Kremlin Responds to Erdogan’s Request That Russia ‘Step Aside’ in Syria

Putin humiliated Erdogan and his entire entourage by making them ...
Putin humiliated Erdogan and his entire entourage by making them wait outside the door.

Sputnik

MIDDLE EAST 17:21 GMT 01.03.2020 (updated 17:48 GMT 01.03.2020)

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to “get out of Turkey’s way” and to leave Ankara “face to face” with Damascus in the renegade Syrian province of Idlib.

Russia is the only country with a legitimate, internationally recognized right to station troops in Syria, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

“Russia is the only country which has troops in Syria on a legal basis and at the request of the legitimate Syrian government,” Peskov said, ( Pescove Forgot that Axis of resistance is there at th2 request of Syria) speaking to Russia 1’s Moscow.Kremlin.Putin programme on Sunday when asked to comment on President Erdogan’s remarks about what “business” Russia has in Syria.

“All other military forces of other countries are in Syria in contravention of the norms and principles of international law,” Peskov added.

According to the Kremlin spokesman, all of the actions by the Syrian military in Idlib in recent days have been aimed at fighting terrorists. Turkey, on the other hand, has failed to meet its obligations under the Sochi agreements, he said.

“We know that under the Sochi agreements from a year ago, it was the Turkish side which was required to ensure a regime of inactivity by these terrorist elements. Unfortunately, Turkey has not fulfilled these obligations, and the terrorists went on the offensive against Syria’s armed forces,” Peskov said.

Peskov recalled that in addition to attacking the Syrian Army, the terrorists were also attacking Russian military units in the Arab Republic. “Therefore,” he noted, “regardless of any statements, the fight against these terrorist elements will continue.”

Meeting This Week

Peskov also confirmed that Presidents Putin and Erdogan would meet on March 5 or 6 in Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis. According to Peskov, the meeting would not be an easy one. “This will undoubtedly be a difficult meeting, but the heads of state have nevertheless affirmed their focus on resolving the situation in Idlib and their adherence to the Sochi accords. This is important,” he said.

Putin and Erdogan spoke by telephone on Friday. On Saturday, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that he asked Putin about Russia’s “business” in Syria, adding that while Turkey didn’t mind if Russia established a base in the country, it should “get out of our way and leave us face to face with the [Syrian] regime.”

Russia established an airbase in Latakia, northwestern Syria in 2015 on the request of Syria’s internationally recognized government to assist the country in its fight against a broad array of foreign-backed terrorists.

Russia and Turkey reached an accord in Sochi in September 2018, allowing the Turkish military to establish observation posts in Idlib on the condition that terrorist groups be separated from other armed groups and expelled from the de-escalation zone. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has recently said that Ankara has failed to do so.

Tensions in Idlib escalated in February after Syrian artillery struck a Turkish observation post, killing eight Turkish troops and injuring several others. The situation has since turned into a shooting war between Syrian troops, Turkish forces and Ankara-backed militants. On Thursday, Syrian strikes killed at least 33 Turkish troops who were mixed in among jihadist militants, sparking off a Turkish response which included attacks on dozens of Syrian government targets in ‘Operation Spring Shield’. Syria initiated its Idlib operation in December, citing repeated terrorist attacks on army positions.

A summit meeting between President Al-Assad and Erdogan is not possible while Turkey is occupying Syrian areas: Shaaban

Thursday, 12 March 2020 06:53

ST


DAMASCUS, (ST)- “Had it not been for the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army in Aleppo and Idlib, the Russian-Turkish agreement would not have been reached,” Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the Presidential Political and Media Advisor, stressed, pointing out that the agreement provides for combating terrorism, maintaining the liberated area and stopping bloodshed.

The Syrian army has liberated an area of more than 2000 square km from terrorism over the past weeks and it has inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists and the Turks, she said in an interview with the Beirut-based “al-Mayadeen” TV on Wednesday.

She added that the agreement is both a political and a military battle to defeat terrorists, liberate the land and create circumstances for the return of the displaced.

She went on to say that Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies are in daily coordination, noting that the Syrian-Iranian relations are deep-rooted and they have been strengthened during the war on Syria, but there is a fifth column that doubts the intentions of Syria’s friends and allies who are assisting the Syrian Arab army in fighting terrorism.

 Concerning the tension between Europe and Turkey over the refugee crisis, Shaaban said that “Erdogan has lost by blackmailing Europe . He opened Turkey’s borders with Europe to refugees despite a Turkish-European agreement.” (The agreement seeks to control the crossing of refugees and migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands). She clarified that “the European themselves stressed that most of the refugees were not Syrians.”

“I think the Europeans should know that Erdogan is not the one who has the solution for the migrants, that he is the problem. He is the one who caused all this migration from Syria. And, I would like also to put many question marks around the figures that Erdogan gives to Europe in order to get as much money as he can from European countries to help his staggering economy,” Shaaban said, referring to the funds that Ankara has asked for to allegedly support refugees in Turkey.

She stressed that the world has become aware that Erdogan’s policies pose a threat to international peace and security.

 The Presidential advisor also said that the United States has created and supported al-Qaeda and ISIS and it is not strange if it supports Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization.

She made it clear that what Erdogan is doing serves Israel’s interests as he trades with the Palestinian cause and seeks occupying Syrian lands. She affirmed that it is not possible to hold a summit meeting between President Al-Assad and Erdogan while Turkey is occupying Syrian areas.

She made it clear that Syria welcomes inter-Arab relations, because Arab coordination is a point of strength to all the Arabs.

Shaaban asserted that the Syrian people reject occupation and have always been ready to defend their land, reiterating the Syrians’ rejection of the presence of the American occupying forces in the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

She recalled President Al-Assad’s saying that “we will liberate every inch of our land. We will liberate Idleb and eradicate terrorism from all Syria and we have the Syrian army and the Syrian leadership’s plans for achieving this goal.”

Hamda Mustafa

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IN VIDEO: DOZENS OF STRIKES ON TURKISH-BACKED MILITANTS IN IDLIB. SYRIAN MEDIA CLAIMS 6,100 TERRORISTS ELIMINATED

On March 5, the Syrian state media released an extensive video showing dozens of Russian and Syrian strikes on positions, vehicles and weapons belonging to Turkish-backed militant groups during the recent clashes in Greater Idlib. Most of the destroyed equipment belong to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party and other similar al-Qaeda-linked groups.

According to the report, in the period from December 15, 2019 to March 5, 2020 Syrian government forces liberated 215 settlements (1,600km2). 6,100 terrorists were eliminated, 2550 others were wounded, and 615 vehicles were destroyed. The report also claimed that 100 ‘Turkish’ pieces of military equipment were destroyed. These numbers as well as those provided by the Turkish side about supposed Syrian Army casualties are apparently overestimated.

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«تحسين الشروط» قبل لقاء موسكو: دمشق تواجه الغزو التركي براً وجواً

 حسين الأمين 

الإثنين 2 آذار 2020

شيّع حزب الله وجمهور المقاومة في ضاحية بيروت الجنوبية الشهداء الذين سقطوا في المعارك الأخيرة قرب سراقب (أ ف ب )

تعقّد المشهد الميداني في الشمال الغربي من سوريا، إلى حد غير مسبوق. معارك جوية وبرية يخوضها الجيش السوري بوجه الفصائل المسلّحة والجيش التركي، وسط استنكاف روسي عن مواجهة «الصلف» التركي المتزايد. حلفاء دمشق يعلنون أنهم إلى جانبها في معركتها ضد الإرهاب، لكنهم لا يسعون إلى اشتباك مع أنقرة. وإلى أن يحين موعد اللقاء المرتقب بين إردوغان وبوتين بعد ثلاثة أيام، تسعى كل الأطراف الى تحسين شروط التفاوض ميدانيّاًحتى فجر يوم الأربعاء الفائت، كانت التطوّرات الميدانيّة في أرياف إدلب وحماة وحلب، تسير ضمن سيناريوات متوقّعة.. لكن سيطرة المسلحين على مدينة سراقب الاستراتيجية، جنوبي شرقي مدينة إدلب على الطريق الدولي بين حماة وحلب، في ساعات الصباح الأولى من ذلك اليوم، قلب المشهد الميداني. بعدما استعادت الفصائل بلدة النيرب غربي سراقب، عقب هجمات متكررة، «صارت سراقب بلا هوامش دفاعية، تمنح الجيش قدرة على العمل فيها لصدّ الهجمات الواسعة والعنيفة»، بحسب ما يشير مصدر ميداني سوري، ما سهّل سقوطها. بعد ذلك، جاء استهداف الجنود الأتراك عبر غارة جوية في بلدة بليون في ريف إدلب الجنوبي، ليل الخميس ــــ الجمعة، ما أدّى الى مقتل أكثر من ثلاثين جندياً تركياً، بينما كان الجيش السوري يتقدم نحو سهل الغاب، والطريق الدولي حلب ــــ اللاذقية (M4).

بعد ساعات قليلة من الحدث، بدأت القوات التركية حملة قصف مدفعي وصاروخي، وعبر الطائرات المسيّرة. وفي إطار «الرد» التركي على المقتلة التي ألمّت بجنوده، استهدف من مرابضه في بلدة تفتناز شرقي إدلب، منطقة طلحية شمالي سراقب. وفي الأثناء، حاولت الفصائل المسلحة، وخصوصاً «الحزب التركستاني»، اقتحامها، إلا أن هجماتهم المتكررة فشلت، ما دفع الجيش التركي الى شن حملة قصف واسعة ومكثفة، أدّت الى استشهاد 9 مقاتلين من حزب الله اللبناني، وعشرات من القوات العاملة تحت القيادة الإيرانية في سوريا، بالإضافة الى عدد من جنود الجيش السوري وضباطه. وطوال ذلك اليوم، بدت القوات الروسية بعيدة عن كل ما يجري، فلا طائرات تشن الغارات، ولا قصف صاروخي مكثف، ولا حتى منعٌ للمسيّرات التركية من التحليق. تُرك الجيش السوري وحلفاؤه، للطائرات المسيّرة والقصف المكثف، على مدى ليالٍ عدة. بدا الموقف كأن موسكو سحبت يدها من المعركة، وأرادت للجيش السوري وحلفائه أن يكملوها.

ظهرت تلك الليلة (الجمعة ــــ السبت)، كأنها الليلة التي ستشتعل فيها المعركة بين القوى الحليفة لدمشق في محور المقاومة، والجيش التركي، وخصوصاً مع استنكاف الجانب الروسي عن التحرك لوقف التصعيد التركي أو مواجهته، إلا أن ذلك لم يحدث. بعد الاستهداف مباشرة، سعت هذه القوى إلى إرسال وسطاء الى تركيا، لطلب خفض التصعيد، دونما جدوى. في الليلة التالية (السبت ــــ الأحد)، أصدر «المركز الاستشاري الإيراني» (ناطق باسم تجمّع القوى الحليفة لدمشق في محور المقاومة)، بياناً أعلن فيه، للمرة الأولى، أنه شارك في العمليات العسكرية لفتح الطريق الدولي حلب ــــ حماة (M5)، بالإضافة الى دعم الجيش السوري لحماية الطريق ومنع سقوطه. كذلك، أُعلن في البيان عن إرسال وسطاء الى الجيش التركي، إلا أن الأخير «لم يأخذ هذا الطلب بعين الاعتبار». لكن ذلك لم يدفع هذه القوى الى التحرك ضد الجيش التركي بشكل مباشر، إذ اكتفت بقصف الجيش السوري للمرابض التركية داخل الأراضي السورية، معلنةً أن قواتها «هي لمواجهة الإرهابيين»، وأنها «ليس لديها أي هدف أو قرار لمواجهة الجيش التركي، وأن القيادة مصرّة على الحل السياسي بين سوريا وتركيا».

دمشق وحلفاؤها مصمّمون على استعادة سراقب وفتح طريق (M4)

ورغم ما حمله البيان من «صراحة» لناحية رؤية هذه القوى للمعركة مع تركيا، إلا أنه حمل تهديدات مبطّنة تتعلق بالنقاط التركية المحاصرة خلف خطوط انتشار الجيش السوري، والقوى الحليفة منذ أكثر من شهر. إذ قال البيان إن «المواقع التركية داخل مناطق قواتنا، إلا أن عناصر اللجان وفصائل المقاومة لم تتعرّض لهذه القوات التركية احتراماً لقرار القيادة، ولا يزال هذا القرار ساري المفعول حتى الساعة». ورغم فشل الوساطات لوقف القصف التركي، إلا أن مصدراً سياسياً مطّلعاً على الاتصالات الأخيرة، أكد لـ«الأخبار» أن «التواصل الإيراني ــــ التركي قائم حتى هذه اللحظة، ويحاول الطرفان تجنّب الاشتباك المباشر»، مضيفاً إن حلفاء دمشق، «يرفضون، حتى الساعة، خوض معركة لا يريدونها ضدّ تركيا، وهم قد تفاهموا على ذلك مع دمشق مسبقاً». وفي المقابل، يؤكد مصدر مطّلع أيضاً، أن «الإيراني لا يريد مواجهة مع التركي، لكنه يعتبر ما يحدث تعنّتاً تركياً غير مبرّر، ويشبه المشهد التركي اليوم، المشهد العراقي في الحرب العراقية ــــ الإيرانية، لناحية توريط الأميركيين للرئيس العراقي صدام حسين بحرب ضد إيران، لم تكن إيران تريدها، لكنها تصدّت لها».

