Much more exciting than any COVID-19 story, for me at least, is what will shortly occur in Syria. In just a few days the ultimatum by Russia for Turkey to clear out all supported terrorists from the cease-fire zone in Idlib province ends, with little or no action to fulfill promises made by Turkey.
In the days leading up to the current shaky ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province it seems that Turkey paid and is paying a heavy price for supporting terrorism in Syria. Not only in its past manpower casualties and lost equipment but in prestige and respect, even among those it supported. Time for Turkey to get out of the way and let the Syrian government and its allies (Turkey is not one of those) finish the job they need to do in ridding Syria, all of Syria, of undesirables (including all Western and other foreign uninvited forces).
I am still weary after a late night so I will let the stories speak for themselves. The third link is from north-east Syria, not Idlib, although from a dubious source in the London based SOHR – which gets its information mainly from terrorist sources. I have seen other reports of these same actions.
About the new ceasefire agreement in Syria’s Idlib. One thing is very clear yet remains largely unstated. The war on terrorism goes on, and quite rightly so.
So if you see reports about what the press calls the ‘Assad forces’ or similar, meaning the legitimate Syrian government military, army and air force and their allies – including Russia – attacking opposition forces linked with al-Qaeda, that is quite legitimate action on their part. Terrorists are not part of the deal.
Both Russia and Turkey have renewed their declarations that the war against terrorism will still be pursued. For Turkey, of course, this means something entirely different to what everybody else will understand it to mean. Turkey does not consider the so-called ‘opposition forces’ they support, are actually terrorists. This presents something of a dilemma which in reality entirely negates any value the ceasefire agreement might otherwise have produced. The two signatories to the agreement have not agreed terms on who – which groups – actually represent the forces of terrorism. In fact they both have entirely different views on that. How can that work?
Of course, everybody who has any interest in the struggle knows this to be true. The whole ceasefire arrangement is a total sham. The best it can achieve is a temporary ‘open’ passage for any remaining innocent civilians to escape the area via the M4 buffer zone to government controlled areas of the country – if they dare, of course. Russia needs to organise ‘pick-up’ convoys to stop at various places on or near the M4 over the next several days for that purpose. It is of no use having Turkey to assist in that since I can’t see any Syrian wanting a ride to freedom in a Turkish truck. Anyone wishing to go north to Turkey can walk.
It is difficult to believe why any rational person would have created such a meaningless deal. International pressure, I guess would have supplied some sort of motivation for doing so. And a weeping Erdogan on President Putin’s shoulder would have had some impact as well I suppose. A person can only take so much of that, and he has been bleating, whining and moaning to anyone who might lend an ear for days. How can he even imagine that this lull, which at best is what it is, will be of benefit to him? Well, I suppose it gives him opportunity to build up his forces in Syria. But then, why would he after his own forces suffered heavy losses, said to be in the hundreds, in the days leading up to this arrangement. And Russia is also providing many more, mostly updated equipment I would suggest – though details have not yet been released – to assist the Syrian government in what is surely yet to come.
Hoping for a quick end and a clear-out of all foreign forces and terrorist cellar-rats from north-west Syria.
There can be no peace arising from the latest ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province.
The new Idlib ceasefire buffer zone is a purely temporary measure that can not possibly stand for any great length of time, if at all. Perhaps just long enough for all sides to lick their wounds and regather to finish the job that was in progress. There is a certain inevitability to that that the occasional patrols by Russia/Turkey along the M4 and its 6Km each side buffer zone, will never be able to prevent.
I suspect that soon enough the terrorists opposing the Syrian government will not be able to contain themselves to peaceful existence (what dedicated terrorist would? these people are not ‘rebels’, moderate or otherwise), and begin combat again to annoy their sworn enemy. There are also no genuine civilians living in this area now or at least, with the lull in fighting, the few possibly remaining there will move either towards the Turkish border or into safe government controlled areas – something they have so far (the genuinely innocent among them) been prevented from doing by the controlling terrorists.
