PROSPECTS OF TURKISH-RUSSIAN MILITARY CONFLICT IN SYRIA

Dear friends, during the past 2 weeks, there were signals of the growing confrontation between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as well as the intensifying coordination between Turkey and Russia in Greater Idlib.

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The region of Greater Idlib remains the main source of tensions in Syria.

The March 5th ceasefire deal reached by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow allowed an end to be made to the open military confrontation between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Army. However, as of mid-April, the main provisions of the deal have yet to be implemented. Members of al-Qaeda-linked groups still enjoy freedom of movement across Greater Idlib and keep their positions with weapons and heavy equipment in southern Idlib.

The safe zone along the M4 highway, the creation of which was agreed, has not been created. All Russian-Turkish joint patrols have been conducted in a limited area west of Saraqib and have just been a public move needed to demonstrate that the de-escalation deal is still in force.

Ankara turns a blind eye to regular ceasefire violations and other provocative actions by militant groups and their supporters. Additionally, it has continued its military buildup in Idlib. The number of Turkish troops in the region reportedly reached 7,000, while the number of so-called ‘observation posts’ exceeded 50. Meanwhile, Turkish-affiliated media outlets ramped up a propaganda campaign accusing the Assad government of killing civilians, of ceasefire violations, of using chemical weapons and of discrediting the de-escalation agreement by calling it the surrender of the goals of the so-called Syrian revolution.

On the diplomatic level, neither Turkey nor Russia demonstrate open antagonism, but statements coming from the  top military and political leadership of Turkey regarding the conflict in Syria demonstrate that Ankara is not planning to abandon its expansionist plans or aggressive posture towards the country.

These factors set up a pretext for and increase the chances of a new military escalation in Idlib. However, this time the conflict is likely to lead to at least a limited military confrontation between the Turkish and Russian militaries. Both sides have troops deployed in close proximity to the frontline, including the expected hot point of the future escalation – Saraqib.

Possible phases of escalation are the following:

  1. Without the full implementation of the Moscow de-escalation deal and neutralization of radicals, the military situation in southern and eastern Idlib will continue to deteriorate. Militants, inspired by their impunity and the direct protection of the Turkish Army, will increase their attacks on the positions of Syrian forces and their Russian and Iranian allies. These attacks will gradually increase in scale until they provoke a painful military response from the Syrian Armed Forces. Militants, surprised at this blatant ceasefire violation by the bloody Assad regime, will continue their attacks, now justifying them by the right of self-defense. G_4 (A) Turkish diplomats and media outlets will immediately accuse the Assad government of violating the word and spirit of the de-escalation deal and will claim that the “unjustified aggression of the regime”, which is supported by the Russians, led to the killing of dozens of civilians and will film several staged tear-jerkers from Idlib to support this. The so-called ‘international community’ led by the Washington establishment and EU bureaucrats will denounce the aggression of the Assad regime and its backers.
  2. In the face of the continued and increased attacks from Idlib armed groups, the Syrian Army will have two options:
  • To retreat from their positions and leave the hard-won, liberated areas to the mercy of Turkey and its al-Qaeda-affiliated groups;
  • To answer the increased attacks with overwhelming force and put an end to the ceasefire violations by radicals.

It’s likely that the Syrians will choose the second option. The military standoff in Idlib will officially re-enter a hot phase. The previous years of conflict have demonstrated that militants cannot match Syrian troops in open battle. Therefore, if the Turkish leadership wants to hold on to its expansionist plans, it will have no choice but to intervene in the battle to rescue its proteges. Syria and Turkey will once again find themselves in a state of open military confrontation.

  1. As in previous escalations, the Turkish military will likely opt to start its military campaign with massive artillery and drone strikes on positions of the Syrian Army along the contact line in southeastern Idlib and western Aleppo. Special attention will be paid to the area of the expected confrontation between Syrian troops and Turkish proxies: the countryside of Saraqib, Maarat al-Numan and Kafr Nabel. Turkish forces will not be able to stop the Syrian Army advance without taking massive fire damage to their infrastructure and to the forces deployed in these areas. Such strikes will also result in  further escalation because they will pose a direct danger to the Russian Military Police in Saraqib and Maarat al-Numan, and to Russian military advisers embedded with the Syrian units, which are deployed in southeastern Idlib.
  2. If Turkish strikes target Russian positions and lead to notable losses among Russian personnel, Moscow will be put in a situation where they will be forced to retaliate. Since the start of the military operation in Syria in September 2015, the Russian Armed Forces have concentrated a capable military group in the country protected by short- and long-range air defense systems and reinforced by Bastion-P coastal defense and Iskander-M ballistic missile systems. Additionally, the Russian Black Sea and Caspian Fleets and Russian long-range aviation have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of destroying any target on the Syrian battleground and thus also in any nearby areas.

The Russian retaliatory strike will likely target Turkish military columns in close proximity to the frontline as well as Turkish depots, positions of artillery, armoured vehicles, and material and technical support points in Greater Idlib.

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

If, after the Russian strike, the Turkish leadership does not halt its aggressive actions and its forces continue attacks on Russian and Syrian positions in Syria, the escalation will develop further.

The second wave of Russian retaliatory strikes will target Turkish military infrastructure along the border with Syria. HQs and logistical hubs in the province of Hatay, which were used to command and supply its Operation Spring Shield, will immediately be destroyed. The decision to deliver strikes on other targets along the border will depend on the success of Turkish forces in their expected attempt to attack Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and put it out of service.

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

Another factor to consider is that should Turkey appear to be too successful in their attack on the Hmeimim airbase, they risk losing their entire Black Sea fleet. While theoretically the Turkish naval forces deployed in the Black Sea are superior to the Russian ones in numbers, the real balance of power there tells a different story. The combined means and facilities of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Caspian Sea fleet, air forces and coastal defense forces deployed in the region would allow Moscow to overwhelm and sink the entire Turkish Navy. On top of this, Russia, unlike Turkey, is a nuclear power.

Turkey’s NATO allies have already demonstrated that they are not planning to risk their equipment or personnel in order to support Erdogan’s Syrian adventure. Furthermore, a new round of complaints to the UN or demonstrative sanctions will be no help to any destroyed Turkish airbases or to a fleet resting deep underwater.

Ankara will have to find a diplomatic way to de-escalate the confrontation before it gets to this point. The format of this diplomatic solution and the consequences, which Turkey will have to suffer for its military adventure, will depend only on the moment, when the Erdogan government understands that it’s time to stop.

Related

GOLAN HEIGHTS ESCALATION AND NEW DRAMA IN IDLIB



https://southfront.org/golan-heights-escalation-and-new-drama-in-idlib/

Early on May 1, several missiles launched from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights hit positions of the Syrian Army near Tell Ahmar and Quneitra city. The strike reportedly led to no casualties among Syrian personnel, but destroyed several pieces of military equipment.

This was the second Israeli strike on Syria in less than a week. On April 27, Israeli airstrikes hit the countryside of Damascus, including the al-Mazzeh Airport. Pro-Israeli sources claim that underground facilities of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were the target.

Meanwhile, a new drama is developing in the militant-held part of Greater Idlib. After briefly clashing with the Turkish Army near Nayrab, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham found themselves in the center of a new scandal.

On April 30, the group’s fighters were confronted by supporters of other radical groups in the town of Maaret Elnaasan in western Aleppo. According to pro-opposition sources, the main reason of tensions is the decision of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to open a crossing for commercial purposes to the government-held area. This initiative faced resistance among militant groups directly controlled by Turkey. The Turkish Army even tried to block a road towards Maaret Elnaasan. However, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants were able to suppress the protest and the crossing was opened. The further protests that continued on May 1 forced Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to close the crossing.

Earlier in April, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham tried to open a similar commercial crossing near Saraqib, but this attempt was also blocked by Turkish-led forces.

Representatives of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham claim that the opening of such crossings is vital to contain the developing economic crisis in the militant-held area. According to them, a large part of goods produced within the militant-held area, first of all food, is being sold in the government-controlled territory.

Various fees on commercial activities and contraband traffic are among key sources of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham budget, which has been facing difficulties amid the shirking funding from its foreign sponsors. On the other hand, the ability to fill own budget from independent sources of income allows the terrorist group to remain to a large degree independent from direct Turkish support. Thus, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is capable of remaining a relatively independent player and the most powerful militant group in the entire Greater Idlib.

At least 4 Syrian soldiers were killed and several others were injured in an ISIS attack on the army convoy near the T3 pumping station in the province of Homs. The terrorists used an improvised explosive device to strike the bus moving within the convoy and then shelled it with machine guns.

The attack likely came in response to the intensified security efforts of the army in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert. Just recently, government troops eliminated several ISIS militants and captured 2 vehicles belonging to the terrorist group.

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

South Front

Dear friends, during the past 2 weeks, there were signals of the growing confrontation between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as well as the intensifying coordination between Turkey and Russia in Greater Idlib.

The region of Greater Idlib remains the main source of tensions in Syria.

The March 5th ceasefire deal reached by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow allowed an end to be made to the open military confrontation between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Army. However, as of mid-April, the main provisions of the deal have yet to be implemented. Members of al-Qaeda-linked groups still enjoy freedom of movement across Greater Idlib and keep their positions with weapons and heavy equipment in southern Idlib.

The safe zone along the M4 highway, the creation of which was agreed, has not been created. All Russian-Turkish joint patrols have been conducted in a limited area west of Saraqib and have just been a public move needed to demonstrate that the de-escalation deal is still in force.

Ankara turns a blind eye to regular ceasefire violations and other provocative actions by militant groups and their supporters. Additionally, it has continued its military buildup in Idlib. The number of Turkish troops in the region reportedly reached 7,000, while the number of so-called ‘observation posts’ exceeded 50. Meanwhile, Turkish-affiliated media outlets ramped up a propaganda campaign accusing the Assad government of killing civilians, of ceasefire violations, of using chemical weapons and of discrediting the de-escalation agreement by calling it the surrender of the goals of the so-called Syrian revolution.

On the diplomatic level, neither Turkey nor Russia demonstrate open antagonism, but statements coming from the  top military and political leadership of Turkey regarding the conflict in Syria demonstrate that Ankara is not planning to abandon its expansionist plans or aggressive posture towards the country.

These factors set up a pretext for and increase the chances of a new military escalation in Idlib. However, this time the conflict is likely to lead to at least a limited military confrontation between the Turkish and Russian militaries. Both sides have troops deployed in close proximity to the frontline, including the expected hot point of the future escalation – Saraqib.

Possible phases of escalation are the following:

  1. Without the full implementation of the Moscow de-escalation deal and neutralization of radicals, the military situation in southern and eastern Idlib will continue to deteriorate. Militants, inspired by their impunity and the direct protection of the Turkish Army, will increase their attacks on the positions of Syrian forces and their Russian and Iranian allies. These attacks will gradually increase in scale until they provoke a painful military response from the Syrian Armed Forces. Militants, surprised at this blatant ceasefire violation by the bloody Assad regime, will continue their attacks, now justifying them by the right of self-defense. G_4 (A) Turkish diplomats and media outlets will immediately accuse the Assad government of violating the word and spirit of the de-escalation deal and will claim that the “unjustified aggression of the regime”, which is supported by the Russians, led to the killing of dozens of civilians and will film several staged tear-jerkers from Idlib to support this. The so-called ‘international community’ led by the Washington establishment and EU bureaucrats will denounce the aggression of the Assad regime and its backers.
  2. In the face of the continued and increased attacks from Idlib armed groups, the Syrian Army will have two options:
  • To retreat from their positions and leave the hard-won, liberated areas to the mercy of Turkey and its al-Qaeda-affiliated groups;
  • To answer the increased attacks with overwhelming force and put an end to the ceasefire violations by radicals.

It’s likely that the Syrians will choose the second option. The military standoff in Idlib will officially re-enter a hot phase. The previous years of conflict have demonstrated that militants cannot match Syrian troops in open battle. Therefore, if the Turkish leadership wants to hold on to its expansionist plans, it will have no choice but to intervene in the battle to rescue its proteges. Syria and Turkey will once again find themselves in a state of open military confrontation.

  1. As in previous escalations, the Turkish military will likely opt to start its military campaign with massive artillery and drone strikes on positions of the Syrian Army along the contact line in southeastern Idlib and western Aleppo. Special attention will be paid to the area of the expected confrontation between Syrian troops and Turkish proxies: the countryside of Saraqib, Maarat al-Numan and Kafr Nabel. Turkish forces will not be able to stop the Syrian Army advance without taking massive fire damage to their infrastructure and to the forces deployed in these areas. Such strikes will also result in  further escalation because they will pose a direct danger to the Russian Military Police in Saraqib and Maarat al-Numan, and to Russian military advisers embedded with the Syrian units, which are deployed in southeastern Idlib.
  2. If Turkish strikes target Russian positions and lead to notable losses among Russian personnel, Moscow will be put in a situation where they will be forced to retaliate. Since the start of the military operation in Syria in September 2015, the Russian Armed Forces have concentrated a capable military group in the country protected by short- and long-range air defense systems and reinforced by Bastion-P coastal defense and Iskander-M ballistic missile systems. Additionally, the Russian Black Sea and Caspian Fleets and Russian long-range aviation have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of destroying any target on the Syrian battleground and thus also in any nearby areas.

The Russian retaliatory strike will likely target Turkish military columns in close proximity to the frontline as well as Turkish depots, positions of artillery, armoured vehicles, and material and technical support points in Greater Idlib.

If, after the Russian strike, the Turkish leadership does not halt its aggressive actions and its forces continue attacks on Russian and Syrian positions in Syria, the escalation will develop further.