يوم أمس، ارتفعت حدة الاشتباكات الى مستويات غير مسبوقة في الشمال الغربي. فدارت معركة جوية في سماء منطقة إدلب. تمكن خلالها الجيش السوري من إسقاط 6 طائرات مسيّرة تركية. وعقب إسقاط الطائرة المسيّرة الأولى، أقدمت طائرات حربية تركية كانت تحلّق فوق الشريط الحدودي بين البلدين، على استهداف قاذفتين سوريتين من طراز «Su-24»، وأسقطتهما. أما على الأرض، فحتى ليل أمس، كان الجيش السوري وحلفاؤه يسيطرون على الضفة الشرقية للطريق الدولي في مدينة سراقب، بينما يسيطر المسلحون والقوات التركية على الضفة المقابلة. كذلك، أوقف الجيش السوري تقدم المسلحين في ريف حماة الشمالي وريف إدلب الجنوبي، ومنعهم من السيطرة على بلدة كفرنبل غربي خان شيخون.

احتدام المعارك، وتعقّد المشهد الميداني، يصبّان في مجمله في خانة واحدة: «استباق لقاء الرئيسين الروسي فلاديمير بوتين والتركي رجب طيب إردوغان المرتقب في موسكو، يومي 5 و6 مارس/ آذار»، بحسب مصدر سياسي مطّلع على كواليس المفاوضات الروسية ــــ التركية. ويؤكد المصدر أن «للجانب التركي مطالب عديدة، مقابل التراجع عن سراقب وفتح الطريقين الدوليين M4 وM5»، وهناك «معلومات عن مطالبة تركية بالسيطرة على عين العرب على الحدود السورية ــــ التركية الشمالية، مقابل تقديم تنازلات في إدلب». كما يجري الحديث عن اتفاق روسي ــــ تركي مرتقب، «لم تجهز مسوّدته الأخيرة بعد»، بحسب المصدر. إلا أن «الجانب التركي عرض فيه فتح الطريقين الدوليين أمام المدنيين من كل المناطق، سواء ضمن سيطرة الحكومة أو المسلحين، مع إبقاء سراقب تحت سيطرة المسلحين، وتسيير دوريات تركية ــــ روسية مشتركة على طول الطريق من خان شيخون حتى سراقب، ومن الأخيرة حتى جسر الشغور»، بحسب معلومات المصدر.

ولا تنفي مصادر مقربة من دمشق هذه المعلومات، إلا أنها تؤكد أنها «لا تعدو كونها رفعاً للسقف بناءً على أوهام سرعان ما ستزول»، حيث «لن يسمح الجيش السوري، بالتعاون مع حلفائه، بالإبقاء على سراقب تحت سيطرة المسلحين». وتضيف هذه المصادر إن «المهادنة الروسية لأنقرة، في الأيام الأخيرة، دفعت الجيش التركي والفصائل المدعومة منه، الى التقدم اكثر وتوسيع سيطرتهم في جنوبي إدلب، ما منحهم أوراقاً تفاوضية أقوى». كذلك تشير المصادر الى أنه «سابقاً كان إردوغان يضغط للقاء بوتين، أما اليوم فتطلب موسكو التهدئة واللقاء في أسرع وقت مع إردوغان للتوصل الى اتفاق (…) هذا خطأ ارتكبه الروس، ويحاولون إصلاحه عبر إعادة تزخيم العمليات العسكرية لاستعادة السيطرة على سراقب، وقرى سهل الغاب».


الجيش يحاصر مسلّحين في الصنمين جنوباً

بدأ الجيش السوري، مدعوماً بقوات من «الدفاع الوطني» من أهالي محافظة درعا، أمس، عملية أمنية ــــ عسكرية في بلدة الصنمين شمالي مدينة درعا، بهدف القضاء على أهمّ تشكيل مسلّح رافضٍ للتسويات، يتزعّمه وليد زهرة، المعروف بـ«أبو خالد»، القائد السابق لحركة «أحرار الشام» في منطقة حوران. وتَخلّلت العمليةَ اشتباكاتٌ بالأسلحة الخفيفة والمتوسطة، أدّت إلى مقتل 5 مسلحين، واعتقال 6 آخرين، وانتشار الجيش في معظم أحياء المدينة التي أُغلقت مدارسها ومحالّها التجارية بفعل المعارك. وكان عدد من المسلحين قد تحصّنوا داخل الأبنية السكنية في منطقة العملية، ما دفع الجيش إلى تطويقها بهدف منع تسلّلهم أو هروبهم إلى مناطق مجاورة. وبالتزامن مع العملية العسكرية في الصنمين، شهدت عدة مناطق في درعا أحداثاً أمنية متفرقة، وتحرّكات للمسلحين بالقرب من نقاط تمركز الجيش، وخصوصاً في بلدة المزيريب شمالي غربي درعا، بغية التأثير على سير العملية الأمنية في الصنمين. كما شهدت المنطقة الغربية من محافظة درعا استنفاراً أمنياً، بعد قيام مسلحين باحتجاز عدد من مجنّدي الجيش وأسلحتهم، وقطع طرقات ومداخل رئيسية. أما في المنطقة الشرقية، فقد احتجز مسلحون في بلدة الكرك الشرقي عنصرين من الأجهزة الأمنية، وقطعوا الطرق الرئيسية أيضاً. وتأتي عمليات الجيش هذه بعد انتهاء المهل الزمنية المحدّدة لرافضي التسويات، والذين كثّفوا هجماتهم على مقارّه أخيراً، ونفّذوا عمليات خطف لضباط وأمنيّين، وعمليات اغتيال لكلّ من يتعامل مع الجيش من أهالي درعا والصنمين تحديداً. وتؤكد مصادر أمنية سورية أن «قوات الجيش والأمن تسيطر على الوضع، وقد تستغرق العملية أياماً عدة، إلا أنها ليست عملية عسكرية واسعة، بل عملية أمنية تنظيفية».
(الأخبار)

الأسد وأردوغان … والفخ الاستراتيجيّ

ناصر قنديل

لطالما فرح الرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان وتبادل أنخاب النصر مع أركان حكمه، لدى تلقي الأنباء عن تقدّم الجماعات المسلحة في الجغرافيا السورية، سواءٌ أكانت جماعات الأخوان المسلمين أم تنظيم القاعدة أم تنظيم داعش، فما ليس صناعة تركية منها يسلّم بالمرجعية التركية، ومن لا يسلّم بهذه المرجعية له مصالح عضوية مع تركيا، ومن ليست له مصالح عضوية مع تركيا له مصالح حيويّة أو ظرفيّة تتيح لتركيا التصرف كضابط إيقاع لحرب السيطرة على سورية. فهي ليست ضابط الإيقاع الداخلي فقط، بل ضابط الإيقاع الخارجي أيضاً، حيث الدول المنخرطة في هذه الحرب من أميركا إلى دول الناتو وصولاً لـ»إسرائيل» ودول الخليج، والدول العربية التي تسلّم الأخوان الحكم فيها كمصر وتونس، ترتضي لتركيا هذا الدور، عن قناعة أو مصلحة أو تسليم بالتوازنات الدولية المحيطة بتفويض تركيا إدارة الحرب. وأردوغان الذي عاش أحلام السلطنة ورفع شعار العثمانية الجديدة، نظر منذ اليوم الأول لحرب السيطرة على سورية بصفتها حرب السلطنة والعثمانيّة الجديدة معاً، أي حربه كشخص ومعبر لمشروعه الذي باعه للأتراك واعداً إياهم باستعادة أمجاد وعظمة الماضي الاستعماري الإمبراطوري، محولا حزب الأخوان في العالم إلى مجلس قيادة لهذا المشروع، الذي نظرت إليه واشنطن بديمقراطييها وجمهورييها، كمشروع يوازي في بعده الاستراتيجي في آسيا ما مثله مشروع الاتحاد الأوروبي في أوروبا شرقها وغربها في التسعينيات، وبعدما تعثر المشروع الأصلي لفرض الهيمنة عبر حربي العراق وأفغانستان، لتكتمل بثنائية الاتحاد الأوروبي والعثمانيّة الجديدة ميمنة وميسرة زعامة القرن الحادي والعشرين في فرض الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم.

خلال سنوات الحرب الأولى كان الكثير من محبي سورية يتساءلون عن سبب التروي الذي يطبع سياسات الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد في اللجوء إلى القوة العسكرية، ومنحه الكثير من الفرص للحلول السياسية والإصلاحات الدستورية، رغم كلامه الواضح عن حرب ومؤامرة ومحوريّة دور الجماعات الإرهابية فيما سمّي بـ “الثورة السورية”، كما كان الكثيرون يتساءلون حول ما إذا كان الانفتاح السوري على تركيا قبل الحرب كان فخاً استراتيجياً نصبه الرئيس التركي للرئيس السوري، تمهيداً للحرب المضمرة، لضرب المناعات السورية بوجه تركيا وتوفير الفرص للتغلغل في البيئات السورية المختلفة، وكان الجواب على السؤالين هو، فلننتظر النهايات وعندها يظهر الكمين الاستراتيجي ومَن وقع فيه، ويضحك كثيراً من يضحك أخيراً.

الصمود والصبر شكّلا سمة تعامل الرئيس السوريّ وقيادته وجيشه مع الهجمات الشرسة والقاسية التي تعرّضت لها سورية خلال سنوات 2011 – 2015، والهدف أخذ يتوضح بالتدريج، وهو خلق القناعة لدى أغلبيّة كافية من الشعب السوري بأن ما يراه أمامه ليس ثورة ولا حركة إصلاحية بل مشروع إرهابي موجّه من الخارج لإسقاط سورية الوطن والدولة وليس تغيير شكل السلطة فيها، وصولاً لتفتيت سورية وتغيير موقعها وتدمير مكانتها وعمرانها وتاريخها ووحدتها، وبالتوازي خلق القناعة واليقين لدى حلفاء مستهدَفون مثل سورية عبر الحرب عليها، وفي طليعتهم قوى المقاومة وعلى رأسها حزب الله ومن خلفه إيران، بأن الحرب على سورية هي حرب “إسرائيل” تُخاض بالوكالة عبر تركيا، وهي حرب تغيير موقع سورية كعمق استراتيجيّ لحركات المقاومة، لتشكيل بيئة أخوانيّة تحيط بفلسطين تحكم مصر وسورية والأردن وتتحكم بفلسطين، تلتزم ما ظهر أنه سياسة الأخوان تجاه الاحتلال مع حكمهم لمصر، لكن الرئيس السوري وهو يخوض غمار هاتين المعركتين السياسيتين، ويمنحهما كل الاهتمام ويرصد تطوّر مواقف شرائح الشعب السوري والحلفاء في قوى المقاومة وإيران، ودرجة تطوّرها بقياس هذا التقدير لماهية الحرب ووظائفها، ويقدم في سبيل الفوز بهاتين المعركتين على المبادرة تلو الأخرى لتظهير جوهر أهداف الحرب، وعدم وجود فرص لتلافيها بتقديم الإصلاحات والمبادرات السياسية، كان أمامه سؤال استراتيجي حول نضوج روسيا لموقف يقرأ الحرب كاستهداف لأمنها، وقطعاً للطريق على دورها المتطلع للنمو، ومنعاً لها من الوصول إلى البحر المتوسط، وعزلها وراء المضائق التركيّة، ومحاصرتها بدول تحكمها العثمانية الجديدة، إذا قيّض لها الفوز بسورية؟

في مرات كثيرة كان بعض مَن في القيادة في سورية يستغرب قبول الرئيس الأسد للاستجابة لمبادرات تطلبها موسكو، ويرون فيها تنازلات غير مبررة، سواء في السياسة تحت شعار الحلول السياسية، أو في الميدان تحت شعار وقف نار أو عفو عن مسلحين، أو هدنة يدركون أن الجماعات المسلحة ستستثمرها لترتيب أمورها والعودة للقتال من مواقع أفضل، وكانوا يكتشفون لاحقاً أن الهدف كان السير على إيقاع البطء الروسي في صياغة الاستنتاجات، وفهم سياق الأحداث، لأنه إذا كانت الحرب التي شنت للسيطرة على سورية تكاد تكون حرباً تركية، فإن النصر في هذه الحرب سيتقرّر بالجواب على السؤال “أين تقف روسيا منها؟”. وبمثل ما كان الرئيس الأسد يدرك أن شل التفكير الأميركي بالتورط بالحرب سيتكفل به حضور وجهوزية سورية وقوى المقاومة وإيران لجعل كل مواجهة مع أميركا تهديداً لأمن “إسرائيل” ووجودها، كان واضحاً لديه أن نهاية الأطماع التركية تتوقف على مدى وضوح حتمية تحوّلها إلى مشروع مواجهة مع روسيا. وعلى هذه الثنائية بُنيت الاستراتيجية التي خاض الأسد صموده وصبره بانتظار تبلورها، وبني السعي لتحقيق النصر على ضبط الإيقاع السياسي والعسكري بما يساعد في إنضاج شروطها.

