Juan people, proto-Mongols as much as their cousins the White Huns (who lived in today’s Afghanistan), were the first to give their princes the title of khan – afterwards used by the Turks as well as the Mongols.

A vast Eurasian Turco-Mongol linguistic spectrum – studied in detail by crack French experts such as J.P. Roux – evolved via conquering migrations, more or less ephemeral imperial states, and aggregating diverse ethnic groups around rival Turkish or Mongol dynasties. We can talk about an Eurasian Turk space from Central Asia to the Mediterranean for no less than a millennium and a half – but only, crucially, for 900 years in Asia Minor (today’s Anatolia).

These were highly hierarchical and militarized societies, unstable, but still capable, given the right conditions, such as the emergence of a charismatic personality, to engage in a strong collective project of building political constructions. So the charismatic Erdogan Khan mindset is not much different from what happened centuries ago.

The first form of this socio-cultural tradition appeared even before the conversion to Islam – which happened after the battle of Talas in 751, won by the Arabs against the Chinese.  But most of all it all crystallized around Central Asia from the 10th and 11th centuries onwards.

Unlike Greece in the Aegean, unlike India or Han China, there was never a central focus in terms of a cultural berth or supreme identity organizing this process. Today this role in Turkey is played by Anatolia – but that’s a 20th century phenomenon.

What history has shown is an east-west Eurasian axis across the steppes, from Central Asia to Anatolia, through which nomad tribes, Turk and Turkmen, then the Ottoman Turks, migrated and progressed, as conquerors, between the 7th and the 17th centuries: a whole millennium building an array of sultanates, emirates and empires. No wonder the Turkish president pictures himself as Erdogan Khan or Sultan Erdogan.

“Idlib is mine”

So there is a link between the turcophone tribes of Central Asia from the 5th and 6th centuries and the current Turkish nation. From the 6th to the 11th centuries they were set up as a confederation of big tribes. Then, going southwest, they founded states. Chinese sources document the first turkut (Turkish empires) as eastern Turks in Mongolia and western Turks in Turkestan.

They were followed by more or less ephemeral empires of the steppes such as the Uighurs in the 8th century (who, by the way, were originally Buddhists). It’s interesting that this original past of the Turks in Central Asia, before Islam, was somewhat elevated to mythic status by the Kemalists.

This universe was always enriched by outside elements – such as Arab-Persian Islam and its institutions inherited from the Sassanids,  as well as the Byzantine empire, whose structural elements were adapted by the Ottomans. The end of the Ottoman empire and multiple convulsions (the Balkan wars, WWI, the Greek-Turkish war) ended up with a Turkish nation-state whose sanctuary is Asia Minor (or Anatolia) and eastern Thrace, conformed into a national territory that’s exclusively Turk and denies every minority presence that is non-Sunni and non-turcophone.

Evidently that’s not enough for Erdogan Khan.

Even Hatay province, which joined Turkey in 1939, is not enough. Home to the historic Antioch and Alexandretta, Hatay was then re-baptized as Antakya and Iskenderun.

Under the Treaty of Lausanne, Hatay was included in the French mandate of Syria and Lebanon. The Turkish version is that Hatay declared its independence in 1938 – when Ataturk was still alive – and then decided to join Turkey. The Syrian version is that Hatay was acquired via a rigged referendum ordered by France to bypass the Treaty of Lausanne.

Erdogan Khan has proclaimed, “Idlib is mine.” Syria and Russia are responding, “No, it’s not.” Those were the days, when turcophone empires of the steppes could just advance and capture their prey.

SYRIAN ARMED FORCES TEACH ‘2ND STRONGEST NATO ARMY’ PAINFUL LESSON IN IDLIB

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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SYRIAN ARMY RECAPTURES SARAQIB FROM ERDOGAN FORCES AS SYRIAN-TURKISH CONFLICT IN IDLIB INTENSIFIES

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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