The second wave of Russian retaliatory strikes will target Turkish military infrastructure along the border with Syria. HQs and logistical hubs in the province of Hatay, which were used to command and supply its Operation Spring Shield, will immediately be destroyed. The decision to deliver strikes on other targets along the border will depend on the success of Turkish forces in their expected attempt to attack Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and put it out of service.

Another factor to consider is that should Turkey appear to be too successful in their attack on the Hmeimim airbase, they risk losing their entire Black Sea fleet. While theoretically the Turkish naval forces deployed in the Black Sea are superior to the Russian ones in numbers, the real balance of power there tells a different story. The combined means and facilities of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Caspian Sea fleet, air forces and coastal defense forces deployed in the region would allow Moscow to overwhelm and sink the entire Turkish Navy. On top of this, Russia, unlike Turkey, is a nuclear power.

Turkey’s NATO allies have already demonstrated that they are not planning to risk their equipment or personnel in order to support Erdogan’s Syrian adventure. Furthermore, a new round of complaints to the UN or demonstrative sanctions will be no help to any destroyed Turkish airbases or to a fleet resting deep underwater.

Ankara will have to find a diplomatic way to de-escalate the confrontation before it gets to this point. The format of this diplomatic solution and the consequences, which Turkey will have to suffer for its military adventure, will depend only on the moment, when the Erdogan government understands that it’s time to stop.

The new geopolitics: Cairo and Paris instead of Ankara and Riyadh الجغرافيا السياسيّة الجديدة القاهرة وباريس بدلاً من أنقرة والرياض

The new geopolitics: Cairo and Paris instead of Ankara and Riyadh

Written by Nasser Kandil,

     During the past ten years, the region as entitled by the Americans the Great Middle East has witnessed major transformations where wars were the decisive element in them. The wars on Syria and Yemen were the most important tests of the balances of power, because the American project which aims at imposing hegemony on the region through weakening the resistance axis especially Iran and distancing Russia and China away from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea puts into consideration after the failed wars of Afghanistan and Iraq and the failed wars of Israel on Lebanon and Gaza that the wars by proxy will made out of its allies partners in the new regional system. It was clear during the past years that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have supported America whether in cooperation or alternation or competition, but it was clear too that the Mediterranean was a Turkish mission while the Gulf and the Red Sea were Saudi-Emirati mission. This means that waging a war on Syria under Turkish leadership and a war on Yemen under Saudi leadership. Meanwhile America and Israel continue the military and political intervention and maneuvers when needed without getting involved in open confrontations.

     The early months of this year 2020 witnessed a number of developments, starting from the American assassination of the two commanders Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, followed by the announcement of the Deal of the Century, opening pending governmental issues in Lebanon and Iraq, and the American understanding with Taliban Movement which included an American commitment of withdrawal. The decisive battles in Syria and Yemen showed that this year is the year of reaping, the year of resolving and determining options. This is can be deduced by linking what is done by America itself not by proxy. Therefore, it becomes clear that the goal of assassination and the Deal of the Century is to prepare for the withdrawal by breaking the link between staying in the region and the requirements of the security of Israel, and between securing these requirements through the assassination and the legislation of the annexation of the Palestinian territories and Juduazition and settlement, and ensuring the flow of money and weapons from Washington to Tel Aviv without restrictions that were before the deal of the century. What has been illegal before has become now legal; furthermore, the Palestinian geography in the occupied territories in 67 has become the way for the Israeli security after its barter for peace was the way for security.

     If the strategic axis of the American movement is the withdrawal as shown in the interconnected American steps, then the wars of proving eligibility from Syria to Yemen become necessary for each of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Therefore this grants the battles waged by Turkey and Saudi Arabia this year in Syria and Yemen a different meaning from those waged in previous battles, and this grants the victories of Syria and the resistance axis especially Hezbollah on one hand and Ansar Allah and the Yemeni army on the other hand different meaning from the previous ones. This is the meaning of reading differently the geography of battles. With regard to the Saudi security the Yemenis succeeded in having control on the strategic province of Al Jawf, as the Syrians along with the resistance forces succeeded in defeating the Turkish army in Saraqib the strategic security knot according to Syria and Turkey. Therefore, the upcoming settlements become projects of face-saving for each of Saudi Arabia and Turkey as an interpretation of the regional failure.

     In the axis of the alliance with Washington, and in the time of defeat those who were out of the range of war will have role as Egypt and France. Egypt which considers well the Saudi considerations did not accept to participate in the war on Yemen and it maintained its relationship with Syria especially in confronting the Turkish and Muslim Brotherhood danger. France which works under the American policies has shown a different approach towards Iran and Hezbollah in the main issues of the nuclear file and the dealing with the Lebanese government. At the time of the preparation for the American withdrawal, America becomes in more need of those who can deal with the opponents. So, this grants Egypt and France different advanced roles in the upcoming stage especially because Israel is living in a state of strategic confusion that goes beyond the inability to fight wars, to the extent of the inability of running politics which repeated its elections for the third time and still unable to form a government, and if it does so it will not be able to take the initiative due to the fragility of its political and military situation.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

الجغرافيا السياسيّة الجديدة: القاهرة وباريس بدلاً من أنقرة والرياض

ناصر قنديل

– خلال عشر سنوات عرفت المنطقة التي يسمّيها الأميركيون بالشرق الأوسط الكبير تحوّلات كبرى، كانت الحروب هي العنصر الفاصل فيها، وشكلت الحرب على سورية والحرب على اليمن الاختبارات الأهم لموازين القوى، حيث المشروع الأميركي الهادف لفرض الهيمنة على المنطقة، عبر إضعاف وترويض محور المقاومة وقاعدته إيران، وإبعاد روسيا والصين عن مياه البحر الأبيض المتوسط، يضع في حسابه بعد حربي أفغانستان والعراق الفاشلتين، وحروب «إسرائيل» الفاشلة على لبنان وغزة، أن حروب الوكالة التي سيتولاها حلفاؤه، هي التي ستصنع منهم شركاء في النظام الإقليمي الجديد، وكان واضحاً خلال السنوات التي مضت أن تركيا والسعودية قد شكلتا ميمنة الأميركيّ وميسرته، سواء بالتعاون أو بالتناوب أو بالتنافس، لكن كان واضحاً أيضاً أن البحر المتوسط مهمة تركية، والخليج والبحر الأحمر مهمة سعودية إماراتية. وهذا يعني خوض حرب سورية بقيادة تركية، وحرب اليمن بقيادة سعودية، فيما يواصل الأميركي والإسرائيلي التدخل والمناورة العسكرية والسياسية حسب الحاجة، لكن من دون التورط في مواجهات مفتوحة.

– شهدت الشهور الأولى من هذا العام 2020 جملة من التطورات، بدأت باغتيال الأميركيين للقائدين في محور المقاومة قاسم سليماني وأبي مهدي المهندس، وتلاها الإعلان عن صفقة القرن، وتلاهما فتح ملفات حكومية معلقة في لبنان والعراق، والتفاهم الأميركي مع حركة طالبان وما تضمنه من التزام أميركي بالانسحاب، وجاءت المعارك المفصلية في سورية واليمن، لتقول جميعها إن هذا العام هو عام الحصاد، وعام حسم الاتجاهات، وبلورة الخيارات، وهو ما يمكن استنتاجه من الربط بين ما فعلته واشنطن بأيديها وليس بواسطة الوكلاء، أي اغتيال القادة وصفقة القرن والانسحاب من أفغانستان، ليصير بائناً أن هدف الاغتيال وصفقة القرن هو التمهيد للانسحاب، عبر فك الارتباط بين البقاء في المنطقة ومقتضيات أمن “إسرائيل”، وتأمين هذه المقتضيات عبر الاغتيال وتشريع عمليات ضم الأراضي الفلسطينية وعمليات التهويد والاستيطان، وضمان تدفق المال والسلاح من واشنطن إلى تل أبيب، دون قيود كانت تترتب على هذه العمليات قبل صفقة القرن، بحيث بات شرعياً بعدها ما كان غير قانوني قبلها، وصارت الجغرافيا الفلسطينية في الأراضي المحتلة عام 67 أداة الأمن الإسرائيلي، بعدما كانت مقايضتها بالسلام هي الطريق للأمن.

– إذا كان المحور الاستراتيجي للحركة الأميركيّة هو الاتجاه للانسحاب، كما تقول الخطوات الأميركية المترابطة، تصير حروب إثبات الأهلية على نيل الوكالة، من سورية إلى اليمن، امتحانات العبور الضرورية لكل من تركيا والسعودية. وهذا ما يمنح المعارك التي خاضتها تركيا في سورية والسعودية في اليمن هذا العام، مضموناً مختلفاً عن معارك الأعوام السابقة، وما يمنح انتصارات سورية وقوى المقاومة وعلى رأسها حزب الله من جهة وأنصار الله والجيش اليمني من جهة مقابلة، معاني مختلفة عن الانتصارات السابقة. وهذا ما يفرض القراءة لجغرافيا المعارك بعيون مختلفة، فقد نجح اليمنيون بالسيطرة على محافظة الجوف الاستراتيجية بالنسبة للأمن السعودي، بمثل ما نجح السوريون وقوى المقاومة بكسر الجيش التركي في سراقب عقدة الأمن الاستراتيجي لسورية وتركيا معاً، بحيث باتت التسويات المقبلة مشاريع حفظ ماء الوجه لكل من السعوديّ والتركيّ، لكن على قاعدة الفشل الإقليميّ.

– في معسكر التحالف مع واشنطن، يتقدّم عند الهزيمة موقع الذين كانوا خارج الحرب. وهذا هو حال كل من مصر وفرنسا، فمصر التي تراعي الحسابات السعودية كثيراً، لم ترتضي المشاركة في حرب اليمن وحافظت على علاقاتها مع سورية بعناية، خصوصاً في مواجهة الخطر التركي والأخواني، وفرنسا التي تعمل تحت سقف السياسات الأميركية عموماً أظهرت مقاربة مختلفة تجاه إيران وحزب الله في الملفين الرئيسيين، الملف النووي والتعامل مع الحكومة اللبنانية، وفي زمن التمهيد للانسحاب الأميركي تزداد حاجة واشنطن لمن يمكنهم التحدث مع الخصوم، ويصعد دور الذين يملكون قدرة بناء الجسور لا الجدران. وهذا ما يمنح لمصر وفرنسا أدواراً مختلفة ومتقدّمة في المرحلة المقبلة، خصوصاً أن “إسرائيل” في غرفة العناية الفائقة، فهي تعيش مرحلة ارتباك استراتيجي يتخطى العجز عن خوض الحروب، إلى حد العجز عن تسيير الآلة السياسية للكيان الذي يقوم بإعادة انتخاباته لمرة ثالثة ولا يزال عاجزاً عن تشكيل حكومة، وإن فعل فلن يستطيع الانتقال إلى المبادرة بسبب هشاشة وضعه السياسي والعسكري.

US-TRAINED MILITANTS SURRENDER TO SYRIAN ARMY. ISRAEL TRIES TO ASSASSINATE HEZBOLLAH COMMANDERS

South Front

On April 15th, 27 members of Maghawir al-Thawra, a militant group in the Al-Tanf zone, which is both funded and trained by the US-led coalition, surrendered to the Syrian Army with all of their weapons and equipment. These included 9 vehicles, 11 weapons including 4 heavy machine guns and 5 grenade launchers, as well as up to 7,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers for small arms, more than 20 RPG rounds, and 6 high-tech communication devices.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, while the Maghawir al-Thawra members were moving to surrender, they were attacked by US-controlled forces and lost 3 vehicles.

Oleg Zhuravlev, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said militants confessed that “they had been trained by US instructors to commit acts of sabotage at the oil-and-gas and transport infrastructure facilities, as well as to organize terror attacks on territories controlled by Syrian government forces.”

Later on the same day, Russian and Turkish forces conducted a 4th joint patrol along the M4 highway in southeastern Idlib. As on the previous occasions, the patrol took place along a short chunk of the highway west of Saraqib. The rest of the safe zone area agreed by Russian and Turkish leaders on March 5 in Moscow remains in the hands of radical militant groups.

In an official statement released on April 14, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham announced that it had formed 3 new units: the Talhah ibn Ubaydullah Brigade, led by Abu Hafs Binnish, the Ali ibn Abi Talib Brigade, led by Abu Baker Mheen and the Zubayr ibn al-Awam Brigade, led by Abu Mohamad Shura. The group provided no insight into the number of fighters in the new units or their tasks, but the estimated number of the new force is about 1,500.

Last month, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched a large recruitment campaign to revive its depleted special forces, the “Red Bands,” as well as its Inghimasi [suicide bombers] force.

Despite the fact that militants profit from the ceasefire regime with direct military protection from Turkey and are using the gained time to re-arm their units and train new fighters, they see any kind of Turkish cooperation with Russia as a direct threat to their interests. In some cases, this even leads to acts of aggression and threats against their sponsor’s forces.

For example, in a video which recently appeared online, members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham were threatening to behead Turkish soldiers moving along the M4 highway and pin their heads to the top of the nearby earth barrier. This is the real face of the so-called moderate opposition that Ankara supports in Greater Idlib.

On April 15, an airstrike targeted an SUV in the town of Jdaidit Yabws right on the border with Lebanon. The vehicle allegedly belonged to Hezbollah, which has become the target of Israeli missiles. The first one missed allowing the passengers to exit the vehicle a few moments before it was hit by the second missile.

The UAE-based Sky News Arabia and al-Arabiya claimed that high-ranking commanders of Hezbollah were the target of the Israeli strike.

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Turkish Forces Clash With Their Own Proxies On M4 Highway In Southern Idlib

South Front

On April 13, the Turkish Army and its proxies from the so-called Free Syrian Police clashed with supporters of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radical Idlib groups east of the town of Nayrab on the M4 highway.