خلال معارك حلب، ومن بعدها الجنوب السوري، وبينهما الغوطة ودير الزور، كانت تتحقق معادلات الأسد وتتبلور بوضوح، لكن الأكيد كان أن معركة إدلب ستبقى مختلفة، وستكون هي الفاصلة، ولذلك بُنيت خطط تحرير إدلب وحساباتها، وتوقيتها والموقف من المبادرات السياسية بخصوصها على السعي السوري للتطابق مع الحسابات الروسية والتوقيت الروسي والقراءة الروسية والمهل الروسية، حتى جاءت ساعة الصفر وصار على أردوغان أن يقرر ويختار بين مواجهة مباشرة مع روسيا، بينما الجيش السوري جاهز معنوياً وعسكرياً لخوض غمار مواجهة ترفعه لمقام الجيوش الأولى في العالم، أو بين أن يرتضي الهزيمة لمشروعه وهو يدرك أنها نهايته السياسية. ومهما كان خيار أردوغان فهو اليوم يتلمّس أن لا ناتو ولا سواه جاهز للقتال لأن الحرب لم تعد حرب أحد سواه، وأن الشعب والجيش في تركيا لا يرون سبباً للتورط في مواجهة مكلفة بلا قضية، وأن الجيش والشعب في سورية يتوقان لهذه الحرب مع إدراك ما فيها من تضحيات، وأن روسيا سئمت المراوغة والأكاذيب والتذاكي واللعب على الحبال والتلاعب بالكلام والتفاهمات، وأن ساعة الحقيقة قد حانت.

كمين استراتيجيّ، مَن نصبه لمَن؟

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Are Russia and Turkey on a collision course?

THE SAKER • FEBRUARY 28, 2020 

[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]

The murder of the Iranian hero-martyr General Soleimani created a situation in which a war between Iran and the Axis of Kindness (USA/Israel/KSA) became a real possibility but, at the very last minute, Uncle Shmuel decided that he had no stomach for a full-scale war against Iran. Wise decision.

This, however, does not at all imply that the AngloZionist Empire decided to stand by idly, far from it. The need to take quick and determined action became particularly acute following the huge anti-US demonstrations in Iraq (well over one million people in the streets!) which directly put at risk the US occupation (the MSM would call it “presence”) in both Iraq and Syria.

At the same time, Turkish President Erdogan’s refusal to remove all the “bad terrorists” from the Idlib province eventually resulted in a joint Syrian-Russian offensive to liberate the province. That offensive, in turn, clearly infuriated the Turks who warned of a major military operation to prevent the Syrians from liberating their own country.

This begs the question: are Russia and Turkey really on a collision course?

There are certainly some very worrying warning signs including a number of very harsh statements by Erdogan himself, and a suddenly re-kindled Turkish interest for the US “Patriots”.

On the ground in Idlib, the Turks have clearly provided the “bad terrorists” with a lot of support including equipment, MANPADs, tanks and armored personnel carriers. The Turks actually went as far as sending special forces to assist the “bad terrorists” directly. Finally, from footage taken by Russian and Syrian drones, and even the “bad terrorists” themselves, it appears undeniable that Turkish MLRS and regular artillery provided the “bad terrorists” with fire support.

Both sides also agree that a number of Turkish personnel were killed (they only disagree on how many and what these Turks were doing in Syria).

Finally, and most ominously, there is even a video circulating on the Internet which appears to show a US “Stinger” being fired by the “bad terrorists” at a Russian aircraft which, thank God, managed to evade it (unlike 2 Syrian Army helicopters which were shot down).

So the first conclusion that we can come to is that the Turks are already engaged in combat operations against the Syrians. For the time being, these combat operations are just below the threshold of “credible deniability”, but not by much. For example, if the Turks had shot down a Russian aircraft you can be pretty certain that the Russian public opinion (which has still not forgiven Erdogan for the downed Su-24) would have demanded that the Russian Aerospace Forces massively retaliate (just as they have every time Russian military personnel have been killed) kill scores of Turks.

The Russian position is very straightforward. It goes something like this:

The Turks committed to remove all the “bad terrorists” from the Idlib province, leaving only the “good terrorists” who are committed to a ceasefire and a political peace process in place. That did not happen. In this case, the Syrians clearly have to do themselves what the Turks refused (or could not) do. The Russian military presence in Syria, and the Russian military operations, are all absolutely legitimate and legal: the legitimate government of Syria invited the Russians in, and the UNSC agreed to back the Syrian peace process. Thus the Russian Aerospace Forces’ strikes against the “bad terrorists” are absolutely legal. Furthermore, Russia very much deplores the presence of regular Turkish units among the “bad terrorists” which is both illegal and very unhelpful. Finally, the Russian Aerospace forces have no way to determine who sits in which tank, or who provides artillery cover for the operations of the “bad terrorists”. Thus, if Turkish military personnel are killed in Syrian or Russian operations, this would be entirely the fault of Ankara.

So far the Turkish military operation has been rather unsuccessful and limited.

But Erdogan is now promising a major attack.

Will that happen and what can the Turks really do?

First and foremost, Turkey does not have the means to enter into a full-scale conflict with Russia. Turkey cannot do that for political, economic and military reasons:

Political: the simple truth is that Turkey (and Erdogan) desperately need Russian political support, not only towards the West, but also towards Iraq, Iran or Israel. Furthermore, Erdogan has now clearly deeply alienated the Europeans who are fed up with Erdogan’s constant threats to open the “refugees” spigot. As for the Turks, they have already known for years that the EU will never accept them and that NATO will not support Turkey in its (very dangerous) operations in Iraq and Syria.

Economic: Turkey’s economy really suffered from the sanctions introduced by Russia following the shooting down of the Russian Su-24 by Turkish aircraft (backed by USAF fighters). What was true then is even more true now, and the Turkish public opinion understands that.

Military: the past years have been absolutely disastrous for the Turkish armed forces which were purged following the coup attempt against Erdogan. This sorry state of affairs is indirectly confirmed by the very poor performance of Turkish forces in Syria.

What about a conflict limited to Syria?

Again, Turkey is in a bad position. For one thing, the Syrians and, even more so, the Russians control the airspace above Idlib. The Turks are so frustrated with this state of affairs that they have now reportedly asked the US to deploy Patriot missiles in southern Turkey. This is a rather bizarre request, especially considering that Turkey purchased S-400s from Russia or how pathetically the Patriots actually performed (recently in the KSA and elsewhere before that). This, by the way, might well be a case of fake news since, apparently, there are no Patriots available for Turkey even if the US agreed to sell.

Then there is the bellicose rhetoric we hear from Erdogan. For example, he recently declared that:

“The regime, backed by Russian forces and Iran-backed militants, are continuously attacking civilians, committing massacres and shedding blood, (…) I hereby declare that we will strike regime forces everywhere from now on regardless of the [2018] deal if any tiny bit of harm is dealt to our soldiers at observation posts or elsewhere.”

That kind of language is, of course, very dangerous but, at least so far, the Turkish operation has been both limited and unsuccessful. Syrian President Assad was not impressed and declared that:

It also means that we must not rest idle, but prepare for the battles to come. As a result, the battle to liberate the Aleppo and Idlib countryside continues regardless of some empty sound bubbles coming from the north (vain threats from Erdogan), just as the battle continues to liberate all of Syrian soil, crush terrorism and achieve stability.

In the meantime, in Iraq, the US has apparently dug-in and categorically refuses to leave. In practical terms this means that the Iraqis will have to step up their anti-US campaign both politically (more protests and demonstrations) and militarily (more IEDs, convoy attacks and, probably soon, drone, cruise missile and ballistic missile attacks on US targets in Iraq). I don’t believe that the US will be able to sustain that kind of pressure in the mid to long term, especially not in an election year (which promises to be hellish anyway). Right now, the Idiot-in-Chief seems to think that threatening Iraq with “very big sanctions” is the way to restore good relationships. In reality, all this will do is to further inflame anti-US feelings in Iraq and the rest of the region.

Then there is the tactical situation. Please check these two maps: (click on map for a higher resolution)

The part in red shows the government controlled areas. The light blue (or light green on the 2nd map) show the Turkish deployment. The part in olive green (or darker green on the 2nd map) shows the parts of the Idlib province which are still under Takfiri occupation. Finally, the small region around Tell Rifaat are controlled by the Kurds.

The Syrian forces, backed by Russia, have now pushed back the latest Turkish+Takfiri attack north and west of Aleppo and they are now attacking the southern tip of the Takfiri occupation zone around the Zawiya mountain and highlands, see here:

The Syrians have options here. They can either gradually push north, or they can try to envelop the Takfiri forces in a “cauldron”. Finally, the Syrians would score a major victory if they succeeded in regaining control of the highway between Aleppo and Latakia (in blue on the map).

As for the Turkish-backed Takfiris, they are pushing very hard towards Idlib, so far with only moderate and temporary successes (they typically take a location at hugecost in lives and equipment and then cannot hold on to it as soon as the Syrians and Russians bomb the crap out of their newly conquered positions).

All of this is taking place while Syrian, Russian, Turkish and US patrols are regularly meeting, often in rather tense situations which could quickly escalate into a firefight or, even worse, an open battle. There is also the risk of an incident in the air since these four nations also conduct air operations over Syria. And, just like in the case of the ground operations, Syrian and Russian air operations are legal under international law, Turkish, US or Israeli operations are not and constitute an act of “aggression” (n.b: the highest crime under international law).

So far, the various negotiations between the parties have not yielded any result. This might change on March 5th when a conference on Syria attended by Turkey, Russia, France and Germany will meet (probably in Istanbul) to try to find a negotiated solution. Considering that Turkish soldiers are killed every day and already that 2 Syrian helicopters have been shot down, this might be too late to avoid an escalation.

I will conclude here by posting a (minimally corrected) machine translation of a Russian translation of a text originally written by a Turkish political commentator and translated into Russian by a Telegram channel: (emphasis added)

Russia’s strategy from the very beginning was to return full control of Syrian territories to Assad. And Moscow was implementing its plans, getting closer to the goal step by step. As long as Damascus will not take Idlib, the operation will continue. You don’t need to be an expert in this field to understand this. This is obvious. Someone says that Erdogan’s trip to Ukraine played a role in the offensive operations of Damascus. In fact, this visit is the result of the Syrian army’s offensive. The Turkish President went to Kiev just after tensions rose between the Turkish armed forces and the Russian side. Erdogan is in Ukraine made statements that have caused irritation in Moscow.

Turkish diplomacy was at an impasse. We discussed for a long time that you can’t put all your eggs in one Russian basket. And they said: we will buy the S-400, build a nuclear power plant, and develop tourism. And Putin was made a hero in our country. And now the defense Secretary is talking about buying American patriot air defense systems. And the President is talking about acquiring Patriot. “We did not succeed with Russia, we will get closer to the United States” – this is not how foreign policy is done. We need consistency in foreign policy. It is not appropriate for a country with a strong military power to change sides between world powers once a week.

What we are still discussing these days: we need to get closer to Europe and the US against Russia. These discussions worry our entrepreneurs who work with Russia. The tourism sector is concerned. Without Russian tourists, our tourism sector cannot fill all the volumes and make a profit. We have not yet been able to resolve these issues, and we are discussing a clash with Russia. Let’s remember what happened after Turkey shot down a Russian plane. Our tourism sector could not recover for two years. What to expect from a military clash. We have to talk about it.

The goal of our state: to live in peace on our land, and keep all the troubles away from yourself, while doing this to attract new troubles – this is not an indicator of a good military strategy or a well-thought-out diplomatic strategy. Everyone should understand this.

