Moscow’s decision to agree to a deal with Turkey on the Idlib problem has caused a strong reaction from all interested parties who are somehow involved in the resolution of Syrian issues.
At first it seemed that for the Kremlin this was a winning move. First, we got rid of the increased pressure from the West, which in the run-up to the operation of the Syrian Arab army and the Russian Aero Space Forces in Idlib threatened Damascus and all its allies. At the same time, his main argument was chemical weapons, which Bashar Asad allegedly intended to use with the mediation of Russia and Iran. Moscow and Tehran added fuel to this fire, arguing that the chemical attack is really planned, but the performers will be people associated with the United States and Great Britain. The Turks seemed to be very diplomatic with both those and with others, but more than that they were still facing Washington, for it was simply impossible to agree with the accusations addressed to the allied Syrian opposition. In the end, the Kremlin rid itself of this puzzle and agreed to abandon the offensive. Fine.
This seems to have reduced the degree of tension, but over time it became clear that the Russian-Turkish agreement in general does not suit anyone. Damascus at first showed restraint, but in the end, the officials nevertheless began to speak, and they didn’t say exactly what Russia needed. Promises to free “every inch” of the Syrian land once again poured in, calls began again to prepare for a swift attack on Idlib, and so on.
It all started with small and medium-sized officials, then came to the top. And the other day, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that he was completely incomprehensible whether the transaction took place or not. More likely it did not take place, as some groups “refuse to fulfill the agreement”. Further, he promised to give time to “Russian friends” to analyze the situation in the disputed province. In the final part of his speech, the Syrian minister added that Idlib would definitely return to Damascus, and if this cannot be done peacefully, then “there are other ways”. And this is not the only case when the Syrian elite criticizes the deal in Sochi.
As for the militants, they also have no joy. For them, any Russian presence in Idlib is unacceptable, in any case, various leaders of the largest opposition association, the National Liberation Front, have repeatedly stated this. And under the terms of the agreement between Ankara and Moscow, the Russian and Turkish military commit to jointly patrol the demilitarized zone. The latter is completely in the control of the opposition. In general, the insurgents will at any moment refuse a deal if our military still finds itself in Idlib.
It is still more difficult with the terrorist group Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham. This is also a coalition, only of the terrorist forces and is headed by the well-known Dzhebhat an-Nusra. Its representatives immediately after the announcement of the outcome of the talks between Putin and Erdogan stated that they do not care about all these attempts at reconciliation and they will continue to do what they were doing, namely, to lead their little jihad.
After that, they repeatedly confirmed their intentions. The Turks first offered them to hand over heavy weapons, but were refused, then Ankara decided to make a knight’s move – Dzhebhat an-Nusra formally dissolved, and its members move to more moderate groups. At the same time, the leaders of the organization were guaranteed good positions in the National Liberation Front.
Some people pecked, for example, Hussam Salama – successfully migrated from one organization to another and, so to speak, legalized. However, the majority of terrorists refused such a proposal, and even those that had passed, did so, rather, with the aim of expanding the influence of Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib.
The other day, its leaders spread an interesting statement, which was supported by other groups in the region. At the very beginning, it speaks of the approval of the aspirations of the Turkish side to prevent bloodshed, but later in the text Russia emerges. Terrorists say they never forget about her deception and know her dirty intentions. In general, there is no trust, and peace with the Russian Federation is hardly possible. At the same time, it is very interesting that the phrase “Russian invader” is used in the text, which had never been encountered in the SAR before. But here it has recently been often widely heard due to the Ukrainian crisis. By the way, in Kiev, after the coup, the Syrian opposition actively sympathized, as is the custom in the political environment of the West and all other “civilized” partners.
The aforementioned Walid al-Muallem also talked about Jabbath an-Nusra. And this principle is unacceptable for Damascus, therefore, the chances of a military conflict are very high in the very near future. It turns out that the agreement failed? Russia will not be allowed into Idlib, which means that Russia have not gained any benefit from this truce. Only the Turks will get theirs. First, they may not be afraid of refugees. Secondly, they have strengthened their influence among the Syrians – the terrorists and the opposition, of course, are hated by our Damascus allies, but most of them are Syrians, therefore their opinion means a lot in Idlib. In addition, the local population also sympathizes with Ankara, although there are many of those who support Assad and the Russian Federation. Thirdly, the obligations to Damascus are not fulfilled – we persuaded him to abandon the offensive, promising that in the near future his officials would enter Idlib without war. As if such conditions are set before Turkey and the Syrian opposition. But it seems that this is impossible, because until now, even our military have no access to Idlib. What can we say about officials, especially Assad. Our source in the military leadership of the Russian Federation reports that there are indeed many questions on joint patrols with the Turks. In fact, now even negotiations on this topic are temporarily stopped. In general, the demilitarized zone has not really been created. The opposition is still located in the districts of Idlib bordering on government territories, although it should no longer be there. At the same time in some areas there are air defense systems and even tanks. Most of them belong to Turkey itself, but some are in the possession of terrorists. Recently, members of Tahrir ash-Sham participated in negotiations with representatives of Damascus about the distribution of control zones, but so far there is no data on the results. Probably nothing will come of it. Until recently, a plan of a joint Russian-Turkish strike on some gangs in Idlib, including on Dzhebhat an Nusra, was considered, but a misunderstanding also arose on this issue. It seems that Erdogan, having achieved his goal, is distancing himself from the Russian Federation and his commitments.
As for Damascus, high-ranking representatives of Bashar Assad at negotiations with Russian colleagues regularly note the ineffectiveness of the peace agreement and report on the constantly occurring clashes on the line of demarcation. For them, the priority remains a military solution to the Idlib problem. In the Russian Federation, this plan, of course, is not forgotten, and it is periodically updated due to how Turkey behaves and what kind of manipulations it makes with the opposition. But we cannot talk about a full-scale offensive in the coming months. Moreover, now the emphasis is on creating a commission to work on a new constitution. The work is moving, and the Russian Federation has the opportunity to be one of the leaders of this process, because the United States has distanced itself from it.