According to sources loyal to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham a few hundred members of the Free Syrian Police and a few dozen Turkish troops were involved in the operation. After a series of clashes with radicals, they removed an improvised protest camp set up east of Nayrab. At some moment, Turkish forces even appeared to be engaged in a firefight with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants, but the situation quickly de-escalated and the protest camp blocking the highway re-appeared a few km to the west of its previous location.

Pro-Turkish media immediately branded the April 13 developments as a heroic attempt to de-block the M4 highway and finally launch joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the entire pre-agreed to M4 security zone. This explanation is far from reality. The de-escalation deal remains far from any kind of real implementation. The area of the supposed security zone is still in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Ankara had no opportunity to ignore the radicals’ nest east of Nayrab because it could put an end to even the current ‘limited’ format of the joint Russian-Turkish patrols. All 3 previous joint patrols took place in the limited area between Saraqib and Nayrab because of security reasons. If the camp east of Nayrab was not removed, even such patrols would be no longer possible.

However, even this limited move caused a new wave of tensions between Turkish-controlled armed groups and their more independent allies. A firefight erupted between members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Turkish proxies from Faylaq Sham near the village of Msibin on the M4 highway.

Earlier, tensions between members of Turkey’s Syrian National Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led forces were reported north of Daraat Izzah in western Aleppo.

Any Turkish attempts to de-block the M4 highway west of Nayrab will likely lead to a larger escalation in the area and may lead to more attacks on Turkish forces in Greater Idlib. The previous two IED attacks happened just after joint Turkish-Russian patrols west of Saraqib. The situation in Greater Idlib is in stalemate.

On the one hand, Ankara cannot continue ignoring attempts of groups that it funds to undermine its own attempts to implement the de-escalation deal with Russia at least formally. On the other hand, it does not want to use force to neutralize radicals in southern Idlib because the very same militants are the core of its influence in this part of Syria.

An explosion erupted on a natural gas pipeline in the area of al-Shadadi in the province of al-Hasakah. The incident happened just near the al-Jisba oil field controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition. According to Kurdish sources, it remains unclear what group was behind the attack. Nonetheless, it is no secret that ISIS cells have recently increased their activities within the SDF-held area on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

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NEW SYRIAN ARMY OFFENSIVE IN IDLIB BECOMING INEVITABLE AS MILITANTS SABOTAGE JOINT TURKISH-RUSSIAN PATROLS

South Front

On March 15, Russian and Turkish forces conducted a first joint patrol in Greater Idlib in the framework of the new de-escalation agreement reached in Moscow. The planned route of the patrol goes along the M4 highway, where a buffer zone was set to be created. However, in fact the patrol happened just a few km west of the government-controlled town of Saraqib. The entire buffer zone and a notable area to the south of it, a total of 750km2, remains in the hands of terrorists. There were no signs of any withdrawal of heavy weapons or militants from the area.

The Russian military said that the patrol mission was shortened because of provocations by radicals. According to the released statement, terrorists used civilians, including women and children, as human shields. The Russian side added that Turkey was given more time to get rid of the extremists and ensure the safety of further joint missions. Surprisingly, the Turkish Defense Ministry admitted that there were some measures taken to prevent possible provocations. Nonetheless, it did not bother itself with explaining what kind of difficulties the sides experienced. Maybe because the Turkish military column itself faced a hard time moving through supporters of radical groups deployed on the M4 highway. Radicals and their supporters have been blocking the part of the highway laying in southern Idlib since March 13.

Earlier in March, Turkish top officials repeatedly vowed to crush any force that would oppose the implementation of the new de-escalation agreement. The Turkish leadership easily forgot these declarations, when it appeared that the main obstacle to the implementation of the agreement were organizations directly or indirectly supported by Ankara. Unfortunately, there is nothing new in this behavior. Over the month, the Erdogan government has showcased itself as a consistent supporter of the seedlings of terrorism remaining in Idlib.

Meanwhile, Idlib armed groups continued undermining efforts of the Turkish media and diplomacy to paint them as a moderate opposition. On March 15, media affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham offered a bounty of $25,000 to any person that would kill Evgeny Poddubny or Oleg Blokhin. Both of them are Russian war correspondents currently working on the frontline in Idlib and covering military developments there. Contrary to their Turkish and Western colleagues, they do not turn a blind eye to terrorist ideology and actions of Idlib armed groups. Later ‘Idlib democratic activists’ upped the bounty offering to $50,000 for anybody who would kill Poddubny. The amount of $100,000 is proposed for the aforementioned journalist or any member of the Russian patrol mission captured alive.

At the same time, the National Front for Liberation, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militant organizations intensified their recruiting campaign in northwestern Syria. Persons with a large amount of “free time” and in good physical condition now can join even Hayat Tahrir
al-Sham’s special forces unit, the so-called Red Bands. This fact is another confirmation of the heavy casualties suffered by terrorist groups during the past years of the war.

On top of this, the security situation is once again deteriorating in northern Syria. According to pro-militant sources, an IED attack hit a military convoy of Turkish-led forces near the town of Ras al-Ayn. Three militants and two Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed in the attack.

The recent Turkish-Russian de-escalation agreement allowed to put an end to military hostilities between the Syrian Armed Forces and the Turkish Army. However, its effect will be temporary and will not last for long if the issue of radicals in Greater Idlib is not solved in the nearest future.

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NUSRA FRONT INTERCEPT, ASSAULT THEIR TURKISH ALLIES ON M4 HIGHWAY (VIDEOS)

SYRIAN SUPPORTERS INTERCEPT, ASSAULT THEIR TURKISH ALLIES ON M4 HIGHWAY

South Front

Image result for SYRIAN OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS INTERCEPT, ASSAULT THEIR TURKISH ALLIES ON M4 HIGHWAY (VIDEOS)

On March 15, Syrian opposition supporters and activists intercepted a convoy of the Turkish military that attempted to open the M4 highway in Greater Idlib.

The Turkish convoy, which consisted of several battle tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers, was tasked with opening the M4 to facilitate a joint Russian-Turkish patrol that was supposed to take place on the highway later.

Opposition protesters blocked the highway by deploying obstacles and even climbing Turkish vehicles. This forced the convoy to withdraw. However, the protesters went on to stone the vehicles of their allies.

Turkey’s failure to open the highway led to the cancellation of the pre-planned joint patrol. Russian and Turkish troops conducted a very limited patrol west of Saraqib city in southeast Idlib instead.

The reopening of the M4 highway, which links the coastal city of Lattakia with Aleppo city, is the keystone of the recent Russian Turkish agreement on Greater Idlib.

In the last few days, opposition activists and militants vowed to keep the highway blocked, threatening Russian forces and placing a bounty for killing Russian journalists.

Turkey don’t appear to have any real influence over Greater Idlib militants, which have been receiving support from it for years now. The chances that the M4 will be reopened by peaceful measures are very low. Ankara’s failure to open the M4 will likely push Damascus and its allies towards another military operation in the region.

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A LESSON FROM IDLIB FOR HEZBOLLAH: IS ISRAEL PREPARING AN ATTACK?

Source

 by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

For the first time in its official existence in 1985, Lebanon’s Hezbollah has now clashed on the battlefield with the Turkish army, one of NATO’s strongest. The face-to-face clash between Hezbollah and the Turkish military took place in the rural area of Idlib where dozens of Turkish service members lost their lives while fighting side-by-side with jihadists and foreign fighters of different nationalities, including al-Qaeda members. The Turkish-NATO army used similar weapons and tactics to Israel. They surprised Hezbollah by using armed drones and precision bombing behind the frontline, killing nine militants and wounding 65 in one single attack. So many Hezbollah militants were killed in one place due to the collapse of the entire building they gathered under, located behind the main battlefield line.  

 Another factor was the unexpected withdrawal of Russian air coverage at the moment Turkey was sending its Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) (or Unmanned Aerial System (UAV) better known as armed drones) deep inland, bombing Iran and its allies for the first time. This confrontation has introduced a new military doctrine to Hezbollah militants and has taught them new lessons based on experiences Hezbollah has never been confronted with in the past. Turkey used its UCAVs, TRG-122 satellite-guided rockets, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and ground attacks by the Turkish army fighting alongside jihadists. It is most likely what Israel has been threatening Hezbollah with, in the event of war.  

 Moreover, Israel’s concern about the outstanding Hezbollah night assault capability on Saraqed has a double edge, pinpointing ability and a procedure Hezbollah can successfully carry out against Israel in case of war- thus triggering concern in Israel. Indeed, Israel is increasingly voicing concern about the level of threat posed by Hezbollah’s ‘al-Radwan’ Elite force spread along the borders of Lebanon. Could Israel be planning a similar quick attack against Hezbollah’s forces? 

 A source within the “Axis of the Resistance” said “during the last war in 2006, Israeli drones covered the sky of Lebanon, providing intelligence information to the Israeli base controller who forwarded the instructions to the F-16s to bomb selective targets. Today we are facing armed drones which can instantly bomb any target considered hostile, without losing precious time or jeopardising the life of the pilot on board of an F-16 when within range of any anti-air missile system Hezbollah could have acquired.” 

 According to sources within the “Axis of the Resistance”, Israel could “attack Hezbollah’s special forces to destroy this capability deployed along the borders. Israel is aware of the presence of a reserve force of several thousands of Hezbollah Special Forces who regularly rotate after serving in Syria- where they have survived one of the fiercest wars any army could face. Israel would also like to destroy all fortifications and tunnels spread along the borders without necessarily destroying the Lebanese infrastructure to avoid triggering an all-out-war. Therefore, in Israel’s mind, it may be amplifying Hezbollah’s threat to hit it and probably not to praise its performance! Israel is used to campaigning against a specific target or threat long before any attack, to justify its action, notwithstanding the irrelevance of international law in the eyes of Israel and its US ally.” 

 When the US wanted to invade Iraq, Saddam Hussein was suddenly manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction and leading the fifth strongest army in the world. The US destroyed the Iraqi army in days, but US media amplified Saddam’s threat to justify the invasion.  

In Syria, Israel is portraying Hezbollah as fighting day and night and having equipped every single one of its militants with the most sophisticated weapons and night vision equipment. Israel is talking about Hezbollah’s increasing missile capability and the danger its Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah represents. This is similar to the campaign carried out for several months against Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani prior to his assassination. 

That doesn’t mean Hezbollah is not equipped with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, and that its Special Forces are not very well trained. It is true that this elite force has gathered a unique experience in the nine years of war in Syria. However, Hezbollah has never initiated a war and will not look to trigger it, though it will not shirk if war is imposed. Hezbollah does not represent a danger to Israel unless it is attacked.  

 Israel has been threatening Hezbollah with an unprecedented kind of war; the kind of war Hezbollah has been recently exposed to in Idlib. Confronting a NATO army was an unprecedented experience which has taught Hezbollah a lot. 

The first lesson learned was the use of mobile phones and the race to post on social media. Hezbollah has a directive similar to that of Israel and most armies around the world to avoid taking mobile phones on the front line. In the last years, Hezbollah leadership failed to impose on all its members the prohibition on mobile phones in Syria, notwithstanding many directives. Sending photos from the frontline is tempting for young Special Forces Hezbollah members to counter misinformation campaigns that the jihadists and rebels perfected.

During the recent battle of Idlib, Hezbollah held its ground and kept control of the eastern part of Saraqeb when the Syrian army pulled back behind its lines following the attack of thousands of jihadists. The Turkish army planned a push towards Talhiya to create a hole in the front and reach al-Hader via Tel el-Eiss. Hezbollah’s mobile phone usage helped Turkey identify the location of Hezbollah’s gathering forces and bomb the Radwan Special Force, killing nine and wounding 66 out of a total of 120, using Turkish drones. The remaining force was able to stop the advance when Fatimiyoun and Zeinabiyoun allies (who also suffered 21 killed) joined them in repelling the attack. 

The counter-attack to recover Saraqeb was the most spectacular attack Hezbollah has carried out in 9 years of war. The attack took place at night when more time is needed to perform tasks and yet, in a few hours, the entire city of Saraqeb was liberated. 

Israel was surprised how Hezbollah Special Forces attacked at night an entrenched enemy taking their positions in fixed and defendable locations around and within the city. Night fighting without previous reconnaissance and rehearsals is not within the capability of many armies. The dissemination of orders at night, avoiding killing their own men with “friendly fire” when attacking jihadists from different sides of the city, was not an easy task. 

 Attacking at night reduced the odds of hitting civilians in urban fighting in a city that has become a frontline. Hezbollah Special Forces relied on their navigational skill to find their way within jihadist positions and to clear the path without there being much night vision equipment around. When fighting at night, the jihadists were shooting in all directions and was not until the first morning hours that the jihadists realised the difficult situation they were in and started to pull out.

Hezbollah showed concern for every member of the Special Forces and yet carried out the night attack with new reinforcements arriving the night of the attack with little time available for briefing and familiarisation with the city. Russia was watching the advance of Hezbollah forces and supported it with 27 air attacks to help clear the way.

Fighting jihadists led and instructed by an intelligent NATO army, Turkey offered the opportunity for Hezbollah to learn and acquire new experiences on the Syrian battlefront. It was a live training exercise, simulating the new capabilities of the Israeli army and exploring the best way to hunt down armed drones and find adequate measures to avoid these deadly machines. 

The recovery of Saraqeb was a unique school for Hezbollah: Israel cannot ignore the high performance of this quasi-state actor with an irregular but organised and a well-trained army. Tel Aviv can no longer surprise Hezbollah in the next war because it has failed to limit its military knowledge and its warfare capabilities. Hezbollah has many armed drones, tens of thousands of missiles and rockets and is capable of fighting in all weather and day-night conditions. It can take the initiative and counter-attack rather than limit itself to defence as it has done in all Israeli wars on Lebanon.  