The risk for Erdogan is obvious: in case of a serious confrontation with Russia (and Syria AND Iran, don’t forget them!), the consequences for Turkey might be severe, resulting in a sharp rise in anti-Erdogan feelings in Turkey, something he can hardly afford.

And that brings us to the current US/NATO/CENTCOM posture following the assassination of General Soleimani I mentioned in the beginning of this article. The risks of a quick and dangerous escalation involving the US and Iran are still extremely high. The same can be said for the risks of a resumption of anti-US attacks by Iraqi Shia forces. Then there are the conflicts in both Afghanistan and Yemen, which Uncle Shmuel probably would prefer to end, but has no idea how. In these countries a rapid escalation could occur at any time, especially following Iran’s officially declared goal to kick the US out of the Middle-East. And now, there is a risk of major escalation between Turkey, Syria and Russia: such an escalation would have a major potential to suck in the US forces in the region, even if nobody does so deliberately (or if the Iranians do that very deliberately).

Right now Uncle Shmuel is busy with a strategic PSYOP trying to get Russia and Iran into a conflict (see this propaganda piece for example). That will not work, as both the Russians and the Iranians are waaaaaaay too savvy to fall for such primitive things. The US also tried to instigate riots inside Iran, but they quickly petered out (as did the rumors about the US deliberately shooting down the Ukrainian airliner).

The Middle-East is impossible to predict, it is too complex and there are too many possible factors which influence the situation. Still, my guess is that the March 5th conference, assuming it takes place, will force Erdogan to back down and re-pledge his commitment to bringing back security to the Idlib province. That is, as far as I can see, the only way for Erdogan to avoid an embarrassing military defeat with possibly very serious political consequences.

Conversely, should there be an open clash between Turkey and Syria+Russia, then I don’t see NATO intervening to back Turkey. At the most, the US/NATO can send forces to “protect” Turkey and equipment, but in both cases these would not be effective (the problems of the Turkish military are too big to be solved by such mostly symbolic actions). While some more rabid countries (Poland, Netherlands, UK and, of course, the USA) might be tempted to get a major NATO action going against Syria and, through that, against Russia, the mentally saner EU countries have exactly zero desire to end up in a war against Russia, not over the Ukraine, and not over Syria.

Thus while Erdogan is desperately trying to pit the US against Russia, this will not work, especially since this latest pro-US “zag” will only further alienate Iran (and the rest of the region). I predict that after the March 5th conference, Erdogan will be forced to resume his “friendship” with Putin and basically cave in.

If that does not happen, for whatever reason, an escalation will be pretty close to inevitable.

PS: Colonel Cassad (aka Boris Rozhin) has published on his blog an interesting article which looks at a theory which, apparently, is popular in the Middle-East and Russia. This theory says that what is taking place is a gigantic show, a deception, in which both Russia and Turkey appear to be at odds, but in reality are working hand in hand to disarm the Takfiris and exchange territory. Here are, in his opinion, the possibly indications of such a collaboration: (machine translated and minimally corrected)

  1. After some formalities, Turkey resumed joint patrols with the Russian military in Rojava, which is carried out in a routine manner.
  2. Russia has increased the quota for the supply of Turkish tomatoes to Russia despite the fact that Russia threatened to block the supply of Turkish tomatoes.
  3. US did not give Turkey patriot missile, which was described in the Turkish media referring to anonymous sources in the Turkish government. No actual support from the United States and NATO, Turkey has not received.
  4. Despite the fact that the SAA was not going to stop the offensive and continued to surround the Turkish observation points, Turkey has effectively given Assad’s carte blanche for all of February, stating that no major combat operation will be initiated before the beginning of March.
  5. The main chain of the new observation points were deployed by Turkey to the North of highway M-4. The southern direction is not actually strengthened. Attempts to cover the Kafr will Sagna or Kafr Nabl were not undertaken, although this is more important points than Nairab.
  6. The bulk of the Pro-Turkish militants were drawn to Idlib and Carmine, while the southern front was actually exposed for Assad there is a situation of maximum favour for liberation dozen cities and towns.
  7. The battle of Niravam turned into a week-long meat grinder, where the militants engaged in stupid frontal assaults against Syrian positions with heavy losses but capturing Neirab, there is virtually nothing on the operational level, they did not win – losing people and most importantly – time.
  8. The Russian and Turkish military keep all channels of communication and exchange information, including on the movement of Turkish columns. The Russian military help to supply the surrounded Turkish observational points in the rear of Assad.
  9. Moscow and Ankara have repeatedly stressed that not to seek a military conflict with each other, preferring to seek resolution of disputes through diplomatic means.

And Rozhin adds:

Why all this may be part of a backroom deal? Because such a scenario would allow Turkey to look like a defender of Idlib, which is in strong opposition to the plans of Assad and Putin. At least visually. As for Assad and Putin, they can claim to have liberated part of the Idlib province. The battle of Niravam in this logic allow Erdogan to save face before “in the interests of peace and security,” to sign a new deal with Russia with a new line of demarcation, which officially has already been discussed at negotiations in Moscow on 17-18 February. Officially, the Turks rejected it. But it’s official. And if we assume that the agreement already exists and this just fixed sight 5 March, while Assad released another piece of Idlib and the militants “An-Nusra” will be partially disposed in the battles with the SAA in Idlib and in the southern frontal attack on the front under Niranam. In favor of this version may indicate the previous experience of transactions between Russia and Turkey, when Ankara loudly growled at Assad, but de facto did not prevent the Assad regime to clean up the enclaves and win the battle for Aleppo. Against this version can play what the Turks themselves are suffering losses in manpower, and further concessions to Russia may undermine Erdogan’s positions in Idlib, so he tries to bargain.

I personally doubt this version, if only because this is a very tricky and dangerous way to get things done, and because of the many threats and even ultimatums Erdogan is constantly spewing. A more likely explanation for all of the above is that 1) the Takfiris are desperate and are running out of steam and 2) the Turks are afraid of a serious confrontation with Russia. Rozin concludes:

I think that by March 5 the question of whether there is was a secret deal or not will finally be clarified, since Erdogan’s threats are all focusing on early March, at which point he will have to either attack or chose to play the role of peacemaker, which “diplomatically” stopped the advance of Assad.

Here I can only agree with him.

SAA Continues to Liberate Every Inch from al Qaeda Terrorists

February 26, 2020 Miri Wood 

Syrian Arab Army SAA - File photo - الجيش العربي السوري
Syrian Arab Army SAA – File photo

The SAA continues to fulfill President Bashar al Assad’s promise to his people to liberate every inch of the Levantine republic from NATO-backed terrorists. On 25 February, the government announced victory over armed human pathogens in the strategic town of Kafranbul, and the villages Hass, Kafr Nabl, Ma’artamater, Ma’artasin, and Ba’arbo — all of Idlib governate.

The name Kafranbel may be familiar to US audiences, as the women-less, girl-less — al Qaeda haven Idlib, after all — would magically hold huge, perfect English-language signs to cheer American celebrities.

Additionally, the alleged founder of the CIA’s Radio Free Syria a.k.a. Kafranbel Media Center was made into a celebrity by members of Capitol Hill and the NATO think tank/charity, Atlantic Council. He was Raed Fares, convicted felon and drug addict (real estate fraud, heroin, and diazepam, “because the regime”).

crimes-against-peace
Terrorist Fares visited Congressman Royce in DC

Shockingly, the SAA discovered a workshop for manufacturing rockets shells (“bombs”) and mortars (also “bombs”) and other explosives in a former thread factory in al Muhandiseen — former because it was stolen and occupied by al Qaeda terrorists.

Also on 25 February, as the army combed through the newly liberated village of Kfarjoum (Aleppo southwestern countryside), discovered a textile factory that had been looted — equipment likely sent to Erdogan’s Turkey — and turned into a terrorist training center / weapons-making den.

SAA combing of areas newly cleaned of terrorist savages would not be complete without the military discovering another example of their rodent-like proclivity for tunnels and caves (it is amazing that parts of Syria have not turned into one big sinkhole).

The SAA also discovered underground terrorist dens and tunnels in newly liberated Talat al Nur.

Tuesday was a very busy day for the Syrian Arab Army, as a unit shot down a US-make drone for Turkish regime forces in the Dadikh neighborhood of newly liberated Saraqib, the southeastern countryside of Idlib. The drone was equipped for reconnaissance by the al Qaeda faction of Jabhat al Nusra.

SAAA
US taxpayer dollars blown up by the SAA.

The SAA has not yet identified this building. Reuters is adamant that it is the Nabd al Hayat hospital in Hass, AFP claims it as an unnamed hospital in Kafr Nabl, and NYT seems to think it is an underground hospital, also in Kafr Nabl.

syria every inch Assad
Syria President Dr. Bashar al-Assad: “Every inch of Syria will be liberated”

— Miri Wood

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ASSAD FORCES GIVE TURKISH ARMY WHIPPING IN EASTERN IDLIB

South Front

On February 20, the 2nd Army of NATO and its proxy forces once again failed to capture the village of Nayrab, eastern Idlib, from the Syrian Army. The Turkish attack involved 2 dozens of military equipment pieces, including battle tanks and artillery, over 200 Turkish soldiers and approximately 300 members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other Turkish-backed groups.

The Turkish attack started at approximately 13:00 local time under jeers of mainstream media regarding the nearing collapse of the Syrian defense and the Assad government under powerful strikes of the Turkish Army. By 14:00 local time, some Turkish supporters in twitter already concurred Aleppo city and were preparing to advance on Damascus.

However, by 17:00 it appeared that the attack died out despite the massive rocket and artillery strikes and the participation of Turkish troops united their efforts against the Syrians with al-Qaeda. Turkish-led forces, supposedly Turkish troops, even launched a MANPAD at a Russian Su-24 warplane that came to provide a close-air-support to Syrian troops. After this, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported that 2 Turkish soldiers were killed and 5 others were injured in an airstrike.

In keeping with the best traditions, the Turkish Defense Ministry a victorious statement claiming that 50 ‘Assad troops’ were killed, 2 Syrian battle tanks, 2 armoured vehicles, 2 armed pickups and a howitzer were destroyed. However, all what the Turkish side was able to demonstrate to confirm these claims were a few Hayat Tahrir al-Sham selfies from the vicinity of Nayrab. Turkish state media immediately declared that Turkish forces did not want to capture the village and just sent a message to the oppressive Assad regime.

After this, the mighty Turkish Army requested Patriots systems from the United States in order to deter the Assad aggression in Idlib. There are two explanations:

  • Ankara apparently missed news that Patriots deployed at in Saudi Arabia had repeatedly failed to protect its military infrastructure from missile and drone strikes by the Yemeni Houthis.
  • The Erdogan government would like to see troops of the United States in Idlib alongside their Turkish and al-Qaeda counterparts.

The Russian side officially confirmed that its warplanes supported the Syrian Army striking targets in Idlib. According  to it, a battle tank, 6 armoured vehicles and 5 armed pickups were destroyed. Moscow says that Turkish artillery strikes injured 4 Syrian soldiers.

February is coming to its end and the Turkish ultimatum demanding the Syrians to withdraw from the liberated areas is expiring. The inability of Turkish forces to recapture even a single village from the Syrian Army already became a powerful blow to the public image of the Erdogan government. Therefore, it’s likely that the Turkish Army will continue their attacks in Idlib paying with own blood for neo-ottoman dreams of Erdogan and its inner circle.

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رقعة الشطرنج في إدلب… وسقوط البيدق التركي

د. حسن مرهج

مستجدات عسكرية كثيرة رسمت مشهد شمال شرق سورية؛ هي مستجدات ستغيّر خارطة التحالفات السياسية ليس في سورية فحسب، بل على مستوى الإقليم، فالتطورات في شمال شرق سورية، وما تحتويه من منجزات ذهبية حققها الجيش السوري في معارك إدلب، سيكون لها معادلة ناظمة للمشهد السياسي في سورية، كما أنّ تداعيات هذه المعارك والمنجزات، ستؤثر بالمطلق على المناخ العسكري شرق الفرات وإدلب، لكن اليوم الأولوية لهندسة خارطة إدلب، فما هندسته الدولة السورية وجيشها، تردّد صداه لدى مسامع رئيس النظام التركي رجب طيب أردوغان، حيث بلغ التوتر بين سورية وحلفائها وتركيا وحلفائها مستويات مرتفعة سياسياً وعسكرياً.

خروج تركيا عن مسار تفاهمات سوتشي وبيانات أستانا، دفع سورية وروسيا على حدّ سواء لوضع حدّ للتدخلات التركية الغير مبرّرة في سورية، وتطاولها على السيادة السورية، ما يوحي بأنّ أزمة تركية ـ روسية تلوح في الأفق.

هي أزمة بدأت بوادرها على خلفية دخول أرتال عسكرية تركية إلى سورية بأعداد كبيرة، تمهيداً لصدّ تقدّم قوات الجيش السوري نحو إدلب، ومحاولة وضع العصيّ في مسيرة المنجزات العسكرية، منعاً لسيطرة الجيش السوري على آخر معاقل الفصائل الإرهابية، وبالتالي تصبح ورقة «المعارضة ذات الغطاء التركي» خارج ايّ مفاوضات مقبلة، وهذا ما يجعل تركيا تخسر ورقتها، وربما هذا ما دفعها لإدارة ظهرها لجميع الاتفاقيات التي حصلت بما فيها اتفاقية «سوتشي»، تمهيداً لخلط الأوراق من جديد، والحصول على المزيد من الوقت لكسب المزيد من النقاط.

الجيش السوري عراب المعارك في شمال سورية، وهو يتقدّم بخطى واثقة نحو إدلب، ويطلب من المسلحين ألا ينصتوا لما تقوله لهم تركيا ويدعوهم إلى إلقاء السلاح وتسوية أوضاعهم، لأنّ السيطرة على إدلب ستحصل شاء أردوغان أم أبى، ولن تنفع مجموعة أرتال عسكرية تركية من منع تقدّم الجيش السوري، لا سيما انّ روسيا أيضاً تريد دعم سورية في سيطرتها على إدلب، بعد أن استهدف المسلحون القواعد العسكرية الروسية في عدة مرات، والأهمّ أنّ تركيا ووفقاً لاتفاقية سوتشي لم تُخرِج الجماعات والفصائل المسلحة المصنّفة على لوائح الإرهاب من مدينة إدلب.

تطورات المعارك العسكرية أفضت في وقت سابق، إلى سيطرة الجيش السوري على مدينة معرة النعمان، الأمر الذي بدأ من خلاله حدوث شرخ في العلاقة الروسية التركية، فقد وصل هذا الشرخ إلى الحدّ الذي دفع بأنقرة للقول «إنّ صبرها بدأ ينفذ»، ومتهمة موسكو بانتهاك الاتفاقات التي تهدف لتوقف الصراع، علماً انّ تركيا هي من عجز عن إخراج المسلحين من مناطق خفض التصعيد، وهي من أعطى الضوء الأخضر لاستهداف الجيش السوري، بما يخالف بنود الاتفاق.

المزاعم التي تسوقها تركيا عقب منجزات الجيش السوري، تتمحور حول المخاوف من تدفق موجات جديدة من اللاجئين، على الرغم من أنّ الدولة السورية قد افتتحت معابر إنسانية، لخروج المدنيين الراغبين من مناطق إدلب، لكن الفصائل الإرهابية المدعومة تركياً، منعت المدنيين من الخروج، حتى باتوا دروعاً بشرية، يتمّ استثمارهم سياسياً.

المزاعم التركية تعاظمت عند استمرار تقدّم الجيش السوري، وقضمه المزيد من المناطق، وسيطرته على غالبية الطرق الدولية، الأمر الذي بات بحكم الأمر الواقع، فقد أعلن الجيش السوري مضيّه في ملاحقة ما تبقى من التنظيمات الإرهابية، إلى أن يتمّ تطهير كامل التراب السوري من رجس الإرهاب.

من جهتها انتقدت روسيا تصريحات الرئيس التركي رجب طيب أردوغان حول إدلب، مشدّدة على أنها تفي بكامل التزاماتها بموجب اتفاق سوتشي. وقال المتحدث باسم الرئاسة الروسية ديمتري بيسكوف، إنّ «الهجمات الإرهابية المستمرة بإدلب تشكل مصدر قلق عميق لموسكو».

ورداً على طلب التعليق على تصريحات أردوغان، التي أعلن فيها أنّ روسيا لا تفي بالتزاماتها بموجب اتفاق إدلب، أجاب بيسكوف خلال حديث مع الصحافيين: «لا نوافق على ذلك، روسيا تنفذ التزاماتها بالكامل بموجب اتفاقات سوتشي فيما يتعلق بمنطقة إدلب».

الدولة السورية كان لها رأيها في ما يخصّ التدخل العسكري التركي المباشر في سورية، حيث أكد نائب وزير الخارجية السوري فيصل المقداد، أنّ ممارسات تركيا تتناقض بشكل صارخ مع مسار أستانا واتفاقات سوتشي، وما أجمعت عليه الدول الضامنة لإنهاء الأزمة السورية.

إنّ ما يحدث من تصعيد من قبل النظام التركي في إدلب، هو تسخين للجبهات واستفزاز ممنهج، ووفق المعطيات الحالية فإنّ الدولة السورية وحلفاءها عازمون على تحرير إدلب من بقايا الإرهاب التركي، والجيش السوري سيستهدف كلّ النقاط التركية المحاصرة، فضلاً عن استهدافه مجمل معاقل النصرة الإرهابية، فهو يدافع عن أرضه وسيادته الوطنية وفقاً للقانون الدولي، اذ لا يوجد قانون في العالم يسمح لأيّ دولة ان تعتدي على سيادة دولة أخرى، وبالتالي ما تقوم به سورية هو دفاع عن النفس، وستستمرّ فيه حتى إخراج آخر جندي تركي من الأراضي السورية.

أخبار متعلقة

Syrian Army surrounds strategic Turkish military post in Idlib: video


BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:40 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) claims they cordoned a Turkish observation point in the city of Saraqib near Idlib, a major opposition-controlled stronghold in the country.

Footage filmed on Sunday shows the observation point with the Turkish flag waving on top.

“All the observation points are completely surrounded by the Syrian Arab Army,” a Syrian soldier said.

“The Turks tried to withdraw from Tell Toqan towards Tavtanaz and Bab Al-hawa.”

The observation point was reportedly built on February 1, along with five others near Saraqib. Under the 2017 Astana agreement and the 2018 Sochi agreement, Turkey could build and maintain 12 observation posts in opposition-held territories as part of the demilitarisation process of Idlib.

The SAA has been encircling Turkish observation posts since August 2019 as it recaptured opposition-held territories.

As the Syrian government made advances in the Idlib region, regaining control of the strategic town of Saraqib after a weeks-long military offensive, a large Turkish military convoy including tanks and armoured vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria on Friday.

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IN PHOTOS: TURKISH TANKS, OTHER EQUIPMENT DESTROYED BY SYRIAN ARMY STRIKES

South Front

 10.02.2020 

What happens when you come to a neighbouring country to support terrorists there, but do not expect a military retaliation.

A series of photos showing Turkish military equipment destroyed by strikes of the Syrian Army appeared on line on February 10. The photos show at least one M60T battle tank, a M106 mortar carrier and several vehicles. The date of the photos is unknown. However, the photos were made on the road west of Saraqib, Syria’s Idlib. So, photos were likely made after the February 3 strike, when the Syrian Army killed at least 6 Turkish personnel and injured several others. The military column was trying to reach Saraqib in order to prevent its liberation from al-Qaeda-linked militants by the Syrian Army.

On February 10, the Syrian Army conducted another strike on Turkish forces in the province of Idlib. The strike was conducted in response to Turkish military support to the attack by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other radicals on the liberated town of Saraqib. After this the Turkish defense ministry claimed that 101 Syrian personnel were killed in Turkish attacks. The problem is that nobody has seen thse ‘101 Assad fighters’, while photos of the destroyed Turkish equipment are already here.

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Syrian Army Cleaned the Strategic City of Maarat Numan from NATO Terrorists

January 28, 2020 Arabi Souri

Maarat al-Numan city is liberated from NATO terrorists by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the city is the largest city in the southern countryside of Idlib province.

After the fiercest clashes with all of NATO, all of the Gulfies, and all of the evil powers on Earth supporting the human garbage of Nusra Front and its affiliates, the Syrian Arab Army proved once again they are the masters of the fight against terror. The SAA managed to neutralize dozens of NATO terrorists in the last 24 hours.

The resumption of the military campaign to clean the province of Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo from terrorists came after the last ceasefire collapsed when once again the Turkish pariah Erdogan intentionally failed to commit to his own promises by separating foreign non-moderate terrorists forming the backbone of the ‘Syrian’ opposition from the moderate head-choppers of the same opposition.

Units of the SAA are combing the streets and allies block by block and apartment by apartment for remnants of terrorists and for explosives they usually plant in every corner of the places they infest to continue to cause maximum harm and suffering among the Syrian people after they leave.

Damascus – Aleppo International Highway aka M5 artery goes right through the city connecting the political capital and most populated city of Syria with the economic capital and powerhouse Aleppo.

Maarat Numan has been infested by NATO terrorists since October 2012 and ever since has been their launchpad to carry out their terrorist attacks against other towns and cities in addition to cutting off the international highway connecting Syria’s north with its south.

NATO countries and their international stooges have tried all their best to impede the military operation to clean Maarat Numan and the rest of Idlib from their terrorists, their terrorists intensified their indiscriminate bombing of the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo, which at the time of writing this report news are coming that the NATO Front (al-Qaeda Levan) terrorists left Al Rashideen 4th neighborhood in the city, and also some NATO ‘special forces’ have sabotaged Syrian undersea oil pipelines as a way to pressure the Syrian state and also to punish the Syrian people who are in dire need of every oil drop for their daily living needs.

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SYRIAN ARMY’S CREEPING OFFENSIVE ON IDLIB. NEVERENDING CEASEFIRES EXPLAINED

South Front

A new ceasefire in the Greater Idlib region of northwestern Syria started on January 12, at 00:01 local time. The ceasefire, once again brokered by Turkey and Russia, followed a series of successful advances by pro-government forces in southern Idlib. Just a few hours after start of the ceasefire, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria) and its supposedly ‘moderate’ counterparts shelled Aleppo city, targeting the districts of Shahba, al-Khalidiyah, al-Neil, al-Sabeel and Tishreen. At least 3 civilians were killed and 5 others – injured.

Despite this, the Syrian Army halted all of its offensive operations and air and artillery bombing campaigns against militants’ military infrastructure across Greater Idlib. Now, government troops open fire only in response to attacks by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies. They, in coordination with the Russian Reconciliation Center, also opened three humanitarian corridors (Al-Hobait – in southern Idlib, Abu Duhur – in southeastern Idlid, and Al-Hadher – in southwestern Aleppo) allowing civilians to leave the militant-controlled areas. The Idlib ‘opposition’ reacted by establishing own checkpoints near the corridors and imposing an unofficial tax for every persons that want to leave.

The new ceasefire effort caused a strong negative reaction among supporters of a military solution of the Idlib militants question. They reasonably say that the peace cannot be achieved in this part of Syria as long as al-Qaeda-style groups like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham dominate there. So, if Turkish-backed ‘moderate rebels’ cannot separate from al-Qaeda, they should face a military operation. In own turn, supporters of Idlib armed groups claim the army, Russia and Iran were just scared by their military might or, another version, the ceasefire is just another form of aggression because it allows civilians to leave Idlib, thus removing ‘human shields’ from the area. However, it seems that all these are a part of the larger trend.

Since the establishment of the Idlib de-escalation zone in September 2018, there have been 3 notable army operations against radical militants:

  • The April-June 2019 offensive, when government troops liberated Kafr Nabudah town and a number of nearby villages in northwestern Hama;
  • The August offensive that led to the liberation of Khan Shaykhun and nearby areas in southern Idlib;
  • The November-December operation in southern Idlib in the framework of which around 30 villages and settlements were liberated, and the army deployed in a striking distance from Maarat al-Numan, another key militant stronghold on the M5 highway.

All of these operations ended and even were interrupted by a number of temporary ceasefires. In general, the loop looked the next way:

  • Turkey, Russia, Damascus and the Turkish-backed ‘opposition’ agree on de-escalation efforts and the separation of “terrorists” and “moderate rebels”;
  • “Moderate rebels” do not separate from “terrorists”. Attacks on army positions across the contact line continue. Leaders of Idlib militant groups claim that the ‘bloody Assad regime’ is terrified and vow to crush the regime and its supporters;
  • The army and the Russian Reconciliation Center open humanitarian corridors allowing civilians to leave Greater Idlib. Militants try to prevent this sabotaging the effort. Despite this, some people leave;
  • Government forces launch an offensive delivering a blow to militants and liberating a notable chunk of territory;
  • The ‘international community’ and mainstream media report about numerous atrocities of the army against forces of the young Idlib democracy. Turkey and Russia agree on another ceasefire. The situation repeats.

At the first look this approach looks contrary to a straight logic. It is hard to imagine that somebody believes that the real ceasefire and political settlement is possible with al-Qaeda as one of the key powerbrokers on the ground. Nonetheless, it leads to apparent results: more and more civilians are being evacuated from Idlib and the Syrian Army liberates more and more areas. During the December offensive, even Hayat Tahrir al-Sham supporters had a suspicious that something was going wrong. In these conditions the main question is that how many such ceasefires will be needed to get rid of all radicals in the region?