Hezbollah Special Forces showed on video how, from the battlefield, they film themselves laughing just before their death. Not because they look for a reason to die. On the contrary, extra precautions are taken to limit casualties. But if confronted with death, they leave a video trace of their spirit during the last seconds. Israeli threats against Hezbollah would certainly not shake their morale. The solution is straightforward for the Israeli officials: don’t try a war, even if the objectives are limited.

Proofread by:  C.G.B and Maurice Brasher

 This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020 

One Russian Airbase Could Take Down Turkey’s Entire Fighter Fleet?

March 11, 2020

One Russian Airbase Could Take Down Turkey’s Entire Fighter Fleet? New Assessment Shows a Favourable Military Balance in Syria Underlying Moscow’s Success

by Aspelta for The Saker Blog

While much uncertainty remains surrounding what exactly was agreed to in Moscow regarding the ceasefire agreement in Syria’s Idlib province, or how long Turkey intends to adhere to the new ceasefire agreement, it is clear that despite its bellicosity towards Damascus, Ankara has been extremely cautious about provoking Russia or undermining the strong relationship built over the past three years. Positive relations with Russia have remained particularly critical to Turkish interests since 2016 for a number of reasons. Increasingly alienated from the Western Bloc and its Gulf Arab allies, which are strongly suspected of having at least tacitly supported an attempted military coup that year, Turkey needed to quickly diversify its sources of economic and military security. Moving quickly to make amends for the downing of a Russian Su-24 strike fighter a year prior in November 2015, Turkey arrested the F-16 pilots responsible for the attack. Ankara subsequently saw its relations with Moscow quickly improve to the benefit of both sates – from the S-400 deal to growing exchange of tourists.

Russia for its part has a big stick to complement the carrot of positive defence and economic ties, and is capable of reigning in Turkish ambitions over Syria to a large extent accordingly. Alongside sanctionscutting the flow of tourists and other economic measures, Russia has heavily fortified its position in Syria since November 2015 to deter attacks by Turkey and other potentially hostile parties. It has capitalised on this asset in a number of ways, more conspicuously by deploying Su-35 fighters to intercept Turkish incursions into Syrian airspace and more recently by deploying its Military Police to guard the strategically critical M4 and M5 highways and the city of Sarakeb. These targets were directly in the path of advancing Turkish backed Islamist militias in the first week of March, and with these militants relying heavily on Turkish air and artillery support to advance and take ground from the Syrian Arab Army, deployment of Russian personnel in tandem with the opening of negotiations drew a line under how much Moscow was willing to tolerate the jihadist push into Syrian territory.

What it is important to keep in mind is not only that Turkey needs Russia far more than vice versa – but also that, in regards to Syria, the balance of power between the two parties remains extremely one-sided. While NATO’s willingness to overtly support Turkey should it provoke an armed conflict with Russian forces remains highly questionable, an assessment of the military capabilities of both parties shows a tremendous Russian advantage in the field in the event of an armed conflict – with the far smaller size of Russian units in Syria compensated for by overwhelming technological supremacy. Underlining this often-missed point, I would strongly recommend the following video which assesses the outcome of a potential air war between Russian units at Khmeimim Airbase and the entire Turkish Air Force. This includes assets deployed to the airbase from December 2015 in response to the Turkish attack on the Russian strike fighter, such as Su-35 air superiority fighters and S-400 and S-300V4 surface to air missile systems.

A further lesson one can take from this assessment is why Turkey appears so eager to upgrade its air fleet in short order – either with the F-35 or with some combination of Russian Su-57Su-35 and MiG-35 jets, having shown interest in all three. Negotiations to acquire the Su-35 in particular, the oldest of the three designs which has been in service since 2014, was reported in October 2019 to have reached its final stages. Given the precedent set by Russia’s Su-35 deal with Egypt, which was signed in 2018 but not announced until March the following year, it remains possible that a deal has already been made for transfer of the fighters to the Turkish Air Force to complement its S-400s.

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انتصارات الجيش السوريّ وكسر غرور أردوغان…

د. جمال زهران

بمتابعة ما يجري على الأرض السورية المحتلة في إدلب وحلب قبل تحريرها، خلال الأسابيع الأخيرة، يتضح أنّ الجيش العربي الأول في سورية، استطاع أن تمتدّ مواجهاته ليس ضدّ الارهابيين فقط، بل إلى الجيش التركي نفسه وبشكل مباشر، ويوقع بهم خسائر فادحة نقلتها وسائل الإعلام على الهواء مباشرة.

فالذي أنجزه الجيش العربي السوري، كبير للغاية. فقد استطاع تحرير حلب المحافظة والريف، والطريق الإقليمي (5 و4) الدولي، ومن الجانبين، بالإضافة إلى أهمّ ثلاث مناطق هي: معرة النعمان، وخان شيخون، وسراقب. ولعلّ المعركة حول سراقب على وجه التحديد باعتبار أنّ موقعها الجغرافي حاسم، إما السيطرة على الطريقين الدوليين، والتحكّم فيهما، وتمكين المواطنين والتجار من ارتيادهما ونقل بضائعهم ومنتجاتهم بكلّ حرية، فضلاً عن استخدامه مدنياً في التصدير والتنقل الآمن بين حلب ودمشق، وحلب واللاذقية، بما يعيد الاقتصاد الوطني إلى سيرته الأولى، وإما استمرار الإرهاب والنفوذ التركي الداعم له! ولذلك تحرك أردوغان تركيا من أجل دعم الإرهابيين وتزويدهم بالمال والسلاح المتقدّم ومئات المدافع المضادة للطائرات، والدبابات، إلا أنه مع فشلهم في التصدي لقوات الجيش العربي السوري، وتحرير أكثر من نصف إدلب، لم يجد هذا المتغطرس سبيلاً آخر، سوى التدخل العسكري بنفسه وبقواته، ودخل الحرب فعلاً في مواجهة الجيش العربي البطل. وزجّ بنفسه، وتصوّر واهماً أنّ ما لم يستطع الإرهابيون إنجازه في المواجهة مع الجيش السوري، سينجزه هو متوهّماً أنّ جيشه هو الأقوى، ولذلك اعتبر أنّ المعركة الأولى هي في منطقة سراقب، لتكون معركة فاصلة، ويستنشق الإرهابيون أنفاسهم لتستمرّ الحرب في سورية! إلا أنه عاش الهزيمة بنفسه، ووجد نفسه يدخل معركة خاسرة، استمرّت نحو أسبوعين دون إحراز أيّ تقدّم! وأجبر على التقهقر عن سراقب إلى الخلف، بعدما واجه خسائر ضخمة للغاية. وظلت الطرق الدولية تحت السيطرة السورية بفضل جيشها البطل المغوار. وفوجئنا والعالم كله معنا، بأردوغان المتغطرس مثل أسياده، يطالب بالإنقاذ حفاظاً على ماء الوجه، وذلك بمطالبته بوقف إطلاق النار!

وكان قد خلّف الوضع ما يلي:

1

ـ حجم الخسائر البشريّة التركية، كانت قد وصلت إلى مقتل نحو (400) جندي تركي، بينهم عدد الثلث ضباط، وجرح نحو (4000) شخص إصابات متنوّعة!

2

ـ حجم الخسائر في العتاد كبير، شمل عدداً كبيراً لم يحدّد من الدبابات تمّ تدميرها، مع إسقاط نحو (11) طائرة مسيّرة، وطائرة عسكرية اف (35)، وتدمير عدد كبير من الناقلات، كما ورد في أحد التقارير الهامّة والدقيقة.

3

ـ الانسحاب المخزي الذي وصل إلى الفرار الجماعيّ للجنود الأتراك، يسبقهم الفرار الجماعي للإرهابيين، الذين تجاوز عدد قتلاهم الـ (4000) شخص، بخلاف أعداد بالآلاف مصابين.

4

ـ أسر أعداد كبيرة من جنود أردوغان، والإرهابيين، فضلاً عن أسر جثث الجنود الأتراك، الذين تركهم زملاؤهم فارّين من المواجهة الشرسة للجيش السوريّ.

5

ـ لعب الطرف الروسي دوراً هاماً في دعم الجيش العربي السوري، حيث مثلت القوات الروسية وطائراتها، الغطاء الحمائي لقوات الجيش السوري، وكان لهذا التدخل، الأثر الهام في التعجيل والإسراع بخسائر الجيش التركي راح ضحية عملية واحدة نحو (40) من جنود وضباط أردوغان! ولم يكن في حسبان أردوغان مثل هذا التدخل الروسي، وناشد أردوغان الرئيس الروسي بوتين، برفع يده عن دعم القوات السورية من أجل تمكينه من الاستفراد بها، وإيقاع الهزيمة بالجيش السوري، الأمر الذي رفضه بوتين نهائياً.

ـ وقد كان لهذه التداعيات الايجابية بالنسبة لسورية شعباً وجيشاً وقيادة، وفي المقابل التداعيات السلبية لأردوغان وجماعاته الإرهابية، أن طلب أردوغان وملحاً في الطلب، المقابلة العاجلة مع الرئيس الروسي بوتين، على مستوى القمة، وذلك بعدما تخلت عنه أوروبا وأميركا وحلف الناتو الذي رفض طلبه بالتدخل والمساندة! والتقى أردوغان مع بوتين في موسكو، وهو منكسر، مطأطأ الرأس، يلاحقه العار بالهزيمة الساحقة لقواته، التي ضلت الطريق تحت قيادته، وذلك يوم الخميس (5) آذار/ مارس الماضي، فماذا كانت النتيجة وفقاً لما أعلن في المؤتمر الصحافي في نهاية اللقاء:

1

ـ الإقرار والاعتراف، بما سيطرت عليه قوات الجيش السوري، من مناطق وأراضٍ ونقاط ارتكاز في الأراضي السورية بإدلب، وبالتالي إلغاء فكرة انسحاب القوات السورية إلى ما قبل المعارك الأخيرة!

2

ـ الاتفاق على الانسحاب الكامل من مساحات كبيرة، من قبل الارهابيّين، توافقاً مع اتفاق سوتشي، والتزام أردوغان بذلك، وبذلك تكون مساحة الثلثين من إدلب تكون قد تحرّرت تماماً.

3

ـ الاتفاق على مساحة فاصلة حول الطرق الدولية، كمنطقة آمنة بعرض (6) كم، وبالقرب من الحدود، وبذلك تصبح الطرق الدولية الاقليمية آمنة، وصالحة لحركة المدنيين والتجارة بين مدن حلب وإدلب واللاذقية ودمشق وغيرها.

ولا شك في أن لقاء بوتين/ أردوغان، كسر أنف أردوغان الذي جاء إلى موسكو مهزوماً ومدحوراً من الجيش السوري، الذي لولا انتصاراته على جيش أردوغان، ما كان ما تم، أو ممكناً أن يتمّ، والدليل الانتهاك وعدم الالتزام باتفاق سوتشي طوال هذه الفترة، والله الداعم، وتحيا سورية.

*أستاذ العلاقات الدولية والعلوم السياسية، والأمين العام المساعد للتجمع العربي والاسلامي لدعم خيار المقاومة، ورئيس الجمعية العربية للعلوم السياسية.

لماذا بروتوكول موسكو المضاف حول إدلب؟ وماذا بعده؟

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

يسأل سائل لماذا مدّت روسيا اليد إلى أردوغان الغريق في إدلب وأريافها ومنحته فرصة جديدة للاستمرار عضواً في ثلاثية استانة الراعية لعملية البحث عن حلً في سورية، وهل كان بروتوكول موسكو المضاف إلى تفاهم سوتشي ضرورياً بعد طول خداع ونكول تركيّ وبعد الهزيمة التي تجرّعها أردوغان في منطقة إدلب وبلغت ذروتها في سراقب حيث ذاق مرارة هزيمة نكراء أنزلت به بحجم أذهبَ أحلامه وأوهامه (أو هكذا يجب أن يكون) وهل كان ضرورياً ان تقوم روسيا بكلّ ذلك رغم علمها لا بل يقينها بأنّ أردوغان ليس من الأشخاص الصادقين الذين يؤمن لهم او يستحقون الثقة بهم بعد أن جرّبته خلال السنوات الثلاث الماضية، وتأكدت من فشله في كلّ الاختبارات التي خضع لها؟

رداً على ذلك، وإذا نظرنا الى المسألة من منظور عملاني ظرفي، فإنّ أجوبة الأسئلة تلك تكون سلبية ومضمونها القول إنّ البروتوكول لم يكن ضرورياً او ليس مقبولاً في ظرفه، فأردوغان بعد معركة سراقب الثانية ظهر كليماً لا بل مثخناً بجراح الهزيمة ورأى أحلامه تتلاشى وتدفن مع جثث الـ 270 جندياً وضابطاً من جيشه التركي الذين اعترف بمقتلهم في الميدان في مواجهة منظومة الدفاع عن سورية، ويتأكد من أنّ أوهامه اختفت مع شروق شمس الحقيقة في سراقب بعد تحريرها الثاني الذي لم يستغرق أكثر من 10 ساعات فقط نفذ فيها الجيش العربي السوري ومعه وحدات من حزب الله اللبناني والحرس الثوري الإيراني معركة من أهمّ معارك القتال الليلي في الأماكن الآهلة، معركة أذهلت «إسرائيل» وأصابتها بدوار عسكريّ واستراتيجيّ عنيف نتج عن تفكيرها بما ينتظرها في الجليل عندما تدقّ ساعة تحريره.

نقول إنّ الإجابة ستكون سلبية ولم يكن البروتوكول ضرورياً، لأنّ أردوغان سيستفيد منه لحفظ ماء وجهه ولن ينفذ ما تعهّد به فيه، لأنّ التنفيذ سيجعله في مواجهة مباشرة مع كلّ ما اعتقد به أو ما خطط له، او ما دخل الى سورية من أجله، فكيف يحترم وحدة الأراضي السورية وهو الساعي للسيطرة عليها كلياً او جزئياً او أقله كما صرّح وأطلق المصطلح الغريب العجيب القائل بـ «حدود القلب العثماني» التي تتجاوز الحدود السياسية لتركيا القائمة حالياً وهو يريدها أن تصل لتشمل الموصل في العراق وحلب وحماة وحمص وإدلب في سورية. وكيف ينفّذ تعهّده بقتال إرهابيّي جبهة النصرة وهو الذي يعتبرها جيشه البديل الذي يعوّل عليه لتحقيق أحلامه؟

فأردوغان يحتاج من بروتوكول موسكو بنداً واحداً هو وقف إطلاق النار من أجل وقف العمليات العسكرية التي ينفذها الجيش العربي السوري وحلفاؤه والتي أدت الى تحقيق الأمن لحلب ومحيطها وفتح الطريق السريع لها، M5 ويعتبر هذا التدبير أي وقف إطلاق النار غنيمة له في ظرف الهزيمة المنكرة التي أنزلت به، ومن اجلها ذهب الى موسكو ودفع ثمناً باهظاً من كرامته وهيبته التي ضاعت في خنادق إدلب وسراقب وفي ممرات الكرملين في موسكو بين يدي قيصرها.

هذا في التحليل البسيط والنظر المباشر، ولكن إذا دققنا في الوضع استراتيجياً فنصل الى نتيجة أخرى، حيث إنّ لروسيا ولسورية مصلحة في هذا البروتوكول رغم تضمّنه بند وقف إطلاق النار الذي أوقف عملية التحرير راهناً، حيث إنّ هذا البروتوكول ومع علم الجميع أنه لن ينفذ منه إلا بند وقف إطلاق النار وبشكل مؤقت، فيه من الإيجابيات ما لا يمكن إهماله، فهذا البروتوكول:

1

ـ يثبت ويضمن استقرار الأمن في المناطق المحرّرة حديثاً ويمنح الوقت الكافي للجيش العربي السوري لبناء منظومة الدفاع الملائمة التي تحمي تلك المناطق، ويؤمّن فتح طريق الـ M5 بشكل آمن وأكيد ويفتح طريق M4 بشكل مقبول برعاية روسية يكون التركي شريكاً في الحراسة فيها.

2

ـ يطوي ملف الخسائر التركية التي بلغت المئات بين قتيل وجريح، ويوقف المساعي التركية الرسمية للتحريض ضد سورية التي لا ترى في تركيا عدواً، وتميّز بين تركيا الدولة والشعب وهما جاران وصديقان وبين أردوغان الرئيس الذي يعمل بعقيدة وذهنية اخوانية ويمارس العدوان والإرهاب ضدّ سورية. وبالتالي سيكون وقف إطلاق النار الآن مدخلاً لتبريد الجرح التركي. وهذا ما تريده سورية التي تنظر الى العلاقة مع تركيا استراتيجياً وموضوعياً ولا تريد عداءها.

3

ـ يمنح الفرصة للجيش العربي السوري وحلفائه لإعاده التنظيم بعد معارك الشهرين المنصرمين، وتهيئة البيئة العملانية وتسوية خطوط التماس لتكون مناسبة للعمليات القتالية المستقبلية التي ستنطلق عندما تخلّ المجموعات الإرهابية بقواعد مناطق خفض التصعيد ووقف إطلاق النار، او تمتنع عن الانسحاب من محيط الـ M4 لمسافة 6 كلم شمالي وجنوبي الطريق.

4

ـ يقيم فضّ اشتباك ميداني بين تركيا وسورية التي لا ترغب أصلاً بمواجهة تركيا، ما يمكّن سورية من التفرّغ لمواجهة الإرهاب ويتيح لتركيا مواصلة إشغال مقعدها في منظومة استانة. وفكّ الاشتباك هذا كان هدفاً سعت اليه روسيا للحفاظ على منظومة استانة التي لا زالت ترى فيها الآلية السياسية الوحيدة المتوفرة للوصول الى حلّ للأزمة السورية وفقاً للمبادئ الأساسية التي تراعي وحدة سورية وسيادتها واستقلالها.

أما على صعيد العلاقة الروسية التركية البينية، فانّ من مصلحة روسيا وبعد أن صفعت أردوغان في الميدان لا بل أدّبته بالنار أن تظهر له بأنها لا زالت تشكل له ملاذاً يطمئن اليه بعد أن خذلته اوروبا واميركا والاطلسي وبعد عزلته عربياً، وأن تحتضنه في لحظة هزيمته وعزلته حتى تبقيه في منطقة وسطى بينها وبين الغرب الأطلسي من دون أن يكون متطرفاً لصالح ذاك الحلف الذي ينتمي اليه، تقوم بهذا مع يقينها بانه لن يكون حليفها ولن يتخلى او لن يُسمح له بالتخلي عن عضويته الأطلسية. ومع هذا يمكن أن تجعله روسيا بعلاقتها المدروسة معه أقلّ ضرراً وأهون خطراً عليها إذا أبقت معه على هذه العلاقة التي لا تستلزم من قبلها التفريط بالعناوين الأساسية لاستراتيجيتها وسياستها او لتحالفاتها وقد يكفيها بعض التسهيلات او السلوكيات السياسية او الاقتصادية التي لا تمسّ بنية المنظومة الروسية الاستراتيجية.

لكلّ ذلك نرى أن بروتوكول موسكو الإضافي كان ضرورياً وفي وقته الصحيح، ومع هذا نرى أيضاً انّ هذا البروتوكول لن يصمد طويلاً ولن يستعيد إدلب، اذ سيسقط بعد ان يؤدي دوره في فضّ الاشتباك السوري التركي، ويستعيد تركيا الى منظومة أستانة ويعطي وقتاً معقولاً للقوى العاملة في محيط إدلب للانطلاق الى وثبة التحرير المقبلة، التي ستكون حتمية لأنّ المجموعات الإرهابية التي تعرف انّ مصيرها محتوم وأنه لن يبقى لها وجود في أي شبر من الأرض السورية. هذه المجموعات لن تعمل بالبروتوكول ولن تنفذ شيئاً منه بما في ذلك وقف إطلاق النار، وعندما تصل خروقها الى الحد الذي يبرر استئناف العمليات سنرى القوات العربية السورية تستأنف التحرير الذي لن يكون إلا عسكرياً كما ثبت بالتجربة والبرهان خلال السنوات التسع الماضية.

*أستاذ جامعي وخبير استراتيجي.

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Tsar Putin Brings the Sultan Wannabe Erdogan Half Way Down the Tree

March 6, 2020 Arabi Souri

Ten days ago the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov offered the neo-Ottoman Sultan wannabe Erdogan a very large banana that time to come down the tree which he climbed very fast and very high, he rejected it.

Five days later, the IRGC offered a smaller Iranian banana to Erdogan to come down the tree and showed a stick in case he goes higher up, he rejected that as well and tried to go further up.

Yesterday, the Russian Tsar Putin brought Erdogan to the Kremlin, held him behind closed doors one on one for 3 hours, and extended with Erdogan’s entourage for another 3 hours, he offered him a carrot, Erdogan took the carrot and was very thankful to the Tsar.

Prior to yesterday’s summit between the established Tsar Putin and the wannabe Sultan the Turkish madman Erdogan, the latter was issuing threats the combined forces of NATO couldn’t achieve when they were at the height of their power and at the weakest time of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Ottoman wanted the Syrian Arab Army to withdraw from the Syrian province of Idlib, handover cities and towns freed during the past month from al-Qaeda terrorists back to those sub-humans, accept free movement of the Turkish Janissary and lift the siege off their posts they established within the Syrian province, and to stay away from the Damascus – Aleppo, and Aleppo – Latakia highways, yes, utterly insane but what to expect from someone like Erdogan?

After fierce battles throughout the month the Syrian Arab Army and their allies fought against thousands of anti-Islamic al-Qaeda terrorists and thousands of the Turkish Janissary forces (TSK or Turkish Army), the SAA managed to clean more than one thousand square kilometers and hundreds of towns, villages, and strategic hills. The military operation launched by the Syrian Arab Army and their allies was meant to implement the Sochi agreement by force after Turkey failed to implement its part of the agreement for more than 16 months, these include mainly:

  • Securing the north-south Aleppo – Damascus highway aka M5.
  • Securing the east-west highway known as the M4, especially the Aleppo – Latakia part of it which runs through Idlib province.
  • Cleaning Saraqib from terror, the city sits on the M4 – M5 intersection.
  • Disarming al-Qaeda terrorist groups like the Nusra Front aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Al-Qaeda Levant or HTS.

All of the above-mentioned points were about to be achieved before Erdogan sent thousands of the Turkish Army troops to act as human shields to protect al-Qaeda terrorists from the advancing Syrian Arab Army, and that’s exactly what they did and that’s why they lost significantly when the SAA was shelling the gatherings of al-Qaeda terrorists resulting in the killing of dozens of the Turkish Army soldiers who were sharing the posts with the very terrorist group that is listed as such by the UNSC, Russia, Syria, the USA, and even by Turkey itself!

Simultaneously, the Turkish madman Erdogan unleashed a new wave of refugees towards Europe in large numbers, except this time it was obvious for the Europeans that these refugees are coming from almost everywhere else except Idlib, most from Central Asian countries all the way to Afghanistan, and some from the African east coast.

The outcome of yesterday’s summit as stated by the Russian President and the Turkish madman and detailed, to some extent, by their foreign ministers, confirm the above-mentioned points:

  • No mention of the M5, meaning the SAA which cleaned the vital artery from terrorists will keep it.
  • No mention of returning Saraqib to al-Qaeda, as per Erdogan’s demands.
  • No mention of reversing the SAA last month gains, instead, a ceasefire will be established at the current position of the SAA.
  • The M4 highway will be reopened and Russian and Turkish joint military police units will patrol it. There will be a 6 kilometers perimeter secured on both sides of the road.

The agreement also reiterated an article from the previous Sochi agreement that is combatting terror will continue, especially the groups designated as such by the USNC resolutions. Erdogan, instead of implementing this part of the Sochi agreement, augmented these terrorist groups, namely Nusra Front, with radical terrorists loyal to him brought from other places, launched a recruiting campaign within Turkey for Arabic speaking fanatics, supplied them with new advanced weapons including MANPADs to shoot down SAA helicopters and airplanes, anti-armored missiles, increased the intelligence sharing, and worse than all of that he sent the Turkish soldiers to sacrifice their lives in order to protect these terrorists.

Yesterday’s ‘agreement’ explicitly states that combatting these terrorist groups will continue. I’d personally say this will continue to be carried out mainly by the Russian air forces, and by the SAA in case they try to advance towards the SAA posts or the cleaned town and villages.

The agreement does not refer to the new refugee crisis launched by Erdogan towards Europe, the ceasefire, if implemented and respected by Erdogan forces (TSK and Nusra Front) in Idlib, will drop any need for refugees coming from Afghanistan to cross into Europe, Erdogan’s refugees and humanitarian abuse couldn’t be more exposed and the citizens of Europe should decide through their ‘democratically elected’ governments whether they want to fall preys for Erdogan’s blackmailing in this regard.

History, especially modern history, more precisely the events of this last decade, teaches us valuable lessons if we want to learn from it: Never trust a flip-flop, never trust a Turk with dreams to revive the buried most hated most criminal Ottoman empire, never to trust a Muslim Brotherhood, never trust a US stooge, never to trust a liar, never to trust someone who uses the suffering of innocent people, in their hundreds of thousands to his personal goals, and all these evil features are embodied in a single individual, who happens to rule a regional power for the past 17 years.From the post 6 hours summit at the Kremlin Erdogan was totally lost he shook hands with his own foreign minister who was with him all the time

Useful related reads:

Assad to Russia 24: Erdogan Aligned with Al Qaeda Because of his Muslim Brotherhood Ideology

Free Wrestling in Turkish Parliament over Erdogan’s Idlib Intervention

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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Turkish Drones Falling In Idlib. ‘Moderate Rebels’ Gas Themselves By Mistake

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Early on March 5, the Israeli Air Force carried out a series of airstrikes on targets in the Syrian provinces of Homs and Quneitra. According to the Syrian military, the attack was conducted from Lebanese airspace at 00:30 local time. Israeli warplanes used two civilian flights of Qatar Airways as a cover for their strikes. The Syrian side claimed that it had intercepted all the hostile missiles. However, ground explosions were reported in Quneitra. Therefore, at least some of them in fact did hit their targets.

The previous Israeli strikes on Syria took place on March 2 and February 23. On March 2, an Israeli attack helicopter destroyed a vehicle in the province of Quneitra after Israeli troops in the Golan Heights had reportedly come under sniper fire. On February 23 Israeli warplanes targeted positions of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Damascus.

‘Entirely by chance’ the increase of Israeli military actions in Syria came amid the escalation of the Syrian-Turkish conflict in Idlib.

On March 4, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party and other al-Qaeda-linked groups supported by the Turkish Army made another attempt to recapture the town of Saraqib, located on the M4-M5 highways crossroad, from the Syrian Army. Despite the intense artillery and air support from Turkey, al-Qaeda members failed to achieve their goal.

Supporters of the 25th Special Forces Division and Hezbollah deployed there claim that Turkish-led forces suffered notable losses in the clashes but provide no particular numbers. Video evidence from the ground confirms that pro-government forces recaptured a T-90 battle tank that they had lost earlier in the same area.