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KHAN SHAYKHOON LIBERATED IN FORMIDABLE PINCER MOVEMENT; ALL HAMA LIBERATED!!!

Syrian Army General Command vows to liberate all areas from terrorists

The General Command of the Army and Armed forces announces : Khan Sheikhon city and the towns and villages of Morke, Latamneh, Kafer Zeitta, Latmin, M’arkabeh, Lahaya and Kaeb al-Fars plus strategic hills are now cleansed from terrorists.

“With strong determination to achieve victory, our armed forces positioned in the north of Hama and in the south of Idleb continued to advance on the ground and to defeat armed terrorist groups holed up in the region after inflicting heavy losses upon them,”the Command’s statement said today.

It went on to say: “After intensive strikes carried out over the past days and cordoning off the northern countryside of Hama, our brave soldiers have managed to clean the following towns: Khan Sheikhoun, Morek, Latamneh, Sayad hill, mostawda’at, Wadi Anz, Wadi Asal, Kafer Zetta, Latmin, M’akrabeh, Lhaya , Fares hill, Latmin, hill, Wadi Hasmin, Wadi Qesmin and Kaeb al-Faras.”

The statement affirmed the continuity of military operations against terrorist organizations till the liberation of all areas.

It stressed that operations will go ahead to remove the huge number of landmines planted previously by terrorists in the liberated areas in order to allow civilians to return to their homes in the region as soon as possible.

Basma Qaddour

KHAN SHAYKHOON LIBERATED IN FORMIDABLE PINCER MOVEMENT; ALL HAMA LIBERATED!!!

August 23rd, 2019

للمرة الأولى منذ 2013.. الجيش السوري يستعد لإعلان حماه وريفها مدينة خالية من الإرهاب والإرهابيين (صور)

It had to happen sooner or later, the Turk plan to sever Idlib has flopped miserably.  Abu Muhammad Al-Jawlaani’s plan to create a new all-Sunni Salafist Idlib nation is now at the very bottom of the abyss.  American planners had better reckon with their own feckless plans to redefine the Middle East.  Syria has won.  Russia has won.  Iran has battered all comers in a fight of the century.  Technology, tactics and resilience marked this glorious day when the terrorists and their propagandists had to eat crow once and for all.  I hope the dish was small and tasty.

As of this morning, Damascus time, the Syrian Army, its allies and supporters, have established full hegemony over all Hama Province for the first time since 2013.  Khaan Shaykhoon, is now completely liberated.  Don’t believe any of the propagandists who tell you there are “pockets of stiff resistance” in the south of the town.  Don’t believe them.  My source in Latakia whose wife has sent me his messages says he is there and is watching as engineers defuse explosive devices left behind by the cowering enemy in Khaan Shaykhoon itself.

Here are the towns that were liberated in both Hama and Idlib as of this morning:

Khaan Shaykhoon

Al-Mawrek (Mork)

Al-Lataamina

Tallat Al-Sayyaad

Ma’aar Kabba

Waadi ‘Anz

Waadi Al-‘Asal

Kafr Zaytaa

West Lahaayaa

East Layaayaa

Tal Faas

Tal Latmeen

Waadi Husmeen

Waadi Qismayn

Ka’ab Al-Furs

I just received a report that an entire garrison of Turks has been surrounded near Al-Mawrek. With the new T-90s and their home-built Sarab 1 and 2, the Turks will find it somewhat challenging to break the siege that’s tightening around them.  It is a glorious day for the SAA.

MAP UPDATE: GOVERNMENT TROOPS FULLY LIBERATED NORTHERN HAMA POCKET

23.08.2019

Map Update: Government Troops Fully Liberated Northern Hama Pocket

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On August 23, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies fully libearated the northern Hama pocket, including the towns of Kafr Zita, Lataminah and Morek.

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Russian Warplanes Rain Hell On Idlib

South Front

March 15, 2019

On March 13, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces delivered a series of airstrikes on infrastructure of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the city of Idlib and in its southeastern countryisde. According to reports, at least 16 strikes hit weapon depots, HQs and a jail belonging to the terrorist group.

Opposition sources said that hundreds of prisoners, including dozens persons allegedly linked with the Syrian and Russian intelligence managed to escape the prison after the airstrike. Hayat Tahir al-Sham responded with a wide-scale security operation to trace and capture these people. This operation is still ongoing with varying results.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes in Idlib and said that they were coordinated with Turkey. According to the Russian side, the strikes hit depots in which the terrorist group was storing armed unnamed aerial vehicles. The eliminated UAVs were reportedly prepared for an attack on Russia’s Hmeimim airbase.

Despite comments about the coordination with Turkey, in the following days Turkish pro-government and state media released multiple reports accusing the Russians and the Assad government of causing casualties in Idlib.

On March 13, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that they had uncovered an alleged Hezbollah network in the Golan Heights. The network named by the IDF as “the Golan File” was reportedly led by Hezbollah operative Ali Musa Daqduq on the Syrian side of the contact line in order to prepare attacks on Israel.

The IDF stressed that Daqduq has been a Hezbollah member since 1983. During this period, he reportedly occupied various important posts and was even involved in an attack on a US military base in Iraq’s Karbala in 2007.

The IDF described the alleged Hezbollah network as a serious threat and threatened both Damascus and the Lebanese party with consequences.

On the same day, Israel’s ImageSat International released satellite images showing an alleged Iranian missile compound in Syria. The missiles manufacturing site is reportedly located in Safita.

Regardless of real facts besides these claims, this series of reports looks as a coordinated media campaign. According to experts, its main goal is to justify further Israeli military actions against supposed Iranian targets in Syria and to continue the militarization of the occupied Golan Heights.

What Can Follow America’s Withdrawal From Syria

December 20, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Just before Trump announced that American troops are to leave Syria “immediately”, many compatriots, friends and analysts were wondering what could be the next event that might change the course of future events in northern and eastern Syria. The first reaction to the news of Trump ordering his troops to leave Syria took many by surprise. That said, we have to wait and see if Trump does not wake up tomorrow changing his mind. The reason behind Trump’s decision to withdraw is not very important and as far as this article is concerned, it is irrelevant. If he wants to believe that he is leaving victoriously, that’s fine, for as long as he does leave. That said, the sudden resignation of Mattis clearly indicates that the former top gun does not see it with the same spectacles. Either way, the withdrawal, if it happens, may end up to be a long and protracted process that could take weeks, months and perhaps years, and the manner in which it happens opens the doors for many possibilities and contingencies.

Before Trump’s decision, there were two serious nagging and unresolved problems in Syria standing in the way of ending the war and the commencement of rebuilding the war-ravaged nation; and they were the ongoing presence of the terrorists in Idlib and the presence of American troops in the North East.

Idlib has been the sink hole of Syria, a place where all terrorists ended up. In any major battles, all the way from the battle of Al-Qusayr in 2013 to the most recent battle of Daraa in 2018, all of which ended up with terrorists defeat, negotiations ended up with militants leaving the areas in secure buses and settling in Idlib. No one really knows how many of them are there at the present moment because the overall figure includes those who were bunkered there from the beginning. The estimates run from as low as 10,000 to a high 100,000. The truth is that we don’t know. The figure could well be outside those estimates; but they have to be huge nonetheless.

Regardless of the number, they are the only terrorists left who answer to Erdogan and/or who can be manipulated by him. If they don’t, they either have to fight to death or leave. But given that all of their supply lines come from Turkey, they don’t have much of a choice but to kowtow to the Sultan. The Sultan is using his loyal “troops” as a trump card for two reasons; first of all to continue to have a de-facto military presence in government-controlled areas in Syria, and secondly and most importantly perhaps, is because he regards the terrorists as his Muslim brothers, and it is his “duty” to protect them.

This was why when Russia and Syria were making preparations to go inside Idlib and clean it up, he told them that he could achieve the same objective with negotiations and that they can leave Idlib for him to deal with. A few months later, Russia and Syria are still waiting for him to come true to his word.

So what is Erdogan exactly trying to do in northern Syria and why are Putin and Assad putting up with him?

Before Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, it was clear that Putin understands Erdogan too well. He knows that Erdogan has an Achilles Heel, two of them in fact; one in each foot. In many previous articles, I have reiterated that Erdogan is incurably both an Islamist and a Turkish nationalist; even though the ideologies are in total contradiction with each other. And even though he is cunning, calculating and prepared to wait for the right moment to act, when it comes to either nationalism or religion, he regresses into a programmed robot that is simply unable to think and act rationally; and Putin has been trying to use this weakness of Erdogan to serve his own objectives.

Erdogan wants to protect Al-Nusra in Idlib, and this is why Putin convinced Assad to leave the Idlib carrot in the hands of Erdogan, not necessarily because he believes that Erdogan will indeed deal with it in the manner that he should, but simply to present to him that Russia regards him like a credible partner.

On the other hand, the simmering tension between Ankara and Washington over the Kurdish issue has been coming to a head for a long time. Ever since America pledged support to Syrian Kurds, Erdogan, in blunt terms, has been clearly saying to his American “allies” that they must choose between Turkey and the Kurds. He has been making serious threats that he will attack Manbij and clean it up from Kurdish militants even if American troops do not leave.

Erdogan’s nationalist Achilles heel has left him in serious discord with his biggest NATO ally.

Given that the nationalist aspect of Erdogan is prepared to risk falling out with NATO and even fighting American troops in Syria just to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state south of his border, he was putting himself in the position of the former Afghani Mujahideen who were fighting their own war, and at the same time, serving another purpose for another group. With this stance, Erdogan presented that he was prepared to fight with America at any level, even militarily; because to him, the Kurdish issue was a redline that he was not prepared to see crossed.

For a while, a fair while in fact, Russia and Syria stood back and watched how the American-Turkish impasse morphed. It seemed that any potential fight would not only serve to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state, but would also end up with American withdrawal from Syria, and thus serving the objectives of both Syria and Russia.

And even though in theory it is the role and duty of Syria and her army to liberate the North-East from American presence, this course of action did not only risk a major confrontation with NATO and possible widespread bombing all over the country, but this option will also risk a direct confrontation between America and Russia on Syrian soil.

This was the only reason why Russia and Syria seemed prepared to put the resolution of the Idlib dilemma on hold. This is the only rational reason as to why they did not coerce Erdogan to rush into any quick action there before the problem of American presence has been resolved.

Knowingly or inadvertently, the American withdrawal from Syria, if it happens, will take a huge bargaining chip away from the hand of Erdogan in as far as his relationship with Russia is concerned. Erdogan will no longer be able to say to Russia that if Russia wants him to deal with America’s presence, then Russia must accept the deal with Idlib too.

In short and simple terms, the American withdrawal, if it happens, will take the decision of what happens in Idlib out of Erdogan’s hands.

The above sounds good, good for Syria, but the final outcome of this will depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is who is going to replace the American troops and how soon.

If America leaves behind a mercenary army as some speculate, fighting it will be logistically easier in the sense that it will not open the door for direct confrontation with United States army.

Depending on the pattern of withdrawal, the void generated by the retreating American troops can either be filled by the legal national Syrian Arab Army or by an invading Turkish army. But this depends on the location as well as the time table of withdrawal. If America for example leaves Deir Ezzor now, which is in the east and a couple of hundred kilometers south of Turkey’s border, the void will automatically be filled by the Syrian Army. However, if America leaves a northerly position such as Manbij, Turkey will move in before the Syrian Army will have a chance to do so. And such a scenario can spell more problems for Syria.

The problem here is more of a humanitarian nature than territorial, because sooner or later, Turkey will have to leave Syria. That said, if Turkish troops control any Syrian land, even for a short time, they will most likely declare open season on Syrian Kurds, and given Turkish history in dealing with such situations, this can be brutal.

On the other hand, if Erdogan tries to inflict a Kurdish massacre, then his Idlib carrot will turn into a stick lashing his own hide. For years, he had managed to juggle his contradictions of being a nationalist and an Islamist, but he will finally have to choose between his two alter egos. His nationalist ambition of annihilating Kurdish resistance in Syria can endanger his Muslim brothers in Idlib. His split-personality dilemma is finally coming to a head.

Would the man who was prepared to fight America if America supported a Kurdish state be also prepared to fight Russia if Russia attacked his Islamist brothers in Idlib?

Ideally, the best scenario possible for Syria and Russia, a resolution that will uphold Syria’s sovereignty and integrity all the while avert any Kurdish bloodshed, is for Syria and Russia to immediately fill in any gap created by retreating American forces. Erdogan must be kept out of Syria, and once his hands cannot reach Syrian Kurds any longer, he will no longer be able to have any say in Idlib.