Syrian troops also entered the village of Afis north of Saraqib but failed to fully secure it. The village remains contested. If Turkish-led forces keep control over it, they will be able to carry out attacks on vehicles moving via the M5 highway from Saraqib to Aleppo.

Earlier on the same day, 2 Turkish soldiers were killed and 6 others were injured in Syrian Army artillery fire in eastern Idlib. In response, the Turkish military tried to shoot down a Syrian Su-22 warplane bombing al-Qaeda positions west of Saraqib. Turkish supporters claim that an anti-air missile was launched by an F-16 fighter jet. However, most likely this was a MANPAD launched from one of Turkey’s so-called ‘observation posts’ in the area. During the past weeks, Turkish soldiers were repeatedly spotted launching MANPADs at Syrian and Russian aircraft. The Russian Defense Ministry officially says that Turkish observation posts have merged with terrorist bases and have been used to carry out attacks on government-controlled areas. Nonetheless, Turkish soldiers surrounded by the Syrian Army continue enjoying safety and receiving supplies. This is another demonstration of the fact that modern conflicts often take strange forms.

Setbacks in southern and eastern Idlib forced Turkey and its proxies to shift the focus of their military efforts. Late on March 4, Turkish-backed al-Qaeda forces attacked positions of the Syrian Army in western Aleppo. By the morning of March 5, they had captured the village of al-Sheikh ‘Aqil and al-Rraqim Hilltop. The control over these positions will allow them to shell the western suburb of Aleppo city more effectively.

Since the start of Turkish military actions in Idlib in February, the Syrian military had shot down 13 Turkish military UAVs, pro-government sources claim. According to them, this number includes 7 Bayraktar TB2 and TAI Anka combat drones. It should be noted that only a part of these claims has been confirmed  by visual evidence.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants tried to stage a chemical provocation in eastern Idlib, but poisoned themselves, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on March 4. According to the report, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham members were planning to stage the incident on March 2nd during the Syrian Army advance in the western part of Saraqib by blowing up canisters with a chemical substance, but a canister leak caused casualties among the militants themselves.

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نقاط على الحروف هزيمة أردوغان العثمانيّ… وصعوبة التسويات

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قد يصعب على الكثيرين استيعاب حقيقة أن الجيش الثاني في حلف الناتو قد مُني بهزيمة هي الأسرع التي يمكن أن يتلقاها جيش مثله، في ظروف حشد لها كل مقدراته السياسية والعسكرية، وشحذ لها كل التعبئة الداخلية والخارجية. فخلال الأيام التي أعقبت دخول الجيش السوري إلى الريف الغربي والشمالي لحلب منتصف شهر شباط الماضي، بدأ التحضير للحملة العسكرية التي أعلن الرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان عن موعدها مسبقاً في نهاية شهر شباط، وحدّد لها هدفاً هو إعادة الجيش السوري إلى خلف نقاط المراقبة التركية، قاصداً بالتحديد تراجع الجيش السوري من مدينتي سراقب ومعرة النعمان، وفرض هذا التراجع بالقوة كشرط لوقف الحملة.

خلال خمسة عشر يوماً استنفر أردوغان كل وحوش جبهة النصرة والتركستان والشيشان والإيغور وقام بضمّهم إلى نخبة كوماندوس جيشه، وأدخل مئات الآليات وآلاف العناصر إلى منطقة المعركة، وجهّز طائراته المسيّرة الحديثة من الجيل الخامس، وربّض مدافعه وجدّد إحداثياتها، ووظف سقوط قتلاه بالقصف السوري في منطقة جسر الشغور لاستنهاض الروح القومية حول الجيش، لخلق حالة تعبوية داخلية تحاصر كل صوت معارض للحرب، وخاطب حلف الناتو طلباً للدعم، ورفع وتيرة مواقفه السياسيّة تجاه دعوة روسيا للحياد منعاً للتصادم، وجهّز مخابراته لاستعمال قضية النازحين للضغط على أوروبا، وعندما بدأت العملية العسكرية نحو سراقب كانت طائراته ومدفعيّته تنجحان باستهداف وإصابة عشرات المواقع للجيش السوريّ وقوى المقاومة، بما فيها المنشآت الصحية، موقعاً عشرات الشهداء ومئات الجرحى، قامت في ظلالها وحداته المستعدّة بالتقدم نحو مدينة سراقب، وارتكاب مجازر وحشية بحق المقاتلين الذي وقعوا في الأسر، والتمثيل بجثث الذين سقطوا شهداء وتعرّضوا لأبشع أنواع التنكيل.

خلال ليلة واحدة بدات العملية المعاكسة لاسترداد سراقب وامتدت من بُعيد منتصف الليل بقليل حتى ساعات الفجر، وخلال أربع ساعات فقط هزم الجيش العثماني، المكوّن من الجيش التركي كنواة، ومن ملحقات من جنسيات مختلفة من عتاة القتلة الإرهابيين، وفشلت التغطية النارية بتأمين القتال التراجعيّ فكان الانسحاب العشوائي وما فيه من خسائر، ومع الصباح كانت وحدات الجيش السوري وحلفائه في المقاومة تتوضع في كل أحياء وأنحاء سراقب، ومن دون استراحة محارب تواصل هجومها نحو النيرب، لتأمين إعادة فتح الطريق الدولي، وسط تراجع متواصل وانهزامي للجيش العثمانيّ؛ بينما على جبهات الطريق الدولي بين حلب واللاذقية يحصد الجيش السوري مزيداً من الانتصارات، مستعيداً ما كان قد خسره مع الهجوم العثماني الموازي، مستكملاً ما كان في خطته قبل ساعة الصفر العثمانية.

ما جرى ليس عادياً ولا بسيطاً ولا تكتيكياً، إنه انتصار الدولة الوطنية السورية، ومشروع المقاومة على مشروع مزدوج، قطبه الأول أميركي يريد ترك الفوضى وراءه بعد الانسحاب بفتح الباب لقتال لا يتوقف بين ما يعتقده مشروعين إمبراطوريين إيراني وتركي لتغيير خرائط سايكس بيكو، واستبدالها بتقاسم نفوذ يعيد أمجاد الإمبراطوريتين ويطبق خرائط برنارد لويس البديلة القائمة على ثنائية مذهبية، وقطبه الثاني تركي عثماني يراهن على الخاصرة الرخوة في مناطق التجاذب الأميركي الروسي لوضع اليد عليها، وتوسيع نطاقه الجغرافي ترجمة لحلم تاريخي فاتت فرصته قبل قرن مضى مع سقوط الإمبراطورية العثمانية وعجزها عن سلخ المزيد من جغرافيا سورية والعراق.

فات أصحاب المشروعين الأميركي والتركي، أن تفوّق إيران في المنطقة ناجم عن فارقين يميزانها عن المشروع التركي، الأول أنها لا تملك مشروعاً لتوسيع النفوذ الإيراني بل مشروع لمحور مقاومة يضم حلفاء يؤمنون بأولوية المواجهة مع المشروع الصهيوني في المنطقة، لا يزال التركي يرفض الانضواء ضمنه. وهذه الأولوية تجعل الحلفاء حلفاء فعلاً، لا مجرد أتباع لمشروع استعماري جديد، والثاني أن إيران تستثمر لتعزيز محور المقاومة على دعم مشروع الدولة الوطنية في البلدان التي تدور فيها وحولها الحروب، من لبنان إلى اليمن والعراق وصولاً إلى سورية، التي تجد فيها النموذج الأهم لترجمة هذا المفهوم، ولأن في سورية مشروعاً حاضراً وقوياً للدولة الوطنية، يحظى بدعم شعبه ويمتلك جيشاً مقتدراً، فإن نوعاً جديداً من الحروب يدور اليوم عنوانه بالنسبة للحلفاء الروس والإيرانيين، دعم الدولة الوطنية السورية، لذلك يتفوق المقاتلون في محور المقاومة بمعنوياتهم وصدق قضيتهم على مَن ظنّ الأميركي والتركي أنهم أقدر على تحقيق النصر.

نصر سراقب يقول إن لا قضية تستحق بالنسبة للتركي ليموت من أجلها في سورية، وإن من يقاتلون مع الجيش التركي في الجيش العثماني يعرفون أنهم عملاء بلا قضية، بينما يستبسل السوريون في الدفاع عن وطنهم وأرضهم ودولتهم الوطنية، ويستشهد مقاتلو المقاومة دفاعاً عن محور يعلمون يقيناً أنه ضمانة ميزان رادع لـ«إسرائيل» وركيزة إسناد للمقاومة في فلسطين، تشكل سورية قلعته الرئيسية على خط الاشتباك مع كيان الاحتلال، ونقطة الوصل بين أطرافه، وتقع المواجهة مع الجيش العثماني في قلب أهدافه لحماية هذه القلعة وإسقاط الرهانات الإسرائيلية على إرباكها.

التسوية تزداد صعوبة بالنسبة لأردوغان بعد الهزيمة، وصعوبة تحقيق نصر جديد مع انهيارات تصيب بنية جيشه العثماني المنهزم أمام تقدّم الجيش السوريّ وحلفائه رغم ضراوة النيران، وسيصبح الحديث عن تسوية ممكناً إذا ارتضى أردوغان التسليم بعنوان هو الدولة الوطنية السورية، تخضع له سائر العناوين. وهذا ما ينتظره في موسكو قبل الهزيمة وبعدها، وسيبقى!

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الاهتمام الإسرائيلي بمعركة سراقب

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بمثل ما حال الزمن الخاطف لمعركة سراقب التي خاضها تحالف الجيش السوري وقوى المقاومة، وفي طليعتها حزب الله، دون احتلالها المساحة التي تستحق في الدرس والتحقيق والمتابعة واستخلاص العبر، شكل هذا الزمن الخاطف السبب في اهتمام خاص منحته مراكز الدراسات العسكرية والأمنية في كيان الاحتلال لهذه المعركة. فالمعركة رسمت توازنات جديدة على الأرض السورية، وفي أشد نقاطها حساسيّة، حيث يجتمع مصير أربعة رهانات كبرى، رهان أميركي على نجاح الوكالة الممنوحة لتركيا بوقف تقدم العملية العسكرية للجيش السوري، توخياً لتأجيل استحقاق بحث مصير الوجود الأميركي شرق سورية، ورهان تركي على إضافة كانتون جغرافي سياسي عسكري داخل الأرض السورية، إلى لواء اسكندرون تحت عنوان منطقة آمنة، ورهان جبهة النصرة برعاية غربية تركية للدخول كشريك في العملية السياسية تحت عنوان اللامركزية السياسية والأمنية الموسّعة، الذي يلاقي ما تطرحه القيادات الكردية العاملة تحت لواء واشنطن، وأخيراً رهان إسرائيلي على إحباط مشروع نهوض الدولة السورية، وما يعنيه ذلك من فتح الباب للشهية الإسرائيلية على مواصلة العبث في أمن سورية من جهة، وعلى السير بتثبيت الشق العائد من مكاسب صفقة القرن بإجراءات الضمّ، والتي يقع الجولان في قلبها.

هكذا يقرأ الإسرائيليون سراقب، نقطة تقاطع فاصلة ومقررة لخطوط سير المشاريع المتقابلة، بصورة ربما تختصر إلى حد كبير معنى المعركة الكبرى على سورية، التي بدأت قبل قرابة عشر سنوات، بحيث بات مَن يربح سراقب يربح الجولة الحاسمة من هذه الحرب، بعدما تركزت الرهانات واختزلت في الجغرافيا عند عقد الطرق الدولية التي تمثلها سراقب. ولو لم تكن هذه قراءة واشنطن لما منح الرئيس التركي هذا الرصيد الأميركي السياسي والعملياتي، بزيارات قيادية نحو داخل سورية، والسماح بتزويد جماعات النصرة بصواريخ ستينغر المضادة للطائرات، التي زوّد بها تنظيم القاعدة خلال الحرب على الاتحاد السوفياتي في أفغانستان، ولو لم تكن سراقب كذلك، لما جنّ جنون الرئيس التركي بعد دخولها من الجيش السوري وحلفائه، وخرج يهدّد ويزبد ويرعد، وحشد الآلاف من نخبة جيشه إلى جانب عتاة القتلة المتوحشين من عناصر النصرة والتركستان والإيغور، ولذلك كان الإسرائيليون يرصدون سير المعارك حول سراقب وفي ظنهم أنها معارك شهور.

الرصد الإسرائيلي لمعركة سراقب كانت له أبعاد إضافية، غير بُعد الزمن، فهم يعرفون أن عدوهم الاستراتيجي يمثله حزب الله، وأن الحزب المشارك بفاعلية في معركة سراقب سيجد نفسه في مواجهة جيش نظامي شديد الإعداد والاستعداد، محترف ومزوّد بأحدث العتاد، لا مشكلة لديه بالعديد، يتقن الجمع بين أنواع السلاح وأشكال القتال في المدن والجبال والأرياف، أي أن حزب الله سيكون معنياً بمشاركة الجيش السوري بقتال يظهر درجة القدرة على التنسيق والتكامل بين هاتين القوتين، في مواجهة جهات غير التنظيمات الإرهابية، جهات تجمع بين هذه التشكيلات الإرهابية، وجيش نظامي هو الأقرب في المنطقة لما يستطيعه الجيش الإسرائيلي، مع فارق العديد الواسع للجيش التركي قياساً بجيش الاحتلال المحدود القدرة على التصرف بمقدراته البشرية وتحمل الخسائر، والرصد معني أيضاً بقراءة تفاعل الجبهة الداخلية التركية وتاثيرها على مسار المعركة، لتشابه ليس بعيداً بين تناقضات الداخل التركي حول الحرب التي يشارك فيها حزب الله على الضفة المقابلة، وما سيشهده الداخل «الإسرائيلي» في حرب مشابهة.

يعترف الخبراء الإسرائيليون، بأن حزب الله تعامل مع معركة إدلب، بكل معاييره الاحترافية التي يتوقعونها، لكنه أبهرهم هذه المرة لإضافتين، الأولى أنه تصرّف مع المعركة كفرصة لإيصال رسائل ذات قيمة استراتيجية إلى داخل كيان الاحتلال وقادته العسكريين، والثانية بتظهير مهارات تصل حد الأسطورة والخرافة، فهم يتحدّثون بالاستناد إلى معلومات استخبارية، عن قرار اتخذ مساء يوم وصول شهداء حزب الله من محاور سراقب، وتنسيق سريع مع القيادة السورية لترجمة مشتركة لقرار بحجم إسقاط السيطرة التركية المعززة بجبهة النصرة وتشكيلات إرهابية محترفة، واسترداد سراقب بعملية ليلية خاطفة، بدأت بُعيد منتصف الليل وانتهت قبيل الفجر، وقدّمت عروضاً مبهرة للقتال الليلي مع ثاني جيش في حلف الناتو، تشارك فيها الجيش السوري وحزب الله بصورة تناغمت مع نيران روسية بعيدة من صواريخ كاليبر على نقاط خلفية للجيش التركي، وشارك فيها الطيران السوري بقصف ليلي، وعزفت خلالها راجمات الصواريخ والمدفعية الثقيلة أنغام التقدم، الذي خاضته مجموعات من مئات دخلوا أرض المعركة قبل دقائق من ساعة الصفر، ليبدأوا إطلاق النار فوراً وهم يعرفون أهدافهم تمام المعرفة، ويتقدّمون بطريقة مذهلة غير قابلة للتصديق، وصولاً للحسم السريع خلال أربع ساعات يعلنون بعدها السيطرة على هذه المدينة الاستراتيجية.

يعترف الخبراء الإسرائيليون، أنهم شعروا مع ما وصلهم عن تفاصيل معركة سراقب أنها مناورة بالذخيرة الحيّة والقتال الحيّ، لما يمكن أن يحدث في مواجهة قادمة في الجولان أو الجليل، ويخشون أن يكون حال الردع الذي فرضته المعركة على الجانب التركي مثالاً لما سيحدث مع الإسرائيليين، في معركة مشابهة.

حزب الله يُضيف الأتراك الى لائحة «ضحاياه» : القصّة الكاملة لتحرير سراقب

عمليّة تكتيكيّة ليليّة لقوات «الرضوان» أدهشت الروس وتثير قلق «إسرائيل»

لم تعد قيادة حزب الله معنية بالتوقف عند الاصوات المعترضة على مشاركة مقاتليها في الحرب الدائرة على الاراضي السورية، لان الاستمرار في تكرار شرح الاهمية الاستراتيجية لما يدور هناك، بات تضييعا للوقت والجهد في مخاطبة جهات لا تملك الا «الثرثرة» المدفوعة الثمن من جهات اقليمية ودولية تعرف جيدا اهمية ما يقوم به حزب الله على الاراضي السورية وتريد رفع منسوب الضغوط الداخلية عليه لثنيه عن الاستمرار في تغيير المعادلات الميدانية التي سبق وغيرت وجه المنطقة عند حسم معركة القصير الشهيرة قبل نحو ثمانية سنوات، واليوم يتكرر المشهد مرة جديدة في ادلب بعدما نجحت قوات النخبة في الحزب باستعادة مدينة سراقب الاستراتيجية باقل من 12ساعة تحت «جنح الظلام»، بعدما وضعت تركيا ثقلها في المدينة، فيما بات يعرف في سوريا الان، بانه معركة «القصير الثانية».

وبعيدا عن «الزواريب» اللبنانية الضيقة، فان البعد الاستراتيجي للمعركة وتداعياتها، دفع ثمنها في الميدان الطرف التركي، وسيدفع ثمنها لاحقا بالسياسة، فيما المتضرر الاكبر مما حصل تبقى اسرائيل التي بدأت اجهزة استخباراتها ومنصاتها الاعلامية تتحدث عن القيمة العسكرية او «العبقرية» في قتال مجموعات «الرضوان» في تلك المنطقة المعقدة والتي تضيف الى خبرات الحزب معطى جديدا لا يمكن لاسرائيل ان تهمله او تتجاهله في المواجهة المقبلة.

ووفقا لمصادر معنية بهذا الملف، لم تملك تركيا الوقت الكافي، لاصلاح خطيئتها عندما استهدفت قبل نحو اسبوع مجموعة مقاتلة من حزب الله كانت خارج نطاق العمليات العسكرية الدائرة في ادلب، وسقط منها 9شهداء، بعد مشاركتها «المحدودة» في المواجهات لتحرير ريف حلب الشمالي..

ووفقا للمعلومات، سارع الاتراك الى ارسال «رسالة» غير مباشرة الى حزب الله، عبر شخصية امنية رسمية لبنانية بارزة، هذه «الرسالة» «الاعتذارية»، تفيد بان القوات التركية لم تستهدف المجموعة المقاتلة عن سابق «تصور وتصميم»، ولا نية لدى انقرة في مواجهة مباشرة مع الحزب او مع الايرانيين في سوريا، وما حصل كان «خطأ» في التقدير، ولا يوجد اي داع للتصعيد…

لكن هذا الكلام لم يجد اي صدى في «حارة حريك»، القرار اتخذ، لقد ايقظ الاتراك «المارد» من «سباته»، كما تقول تلك الاوساط، ولا يمكن التسامح ابدا مع هذا التجاوز الخطير «للخطوط الحمراء»، وتم ابلاغ القيادة السورية ان حزب الله سيتولى قيادة معركة سراقب، وسيكون «راس حربة» في استرجاع هذه المنطقة الاستراتيجية كونها تشكل عقدة رئيسية تربط اوتوستراد حلب ـ دمشق، وحلب – اللاذقية، بعدما وضع الرئيس التركي رجب طيب اردوغان ثقله لاسترجاعها لاستخدامها «كورقة» «مساومة» رابحة في لقائه المرتقب اليوم الخميس مع الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين في موسكو، لكن دخول حزب الله «قلب الطاولة»…

ووفقا لتلك الاوساط، كان الاتراك قد دفعوا بقوات النخبة من فصائل المعارضة وفي مقدمتهم «متطوعون» اتراك مدربون على يد الجيش، يعرفون «بالذئاب الرمادية» وتمكنوا من استرجاع المدينة وقطع الطريق الدولية، بمساندة الطائرات المسيرة، قبل ان يضع حزب الله خطة محكمة شكلت مفاجئة للاصدقاء والخصوم، وكان «سر» نجاح العملية العسكرية في خطوة تكتيكية «مدهشة» قام بها عناصر النخبة في حزب الله الذين تسللوا الى المدينة ليلا، دون اي تغطية مدفعية مسبقة، ووصلوا الى مواقع المسلحين، وفتحوا النيران من مسافات قريبة، وحققوا انتصارا ساحقا من خلال عامل المفاجئة، وكذلك من خلال الاجهزة والعتاد الليلي الذي منحهم التفوق على المجموعات المسلحة في الظلام الدامس، ولم تتمكن القوات التركية من تقديم العون لمسلحيها جوا او برا بسبب الارباك الكبير الذي ساد في صفوف المقاتلين على الارض بعدما فوجؤوا بقوات «الرضوان» داخل مواقعهم، فقتل من قتل، واضطر من تبقى منهم الى الانسحاب من المدينة دون عتادهم الثقيل…

وقد اثارت العملية «دهشة» الروس الذين لم يصدقوا ان الحزب نجح ليل الاحد-الاثنين في طرد المسلحين من المدينة، فبعدما طلب منه على نحو مفاجىء، عبر غرفة العمليات، وقف الغارات لان قوات «الرضوان» باتت في وسط سراقب عند منتصف الليل، وفجرا جاء الاتصال «الصادم» الى قاعدة «حميميم»، هل انتم جاهزون ارسلوا شرطتكم العسكرية سراقب باتت تحت السيطرة»…

وقد بدات الاصداء تتردد في اسرائيل بعد ساعات من انتهاء المواجهة، ووصفت الاوساط الاستخبارتية ما تحقق بانه «إنجاز عسكريّ مثير للاهتمام» لان مقاتلي الحزب تمكنوا من طرد المسلحين من المدينية على الرغم من السيطرة الجوية الكاملة للطائرات التركية المسيرة، وهذا ما يفرض على الاجهزة الامنية والعسكرية الاسرائيلية الاستعداد لما هو اسوء في اي مواجهة مقبلة مع حزب الله.

وبعيدا عن اهمية نتائج هذه المعركة استراتيجيا، على «طاولة» المفاوضات في موسكو، فانها كشفت ميدانيا عن جودة مقاتلي حزب الله وادائهم المتطور على الارض، واذا كان الاتراك «ضيوف» جدد على لائحة «ضحايا» الحزب، فان في اسرائيل من بدأ يقرا جيدا طبيعة ما حصل، وبحسب القراءات الامنية التي بدأ يكشف عنها، ان اهمية هذه المعركة تكمن في ادارة حزب الله هجوما واسع النطاق، ومنسقاً في ساعات الليل، وهذا يكشف عن «عقيدة» قتالية جديدة لدى الحزب لمفاجأة إسرائيل عبر اختراق ليلي وسيطرة على مواقع قبل طلوع الفجر من أجل الانتظام للدفاع أثناء النهار، وهذه المعركة بحسب الخبراء الاسرائيليين «تضيف الكثير للقدرات العسكرية المؤكدة لحزب الله عموما، وللقتال الليلي في أطر عسكرية كبيرة خصوصا»، ولذلك لا يجب على القيادتين العسكرية والامنية المرور مرور الكرام على «مفاجئة» سراقب…!

طبعا، ليست هي «الملحمة» الوحيدة التي خاضها مقاتلوا حزب الله سواء في سوريا او لبنان ودول اخرى، انها معركة مفتوحة لحماية محور بكامله يتعرض لحملة غير مسبوقة في المنطقة، طبعا المواجهة مستمرة، وربما بعد ايام سيكشف عن دور «الرضوان» الحاسم في معارك جبل الزاوية، ومرتفعات جبهة ادلب الجنوبية، الرئيس بشار الاسد شخصيا يصر على تواجد حزب الله على جبهات القتال لانه يدرك حجم تاثيرهم، والسيد حسن نصرالله سبق واكد ان المقاومة «ستكون حيث يجب ان تكون»، ولذلك على من يكتب بيانات الادانة في لبنان وخارجه، ان يوفر الحبر الذي تكتب به لانها لا تستاهل القراءة او الرد…

Quick update on the Turkey vs Syria, Russia and Iran

The Saker

March 02, 2020

Quick update on the Turkey vs Syria, Russia and Iran

Dear friends,

Just a quick update: as I predicted, the Syrian forces have retaken most of the strategically crucial town of Saraqib.   Russia has confirmed that Russian military police units have already entered the town.

This crucial town was lost by the Syrians, largely due to the very effective use of attack drones by the Turks which the Syrians clearly did not anticipate.  However, after an initial streak of painful losses, the Syrian air defenses, probably assisted by Russian experts, have now adapted and retaken the control of the airspace over Idlib and scores of Turkish drones have now been shot down.

By the way, there was a hilarious incident when the Turkish-backed Takfiris declared that they had shot down a Su-24.  After it became clear that what they really shot down was a Turkish drone, the Takfiris declared that it was a Syrian or Russian drone.  Problem: on the wreckage you can easily see Turkish markings 🙂

In other news, it appears that there will be no four-way meeting in Istanbul, but that Erdogan will travel directly to Moscow to meet with Putin.  Most observers believe that Erdogan is desperate and that he will beg Putin to agree to some kind of deal.

I hesitate to make predictions when mentally unstable characters like Erdogan are involved, but my best guess is that Russia will agree to some kind of deal, but that this deal with reflect the failure of the current Turkish military operation.  Specifically, I believe that Saraqib shall be fully liberated and that the Turks will have to de facto relinquish control over the M4 highway (some kind of “jointly administered neutral zone” might be agreed upon to place a small face-saving figleaf over Erdogan’s pride).  Finally, Russia will have to give security guarantees to the Turks, including a promise not to arm the Kurds (with whom the Russians have a complex and ambiguous relationship anyway).

Turkey does have the means to send in more forces into Idlib which, when combined with the various “good” and “bad” terrorist forces Turkey support could give the Turks a strong quantitative superiority over the Syrians.  The Turks also have a qualitative advantage in some areas (as shown by their effective drone and F-16 attacks).  But should Turkey decide to go on a major offensive, then you can expect the Russian task force in Syria to engage attacking Turkish aircraft (fix and rotary wing, and drones) and if that is not enough, you will see Russian cruise missiles do to the Turks what they did to the Takfiris in the early phases of the Russian intervention in Syria: decapitate their command and control, then turn to the supply routes.

The Syrian military has the advantage of experience and they know that when needed Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces will support them (as just happened in Saraqib).  The big disadvantage of the Syrians is (and has been since the beginning of the war) their numerical inferiority.  However, the Russians are providing both equipment and training to the Syrians, who apparently learned quickly and very well, and the newly reorganized Syrian units are much stronger than their Turkish counterparts.

Simply put, if the Turks try to move south, they will be countered not only by the Syrians, but also by the Russians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and even possibly the Kurds.  10 years ago such an operation would be a “maybe”.  But in 2020 it is a “no way”.

Much now depends on what happens in Moscow on the 5th (next Thursday already).

I will try to take as much of the week off as I can (for religious and family reasons), but if something important happens in Moscow, I will try to analyze it here either on Thursday evening or on Friday.