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Idlib’s Rebels Unite Under Al Qaeda Banner While Syria Prepares Offensive

By Whitney Webb
Source

DAMASCUS, SYRIA – While the conflict in Syria has largely faded from the news following the Idlib demilitarization agreement primarily brokered by Russia and Turkey in mid-September, a new Syrian military report cited by Al Masdar News claims that the Syrian military is set to begin a long-anticipated, major military offensive to retake the Idlib province from rebel groups.

Though the demilitarization agreement reduced the urgency for an imminent military offensive, rebel groups within Idlib through much of October repeatedly launched significant attacks on nearby government-held areas of Syria, resulting in exchanges of fire between rebels and the Syrian Army and greatly increasing the likelihood that the demilitarization agreement will soon collapse.

As a result, the Syrian Army appears to be moving forward with the offensive it had originally planned to begin in September. In one indication of this plan, over the weekend the Syrian Army closed the Morek crossing between government and rebel-held territory after rebels shelled nearby Syrian army positions. Al Masdar noted that the closure of the crossing is “one of the first steps the Syrian military is taking to prepare for this upcoming security operation in the southeastern countryside of Idlib.”

Al Masdar further noted that the Syrian military’s Tiger Forces, currently deployed at the Abu Dhuhour Military Airport, will be leading the offensive, which has apparently been approved by Syrian and Russian military leadership.

With rebels unified in al Qaeda branch, no “moderate rebels” to protect

While the repeated attacks launched by the rebels following the ostensible “demilitarization” of the province certainly weakened the agreement, another overlooked factor that has made that agreement entirely useless is the recent announcement that all of the rebels in the Idlib province have now united under the single banner of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS is the rebel collective formerly known as al-Nusra Front, which is Syria’s al Qaeda branch.

Last Wednesday, American-born ‘journalist’ and al-Nusra Front “media man” Bilal Abdul Kareem published a video on YouTube in which he interviewed al-Nusra Front/HTS spokesman Abu Khaled. In the video, Khaled states that “all factions” within the Idlib province have now formed a “joint operations room” to plan military operations, increase military readiness, and strike any person who seeks to contact “the [Syrian] regime or its Russian cronies” with an “iron fist.” Khaled added that this cooperation includes “all factions [in Idlib] without exemption” and that this was the “first time” that all Idlib rebels had united under one banner.

Prior to this announcement, HTS/al-Nusra was the largest faction in Syria’s Idlib, with an estimated 10,000 fighters. Over the past few years, it has come to dominate much of Syria’s rebel-held territory, a fact that has even been admitted by mainstream Western media since early last year. Now, as their own spokesman has revealed, this trend has reached its fulfillment, with HTS/al-Nusra now dominating “all factions without exemption” in Syria’s Idlib.

Watch | al-Nusra (HTS) admits that all Idlib rebels now united under al-Nusra control

With all Idlib rebels now operating under the al Qaeda banner, it is no longer possible to make the assertion that the province includes “moderate rebels.” Furthermore, given that the Idlib demilitarization agreement was created with the aim of separating “moderate rebels” from groups like the al-Nusra Front, the fact that the rebel groups have instead united behind al-Nusra eliminates the agreement’s entire purpose for existing: there are no longer any “moderate rebels” in the region to protect, by the rebels’ own admission.

As a result of this development, the Syrian military’s efforts to retake the province have likely been approved by both Syrian and Russian leadership not only to halt the continuing attacks on government-held areas around Idlib but also to target a region now undeniably under the control of a terror organization.

Idlib as buffer for Syria’s U.S.-controlled, resource-rich northeast

Yet, even though HTS itself has admitted that all rebels in Idlib are now under its command, it remains to be seen how the U.S. will react to an upcoming Syrian military offensive targeting the province. Indeed, prior to the demilitarization agreement reached on September 17, the Trump administration threatened to attack Syria for “any attack” it launched against Idlib, whether or not there were allegations of chemical weapon use.

AP_18287422662841_edited.jpg
A White Helmets banner towers over a Syrian rebel checkpoint Idlib, Syria, late Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Ugur Can | DHA via AP

At the time, top U.S. government officials claimed that militants in the province are “not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” However, just a year earlier, the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Daesh, ISIS) Brett McGurk called Syria’s Idlib province “the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of al Qaeda],” immediately adding that al Qaeda’s presence in Idlib was a “huge problem” and had been so “for some time.”

It seems unlikely that the U.S. will suddenly admit that it has been protecting an al Qaeda enclave in Idlib. Indeed, the U.S. knows that if the Syrian military succeeds in driving rebels from Idlib, its next target will be the 30 percent of Syrian territory currently occupied by the U.S. in the country’s northeast. That area includes more than 90 percent of all Syria’s oil and gas potential, as well as most of its agricultural and freshwater resources.

Thus, the U.S. will likely do all it can to prevent an upcoming Syrian military offensive in Idlib, with the aim of protecting its own interests in Syria, even if it means backing a force of rebels united in their allegiance to al Qaeda.

 

 

November 5, 2018: Former US-backed Militants Switch Sides In Conflict

South Front

Former members of US-backed militant groups are joining forces with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, operating in Syria, the WSJ reported on November 1. According to the report, approximately 2,000 fighters had joined the forces and have even started receiving salaries. The WSJ claimed that it was due to losing funding from the US. However, the reason pointed out by local experts is that the US strategy in Syria had lost credit even in the eyes of some of its own proxies. In the period from 2016 to 2018, thousands of former members of militant groups had reconciled with the Damascus government. A notable part of them is now serving in the newly formed units of the Syrian military, for example the Shield of Qalamoun.

On November 3rd, US-led coalition carried out airstrikes on the ISIS-held town of Hajin in the middle Euphrates River Valley, according to the Syrian Baladi News outlet. The attacks resulted in the death of 17 civilians, including women and children. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported the airstrikes on ISIS positions, but didn’t report any casualties. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces suspended its ground operations in the area on October 31st.

On November 3rd, a UN humanitarian aid convoy consisting of dozens of trucks entered the al-Rukban refugee camp near the Syrian-Jordanian border, according to Reuters. This was the first convoy to enter the camp in 9 months. The Russian Reconciliation Center of Opposing Sides announced that a unit of the Russian Military Police and three helicopters of the Russian Aerospace Forces had escorted the convoy. The al-Rukban camp is located within the area occupied by US-led forces.

The Russian military has deployed six RHM-6 chemical reconnaissance vehicles at its observation posts near the Idlib demilitarization zone in Syria, according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov who spoke on October 31st. He commented on the possibility of new staged chemical attacks in militant-held areas, with the risk being significantly higher in the province of Aleppo.

On November 3rd, a Syrian Arab Army unit stopped an infiltration attempt of militants from Jaysh al-Izza at the southeastern side of al-Latamia town, towards a military position in the north of Hama city. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency, the military killed and injured many militants.

Furthermore, shelling by Hayat Tahir al-Sham continues in breach of the deconfliction agreement around Idlib. As reported by TASS, 2 servicemen were killed and 13 were injured in militant shelling on Syrian troops positions in the Latakia governorate and the city of Aleppo.

The YPG announced that on October 30th that it had targeted a military vehicle of the Turkish-backed Sham legion between the villages of Khezawiye and Biye in Afrin, killing 5 of its members.

The US on November 5th reimposed all pre-2015 Iran Nuclear Deal sanctions on Iran, plus additional ones. By this move, the Trump administration seeks to re-shape terms and conditions of the Iran nuclear deal as well as to impact the foreign and internal policy of Iran. This move will also have implications on the Syrian conflict creating further tensions between the US-Israeli bloc and Iranian-led forces in the war-torn country.

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«إسرائيل» تصعّد حربها الناعمة هل هي مؤشر لتهدئة ام لانفجار؟

 

نوفمبر 5, 2018

د. عصام نعمان

الصراعات على أشدّها في دول غرب آسيا، من الشواطئ الشرقية للبحر المتوسط الى الشواطئ الجنوبية لبحر قزوين. احتدامُ الصراعات يجد ترجمته في الحرب الناعمة التي تلف دول الاقليم بدرجات متفاوتة من الحدّة. فهل تصعيدها وسيلة ضغط لتوليد حاجة الى التفاوض؟ أم هي مؤشر لإنفجار ينذر بسخونة غير مسبوقة؟

ثمة صراع بين تركيا وسورية في إدلب غرباً وفي الحسكة شرقاً، أمام عيون مترقّبة ومتربّصة لأميركا وروسيا، لكسب ولاء كرد سوريين تتوزّع سياسات وممارسات قياداتهم بين انحياز بعضها الى تركيا وتحالف بعضها الآخر مع أميركا وارتباط غالبية الناس بأرضهم، وبالتالي بموطنهم ودولتهم سورية.

ثمة صراع بين أميركا ومن ورائها «إسرائيل» وإيران، أمام عيون مترقبة في عالم العرب كما في روسيا ودول أوروبا وآسيا، لتأمين مصالح شتى الدول والشعوب المتضرّرة من الحرب التجارية التي تشنّها أميركا ضدّ الجميع والعقوبات التي تخصّ بها إيران أكثر من غيرها.

ثمة صراع على الحقوق والمصالح والمصائر بين «إسرائيل» ومن ورائها أميركا وسورية وقوى المقاومة اللبنانية والفلسطينية التي تدعمها إيران علناً وروسيا ضمناً أمام عيون مترقبة في العالم أجمع.

كلٌ من هذه الصراعات مرشح لمزيد من التصعيد الهادف الى تحقيق تهدئة وبالتالي تسوية سياسية أو إلى إنفجار، وبالتالي إلى انحدار من حال حربٍ ناعمة محتدمة إلى أخرى ساخنة محتملة.

أشدُّ الحروب الناعمة احتداماً وخطورة تلك التي تشنّها «إسرائيل» على الأمة عموماً، وخصوصاً على سورية وإيران وعلى قوى المقاومة العربية التي تجد نفسها في خندق واحد معهما. هذه الحرب جرى تصعيدها بإعتداء «إسرائيل» على سورية وتسبّبها بإسقاط طائرة استطلاع روسية منتصفَ شهر ايلول/ سبتمبر الماضي الأمر الذي أدّى الى قيام روسيا بترفيع قدرات الجيش السوري بتزويده منظومة دفاعٍ جوي من طراز S-300.

إذ حدّت المنظومة الدفاعية المتطورّة وآليات التحرّي والإستطلاع والتصويب الملحقة بها من هامش المناورة أمام سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي، واقترن ذلك بموقف سياسي أشدّ تصلباً، فقد اندلعت في الكيان الصهيوني مناقشة مستفيضة حول ما يمكن او يقتضي عمله لإستعادة فعالية الردع الإسرائيلي.

لعلّ أبلـغ تعبيرٍ عن المناقشة الجدّية الدائرة تجلّى في مقالتين: الاولى لـِ ايال زيسر، نائب رئيس جامعة تل ابيب، في «يسرائيل هيوم» 2018/10/28 والثانية لـِ اوفيك ريمر، الباحث في معهد دراسات الأمن القومي، «مباط عال» 2018/10/23 .

يرى زيسر، خلافاً لإدعاءات الناطقين العسكريين، ان لا عمليات لسلاح الجو الإسرائيلي في السماء السورية بعد قيام الروس بتزويد الجيش السوري منظومة S-300، وانّ روسيا لا تعتبر إيران تهديداً وانّ وجودها في سورية لا يشكّل مشكلة لها، وانّ إيران ما زالت تالياً موجودة في سورية وتتجذّر. لمواجهة هذا الواقع يدعو زيسر «إسرائيل» إلى «أن تفكر من جديد في تغيير التوجّه بالعودة الى سياسات الماضي … وأساسُها تدفيع ثمن باهظ ليس فقط للضيف إيران بل ايضاً للمضيف، أيّ بشار الأسد».

ريمر يرى أنّ حزب الله أفلح في ترسيخ معادلة ردعٍ في مواجهة «إسرائيل» بعدما نجح، باعتراف رئيس الإستخبارات العسكرية، بإقامة مشروع إنتاج صواريخ في لبنان وتحويلها الى نماذج أكثر دقة في التصويب، وبالتالي اكثر فعالية. وإذ يؤكد ريمر أنّ أسلوب الردّ الإسرائيلي في هذه المرحلة لم يؤدّ الى حمل المجتمع الدولي ولا إيران ولا لبنان على وقف مشروع حزب الله لإنتاج الصواريخ الدقيقة، فإنّ «إسرائيل» «ستضطر الى المجازفة من أجل خلق تهديد موثوق به والتلميح الى تصميمها على إزالة الخطر الاستراتيجي من خلال توجيه إنذارات تتضمّن تهديداً واضحاً بالقيام بعملية عسكرية في لبنان، أو بضربة وقائية ضدّ مواقع الإنتاج المعروفة في أراضيه مع ما يعنيه ذلك من مخاطر تصعيد يؤدّي الى مواجهة عسكرية واسعة».