Stay tuned.

Kind regards

The Saker

Syrian MP to Al-Ahed: Erdogan Is Not Reliable

By Ali Hassan

Damascus – The Syrian army has once again retaken the city of Saraqeb from the grasp of terrorists. But the scene on the battlefield remains complicated amid ongoing air and ground battles that the Syrian army is waging against the Turkish military and its terrorist factions.

Two days remain until the meeting between Russia’s Presidents Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the meantime, rival parties are seeking to improve their negotiating position through gains on the battlefield. But some say that the disengagement between Syria and Turkey will not come from Moscow but from Tehran.

Muhannad Al-Haj Ali, member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, tells Al-Ahed news that developments in recent days in Idlib are “a direct Turkish interference alongside the terrorist groups.” 

“Despite that, the Syrian army was able to recover Saraqeb because what it basically did was an evacuation and relocation operation to withdraw terrorists and place them in a designated targeting area,” Al-Haj Ali said.  

“Following all these battlefield developments, Erdogan needs to get down from the tree he climbed or for someone to give him a ladder to descend because of his statements that were for internal consumption. He is unable to enter into a direct war with Syria and its allies, which will be at the regional level. For Russia is Syria’s strategic partner. Turkey and the latter have no commercial relationship at all. It has no relations with Damascus, especially since the Turks are part of NATO – both have lied and manipulated the agreements they signed with Russia regarding Idlib,” the Syrian official adds.

“The US is pushing Erdogan to penetrate deeper into Syria because it wants to extend the life of the war in all respects. But that will be countered by the Syrian state’s strategic decision to liberate all the Syrian soil. All the while, the Turkish army does not have the effectiveness that the Syrian army gained from the experiences of years of war,” he explained. “There is an Iranian role that will soon serve as a lifeline for Erdogan, who is still lying, and will stop him from entering a regional war. Of course, his interests in the region will be within Syria’s range of fire if that war takes place.”

Al-Haj Ali points out that “Erdogan’s greatest argument for interfering in Syria and occupying its lands is the Syrian Kurds, but the situation in Idlib is different. And there are no Kurds there. All of Turkey’s colonial ambitions become clear here.” 

“Syria will not allow it to occupy a single part of the country. The solution is to return to the Adana Agreement but with its development and modernization as there are thirty thousand foreign terrorists on the Turkish borders threatening Syria’s national security. Syria does not trust Erdogan, and Russia has also reached a stage of lacking confidence in him,” Al-Haj Ali said.  

He reveals that discussions on March 5 will focus “on the battlefield and logistical matters.” 

“Political matters are not expected to be touched upon in any way that would help with the pacification of terrorist groups in Idlib. Syria previously agreed to 17 ceasefires in Idlib, all of which were violated by the terrorist groups supported by Erdogan. So, this man has become unreliable and no political progress is expected to be made with him.”

Al-Haj Ali concludes his interview with Al-Ahed by predicting that the solution will come from Iran because members of the anti-terror alliance exchange political roles. “We notice that Russia is escalating, while a calm Iran is working to achieve the basic goal of resolving the thorny issue. Through its dealings with Turkey, Iran is proposing some initiatives to resolve the clashes in Idlib.”

PUTIN-ERDOGAN MEETING: A STORM IS EXPECTED OVER THE “MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES” IN IDLIB; AYN AL ARAB IS AT STAKE

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

Hezbollah in Saraqeb attacking at night to free the western part of the city with special equipment.

The Turkish-Syrian battle is the battle of the Kurds in Ayn al-Arab, Kobane.

By Elijah J. Magnier:  @ejmalrai

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan had decided to attack Russia, Iran and Syria when he sent his army to Idlib and bombed Russian and Iranian allies on the Idlib front. The Turkish president is feeling strong and believes he is holding many good cards to play against his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin. He trusts he is in a position to bomb Iran’s allies, despite the fact that they hold armed drones, precision missiles and experienced Special Forces that can hit Turkey very hard in the case of war. 

The conflict Erdogan envisions between Russia, Iran and Syria on one side and Turkey on the other would suit the US and Israel. They would be happy to see Presidents Putin and Erdogan sinking into the Syrian quagmire and Hezbollah losing more men in the Levant. Negotiations, intense battles and attempts to reshuffle the military situation are taking place behind the scenes. President Erdogan is trying to improve his military position on the ground before his meeting with President Putin in Moscow tomorrow Thursday- but to no avail. Stormy negotiations can be expected.

President Erdogan is not in a position to bang his fist on the table. At the time Russia is receiving Erdogan a tweet by the Russian Foreign Ministry reminds him how Russia defeated the Ottoman Empire and forced it to sign the Treaty of San Stefano in March 1878 in Constantinople. It has accused Erdogan of altering Syrian demography after occupying the Afrin province and Tal Abyad, forcing the departure of over 350,000 Kurds and the relocation of Turkmen militants and their families instead.

The battle of Idlib follows many secret talks before the struggle and reflects serious disagreements between Turkey on one side and Russia, Iran and Syria on the other. Erdogan was ready to negotiate and clear the roads linking Damascus and Aleppo (M5) and Aleppo and Latakia (M4) but in exchange, he asked for concessions in north-east Syria that were rejected. Turkey tried to stop the Syrian army and its allies and wanted to reach the gates of Aleppo. The current battle for Idlib, the “mother of all battles”, follows many secret talks which are the necessary context for understanding the current Turkish war on Syria and Syria’s response. For the first time, Syria has dared to hit the Turkish army directly- this has never happened before in the modern history of Syria.

Turkey is more isolated than it has ever been. It has lost its privileged position within the US by buying the S-400 and hosting the Turkstream pipeline selling Russian gas to Europe. It has lost European respect by organising the transfer of over 110,000 Syrian and other nationalities’ refugees to the borders, allowing them to reach the borders with Greece and refusing to close the Turkish borders to prevent the crossing. This Turkish blackmail is not winning friends on the European continent, especially since Erdogan is at the same time asking for more money to compensate the refugees’ presence in his country. 

Arab countries are standing with Syria against Turkey. Libya’s eastern-based government linked to General Khalifa Haftar inaugurated the opening of its embassy in Damascus. Saudi Arabian, Egypt, and the Emirates are showing solidarity with President Assad against the Turkish-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood alliance. A strong message was delivered during the battle of Idlib where for the first time the Syrian and Turkish armies face each other on the battlefield. 

Erdogan is also losing support from Putin by bombing the Syrian army, trained by Russia, and damaging Syrian military effectiveness honed with Russian help. When Moscow closed an eye to Turkey’s desire to avenge the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers and officers in south Idlib, Erdogan responded with a disproportionate bombing which angered Russia and the allies that suffered the most. In response, Iran threatened to hit back against more than a thousand Turkish troops within the 14 Turkish observation points located within liberated Syrian territory and guarded by Hezbollah and Iranian IRGC forces. 

Putin is not completely losing his relationship with Erdogan, nor is it Russia’s intention to declare war on Turkey. In recent days, during a private meeting between Iranian and Turkish officials in Ankara, Iranian officers explained that “Iran and Russia believe that any war with Turkey will serve the US and Israel who would happily watch and contribute to fuelling the animosity between both sides.” US special representative for Syria James Jeffery said his country is ready to provide ammunition to Turkey in its Idlib battle. However, US defence secretary Mark Esper ruled out US intervention in favour of Turkey in Idlib.

In Idlib, Turkey seems to have lost hope in the capacities of tens of thousands of jihadists to hold the ground notwithstanding years of fortifications, tunnel digging and building stronghold positions in the cities along the Damascus-Aleppo (known as the M5) and Aleppo-Latakia (M4) roads. These jihadists are made up of a mixture of foreign fighters from dozens of different countries but mainly from the Tajik, Uighur, Turkmen and Arab jihadists fighting under Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (former ISIS, former al-Qaeda in Syria, former al-Nusra) fighting under different banners: from al-Qaeda (Hurras al-Din), Jund al-Aqsa to Ahrar al-Sham and many other names.

Hezbollah stopped an attack aiming to take back el-Eiss and from it to reach the gates of south Aleppo last Friday. The Turkish army bombed Hezbollah and Zul-fiqar brigade (Iranian IRGC, Fatimiyoun and Zeinabiyoun) at Talhiya to allow jihadists supported by Turkey to push into a corridor from Binnish and Taftanaz towards Talhiyah and from it to Rasm al-Is, Rasm al-Saharij, El-Eis strategic hill until al-Hader. Notwithstanding the Turkish intensive bombing to clear the road for jihadists and the killing of nine Hezbollah and over 66 wounded, the jihadists did not manage to get through. Hezbollah and their allies from the Zulfiqar brigades held their ground and stopped the advance.

Russia grounded its Air Force for 48 hours after the killing of 36 Turkish soldiers and officers (officially Turkey has declared 41 killed so far). The lack of air coverage surprised the allies of Russia who have anti-air missiles but were not expecting the Russians to abdicate their agreed role. Turkey managed to stop the Syrian army and its allies’ advance for 48 hours. However, all areas lost to the Turks were recovered within 48 hours. The battle of Saraqeb was the harshest. Hezbollah and the Zulfiqar brigade never withdrew from the east side of the city, while jihadists controlled the west side.

 Following the Turkish “disproportionate bombing”, as described by the Russian generals in Syria, Moscow ordered its Air Force commanders to escort a dozen Syrian anti-air batteries to the front line to protect Syrian troops from any Turkish bombing. Syria brought the Tor-M1 and its Pantsir system and took measures to reduce the casualties caused by the Turkish drones. 

Syria and its allies carried out (exceptional) night attacks liberating the strategic city of Saraqeb and held their positions in it. Hezbollah and Iran tripled the number of forces along the 70 km (M5 and M4) front against Turkey and its jihadists. Russia made 27 air attacks against Saraqeb and resumed air bombing in support of its allies.

Russia declared it could no longer “guarantee the safety of the Turkish aviation in Syria after Damascus shuts Idlib airspace”. The Syrian air defence systems downed around 7 Turkish drones. The Syrian army is showing dauntless courage by standing and bombing the Turkish military and fighting it face to face. Syrian artillery pounded Turkish positions and killed close to a dozen Turkish soldiers on the battlefield. President Bashar al-Assad’s decision to stand up to Turkey is something not even his father Hafez dared to do.

This is a response to Turkey’s killing and wounding of a large number of Syrian soldiers. Syria has been at war for nine years and has withstood significant losses. On the other hand, Turkey has one of the most prominent NATO armies with the most advanced means. A small and reduced Syrian army has now managed to kill Turkish soldiers on the battlefield, to destroy Turkish tanks and down their drones.

Turkey halted its direct bombing against Hezbollah and the Zulfiqar brigade. Iran and Hezbollah threatened to hit Turkey if the bombing continued. Close to 2000 Turkish officers and soldiers are now positioned, under Hezbollah and Iran’s ‘protection’, in 14 observation posts inside Syrian controlled areas, where they receive supplies locally. A meeting between the Iranians and the Turkish army and an exchange of messages took place between Hezbollah and Ankara, explaining that any clash between the two will bring the Levant and Turkey into a comprehensive confrontation that no one could win. The battle in Syria should not be against Turkey, and Erdogan needs to understand that the presence of his troops on Syrian territory is not acceptable.

Moscow moved its military police and special forces into Saraqeb to draw a line on any possible Turkish intention to attack the city again. The Turkish army attacks have yielded nothing, and the Syrian army and its allies are gaining momentum and have the upper hand. What is pushing Erdogan to fight with his own army alongside the jihadists for the control of two roads which it had previously agreed to de-escalate and declare a demilitarised zone in 2018?

According to decision-makers in Syria, President Erdogan asked his Russian counterpart to allow his forces to occupy an area 50 km deep in north-east Syria. At the start, Russia did not react to the Turkish advance to replace the US forces who decided to limit its presence in Syria to stealing Syrian oil, i.e. around the oil wells in north-east Syria. When the US redeployed, Russia asked Turkey to halt its operations in al-Hasaka and Raqqa provinces. Erdogan then lowered his request, asked for a 30 km deep buffer zone.

Russia has good ties with the Kurds and wants to see Syria united and all foreign forces leaving Syria. Erdogan said he was ready to clear the M5 and M4 in exchange for the control of Ayn al-Arab (Kobane). Putin refused and agreed with Iran and Damascus to remove jihadists along the M5 and M4 by military force. Erdogan felt he was cut out of the deal because his jihadists did not hold their ground, and proved to be an incapable military force against Syria and its allies. This is why the Turkish army was pushed into the battle, supported by drones, F-16s, precision missiles and artillery. Today it is fighting on behalf of the jihadists that, according to Sochi agreement, should have been eliminated by Turkey more than a year ago.

Turkey wants to bring back the deployment of forces on the ground to where they were before the Idlib battle and is calling for the respect of the Astana agreement but from a weaker position. In fact, it is too late for that; deals have a short life in Syria! Ankara will have to accept the status quo and prepare to lose Idlib without further concessions in the Kurdish area. This does not mean Erdogan will accept and surrender without a fight all the Syrian territories he has occupied without a fight. The Putin-Erdogan meeting will probably not end all differences, and much may have to be postponed until the forthcoming Putin-Erdogan-Rohani meeting this month in Tehran. 

Erdogan seems to have forgotten the help Putin and Rohani gave him during the 2016 failed coup-d’état. He is showing recklessness and wrongly believes his potential partners are weak. The Turkish president is prioritising his territory-expansion ambition over his commercial and partnership relationship with Russia and Iran. The Turkish army is grinding its teeth over Idlib. The Ottoman Sultan never defeated the Russian Czar in the past and he certainly won’t succeed now in Syria…

Proofread byC.G.B. and Maurice Brasher

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for the confidence and support. If you like it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020

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