زيسر وريمر يلتقيان، إذاً، على ضرورة قيام «إسرائيل» بتدفيع عدوّها، حزب الله، كما «المضيفَيْن»، لبنان وسورية، ثمناً باهظاً لإستضافته. فهل حكومة نتنياهو ورئيس أركان جيشها الجديد الجنرال افيف كوخافي في وارد اعتماد هذه «النصيحة» الخطيرة؟

ظاهر الحال يشير الى العكس. فنتنياهو ما زال حريصاً ومنشغلاً بالحصول على موعد للإجتماع ببوتين رغم تهرّب الرئيس الروسي منه بشكلٍ ملحوظ. غير انّ عدم اللقاء مع بوتين لا يمنع رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية من العمل والمناورة في مجالات أخرى. فقد أفاد تقرير تلفزيوني بثته قناة «حاداشوت» الاسرائيلية انّ الشبكات السيبرانية الإستراتيجية الإيرانية تعرّضت قبل أيام لهجوم بعد ساعات من كشف الدولة العبرية إشراكها الدانمارك في معلومات عن «مؤامرة» إيرانية للقضاء على معارضين إيرانيين على الأراضي الدانماركية ما أدّى الى قيام كوبنهاغن باستدعاء سفيرها في طهران.

التقرير التلفزيوني الإسرائيلي تساءل أيضاً: «هل تذكرون فيروس «سنكسنت» الذي اخترق حواسيب الكومبيوتر القطاع النووي الإيراني؟» وكان الجنرال سردار غلام زاده جلالي، رئيس وكالة الدفاع المدني في إيران، صرّح بأنّ بلاده عطّلت نسخة جديدة من «سنكسنت». وقبل ذلك، أقرّ الجنرال جلالي بأن هاتف الرئيس حسن روحاني تعرّض للتنصت وانه جرى تزويده هاتفاً لا يمكن التنصت عليه.

ترى، هل استجابت القيادة السياسية والعسكرية الإسرائيلية لدعوة زيسر وريمر الى شنّ ضربة وقائية ضدّ أعداء «إسرائيل»؟ ام هل تراها قامت بتصعيد حربها الناعمة المحسوبة على نحوٍ قابلٍ للتحويل إلى تهدئة أو إلى انفجار؟

ربما، لكن من الواضح انّ الضربة السيبرانية الاسرائيلية جاءت محدودة الفعالية بدليل انّ إيران واجهتها دونما أضرار تذكر، وإلاّ لكانت تل أبيب تغنّت بها بضجيجٍ وصخب…

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FAKED CONCERN: HALEY & CORPORATE MEDIA BLEATING ABOUT IDLIB CIVILIANS, IGNORE TERRORISTS’ PRESENCE

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Partisangirl’s tweet here

Nikki Haley, the hypocritical US Ambassador to the UN, mistakenly thinks she can dictate – from New York City, far from the terrorists which her country supports – that the Syrian army cannot fight and eradicate al-Qaeda in Idlib.

Her, and other American figures’ words, come with faked concern over the lives of Syrian civilians.

This is particularly ironic given that the US-led coalition, illegally in Syria, destroyed the Syrian city of Raqqa and killed untold numbers of civilians along the way, in their fake fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) – a pretext which has only time and again strengthened IS in Syria. Raqqa remains uninhabitable, and even today corpses are still being unearthed.

Haley and the Western corporate media have been bleating in chorus about Idlib and the civilians there, deliberately ignoring the presence of Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists occupying the governorate and surrounding areas in Aleppo and Hama governorates.

They ignore, too, the reality of life in areas which were once occupied by these terrorists: the torture, imprisonment, maiming, assassination, and starvation endured by the civilian population at the hands of these extremists and paid mercenaries.

 

The other reality Haley and co-regime change mouthpieces whitewash is that once these areas are liberated of Al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and the myriad other extremist terrorist groups, life gets back to normal, schools reopen, cities and towns repopulate, ancient traditions resume as they have for thousands of years in this cradle of civilization.

Occupation, Liberation, Peace and Stability

With the exception of Deir ez-Zor, and smaller hamlets throughout the Syrian countryside, I’ve been to every major city and town liberated by Syria and allies from Al-Qaeda and co-terrorists. They are all now in peace, with many of the areas thriving, rebuilding, and the other areas at least in peace without the sadistic rule of terrorists.

In June 2014, I went to the old city of Homs just one month after the reconciliation deals that saw Al-Qaeda and Free Syrian Army terrorists bused out of the city. This beautiful historic old city and its ancient churches were in shambles. Some of that was due to the Syrian army fighting the terrorists, but most of it was due to the terrorists burning, looting, and booby trapping the buildings they had occupied.

Indeed, a resident of the old city, Abu Nabeel, took me around, showing me the destruction, vandalization, burning and looting that terrorists did before leaving Old Homs, including leaving bombs in residents’ homes, to inflict yet more loss of life even after the terrorists had left. But also while there in June 2014, I saw residents and youth volunteers scraping the debris, painting hopeful art on walls, beginning the rebuilding process.

Also in June 2014, two months after its liberation, I went to the ancient village of Maaloula, which had been occupied or targeted by al-Qaeda and co-terrorists from September 2013 to April 2014. They systematically destroyed, looted, burned or stole ancient relics and vandalized historic buildings. In summer 2016 and more recently in September 2018, I returned to find life pulsing during the Celebration of the Holy Cross, a nearly-1700 year old celebration interrupted only during the terrorists’ occupation of Maaloula.

In December 2015, I returned to Old Homs to find that some reconstruction had occurred. Churches were partially repaired, a school was fully rehabilitated, shops had opened, and residents were putting up Christmas decorations.

In June 2017, when I returned to Homs, I saw a city pulsing with life, and peace. That June, I also went back to Aleppo, which I’d been to four times prior to its December 2016 liberation [see: Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors,  The Villages in Aleppo Ravaged by America’s “Moderate” “Rebels”, and: Aleppo: How US & Saudi-Backed “Rebels” Target ‘Every Syrian’, November 29, 2016, Mint Press News].

I saw eastern areas that had been occupied by Al-Qaeda, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, IS and other terrorist factions. The destruction was indeed immense, as terrorists had holed up underground, including occupying schools and hospitals. The complex housing the Eye and Children’s Hospitals was turned into a headquarters for Al-Qaeda and IS, with basements turned into prisons, prisoners’ fates decided by Sharia courts of the extremists.

I returned to Aleppo in May 2018, and spent hours at the ancient Citadel, both filming peopleenjoying their time around the Citadel, and later joining them at one of the cafes encircling this historic site. Talking with Aleppo MP, Fares Shehabi, we discussed how none of this had been possible under the rule of the extremists.

Indeed, in November 2016, standing near the ruins of the Carlton Hotel, tunnel-bombed by terrorists in May 2014, and looking towards the Citadel, I was told to step back due to the risk of Al-Qaeda snipers. But the Aleppo I saw in May 2018 was likewise pulsing with life, and peace.

In media campaigns to demonize the Syrian and Russian governments, Western media mentioned al-Waer, Homs, and Madaya. But few, or none, that I’m aware of bothered to go to those places after they were restored to peace. I did, in June 2017, and unsurprisingly heard what journalists in eastern Aleppo heard when those areas were liberated: the reason they had been starving was because terrorists had stolen all the food aid that entered the town and kept it for themselves. Indeed, near a munitions workshop, I found the remnants of one such parcel, a Red Cross package. And like in eastern Aleppo, terrorists in Madaya had imprisoned civilians, and had tortured them.

When in April and May 2018 I went to various areas of eastern Ghouta, I again heard about terrorist-induced starvation. When I asked whether residents could access their farmland – as eastern Ghouta is an agricultural region – I was told that, no, they couldn’t, terrorists controlled the farmland, too, leaving them literally starving.

A few weeks ago I returned to Daraa City. I’d been there in May 2018, at a time when terrorists in Daraa al-Balad and outskirts were heavily shelling the city. At great risk, I was able to go to the state hospital, with snipers just 100 metres away from the sole route leading there. The hospital was severely damaged, with entire wards destroyed. The Children’s Hospital wing was damaged and off limits due to the proximity of terrorists roughly 50 metres away – as I would learn when I returned a few weeks ago.

In Daraa this September, there was no bombing, just the scraping of rubble as bulldozers and residents cleaned up the remnants of this foreign war on Syria.

On September 11, I went to Mhardeh, a town in northern Hama, where 13 civilians were killed by terrorists missiles targeting the town on September 7. Most of the dead were killed right away, others died slowly of critical injuries. One man lost his wife, three young children and mother to the terror attacks. He lost everything.

When I asked him how the situation of Idlib, occupied by at least 70,000 terrorists, a modest estimate – impacted him and Mhardeh, he replied that Idlib is the cause of their suffering.

The September 7 attacks on Mhardeh weren’t the first. To the contrary, the town has been relentlessly targeted for the past 7 years, its local defense commander, Simon al-Wakil, told me.

So did the Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Maan Bitar, who said: “The gunmen, the terrorists, they are in all the region of Idlib, not just Idlib city. They are also two kilometers from here (in northern Hama). We’ve received more than 7,000 missiles, rockets, and mortars these past eight years. Every time the terrorists feel they are in a critical situation, militarily speaking, from the government, they shell civilians. Nobody spoke about that. For eight years, Mhardeh town is being shelled, and civilians killed, but nobody spoke of that.”

Nearby al-Skalbiyye has also been relentlessly targeted, including with 10 Grad missiles fitted with cluster bombs, as noted by British journalist Vanessa Beeley who visited the town.

Idlib Reality: an al-Qaeda safe-haven

With the Nikki Haleys and laptop media now droning incessantly about “3 million civilians” in Idlib prone to being massacred by the Syrian and Russian armies, it’s time to reflect on a number of points.

First of all, there is no accurate figure for the number of civilians in Idlib, much less the number of terrorists. Given that when we heard the same cries before the liberation of Aleppo, with the UN itself chiming in to claim that 300,000 civilians were trapped in Aleppo’s eastern areas – the actual number was less than half that figure – we can at least be sceptical about the current claims of 300,000 in Idlib.

Moreover, among the population in Idlib, how many are terrorists? How many are being held against their will by terrorists? How many are Syrians?

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Idlib isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an established fact that even US State Department’s Special Envoy, Brett McGurk, made clear when he said: “Look, Idlib province is the largest Al-Qaeda safe-haven since 9/11. Idlib now is a huge problem, is an Al-Qaeda safe-haven right on the border with Turkey.

Yet, outlets like CNN whitewash their presence. While there are no definitive figures for the number of non-Syrians among those terrorists, it is a fact that there are extremists from around the world.

What Western leaders and media fail to address is the reign of terror the different extremist gangs inflict on Syrian civilians. This includes their kidnapping of untold numbers of civilians, particularly children.

Vanessa Beeley wrote this just weeks ago, noting that in a liberated area of eastern Idlib, she was told that over 600 children and adults had been kidnapped by “both the terrorist groups and the #WhiteHelmets” in the last 12 months there.

Further, it is from positions within Idlib governorate that terrorists continue to fire on Aleppo. So in spite of the liberation of Aleppo from these extremists, areas closest to them are routinely bombed.

Fares Shehabi tweeted in September about a rocket attack on Aleppo believed to have originated from Idlib.

In all of the areas I mentioned, the Syrian and Russian governments worked to offer amnesty and reconciliation to Syrians holding arms, and indeed these reconciliations enabled the return to peace in many of these areas.

The Syrian and Russian governments have again opened humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave Idlib, and as with corridors opened in Aleppo, terrorists have attacked the corridor, to prevent civilians from leaving. Some updates state that Syrians have been able to exit when the corridor wasn’t being targeted, and other updates note that terrorists are preventing civilians from leaving, or demanding money from civilians who want to leave.

Syria and Russia have again offered reconciliation and amnesty. It is terrorists within Idlib who refuse this, refuse a political process, and instead continue to hold civilians hostage and occupy Syrian territory.

On September 28, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, addressed media the day of a General Assembly meeting, noting the US-led destruction of both Raqqa and Mosul, Iraq, also noting that Russia and Syria prevented this in Aleppo and in Eastern Ghouta.

These are all points to keep in mind the next time Nikki Haley shrilling performs for the cameras. It is time to liberate Idlib, by military or political means, and bring peace to Syria.

By Eva Bartlett
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