If this imposed peace lasts for more than a month or maybe even a week, I will be very surprised.
See also what The Saker has to say on this. An intelligent appraisal – and some not widely known facts.
Fresh evidence of a Russian build-up in Syria before the Putin-Erdogan talks, held yesterday.
Today, I have so far not seen a sane and balanced report of the outcome of those joint Russian/Turkey talks (so I will not share any of them at this time) but it seems that a ceasefire has been agreed. Details are short and will be important, when known.
As I have said before, the temporary nature of such a ceasefire is guaranteed, if it even takes place. The stakes are too high for any kind of compromise, and the main combatants (apart from Turkey) remain unrepresented, to make this agreement anything more than a showpiece for the parties involved.
That’s better. Some meaningful Russian ground presence, staking Syria’s claim to hard won territory. Good to see. Not only this (and the renewed presence of Russian aircraft on the Idlib front line) but Russia has taken issue with Turkish propaganda on millions of refugees fleeing Idlib to Turkey and the manufactured existence of a ‘humanitarian crisis’, as being absolute nonsense. There is no ‘humanitarian crisis’ and the staggering numbers put out by Turkey and Western media outlets (and government spokes) are figments of their deluded imaginations.
Also, it has been reported that the recently upgraded large Russian landing ship ‘Novocherkassk’ passed heavily laden (presumably with armoured vehicles) through the Bosphorus Strait yesterday on its way to the Mediterranean. The fourth Russian ship to do so in the last couple of days. It is somehow ironic that the Russian navy has to navigate Turkish waters to act as a calming deterrent presence towards that nation’s errant forces.
And it is good to see Russia getting on the front foot again.
“Russia Sends 4th Warship to Syria Amid Turkey Tensions” – The Moscow Times. Quite disappointing that The Moscow Times would use an image of an unidentifiable (to me) frigate or similar vessel to represent a Project 775 Ropucha class heavy landing ship. Never mind. I have included an image of the real thing below.
I may have been a little over-critical of Russian efforts in Syria’s Idlib. There are reports of Russian aircraft in the skies again today and Syrian forces have retaken Saraqib and are moving forward again. They have also turned back the Turkish and terrorist hordes further west, below the M4, recovering much territory lost to the terrorists over the past couple of days. But where was Russia over those crucial days?
No matter, the situation has been restored, though many Syrian lives lost as a result. And Erdogan is scuttling off to Moscow – rather than Moscow coming to him – on Thursday, to arrange some sort of deal.
The Saker puts a better light on this, though if a deal is made to allow the terrorists to occupy a buffer zone near the Turkish border, the troubles will just start up again in a few months time. There should be no buffer zone.
Also found on The Saker blog is this incisive recounting of the historical situation regarding Turkish and Syrian claims to the land south of the Taurus mountain range. A situation imposed on the region by interfering Western powers a little over a hundred years ago. Nothing changes, does it? “The Gateway To Idlib Goes Via Cilicia” – by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog
Russian Military Police are now stationed in Saraqib, ensuring peace and stability in that area and cementing it as government territory – off limits to Turkey from now on. Syria has regained full control of the M4/M5 junction and the entirety of the M5 highway.
So, Russia has come good – after a couple of worrying days. I didn’t really doubt that they would. They have put too much blood, sweat and tears into Syria to see that all destroyed. But I wish some explanation could be given by someone on what actually happened.
Has Russia gone missing in Syria? There is no mention of any Russian activity in recent days to assist its supposedly allied partner, the Syrian government, in its struggle against a Turkish invasion. Other than the sending of two missile ships of the Russian navy through the Bosphorus, that is. I don’t see what help that will provide.
The situation in Syria is thankfully at least partly described by long time sympathiser with Syria, US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, in this video which calls on the US government to stop supporting the brutal Turkish regime of Erdogan.
I don’t want to see a full scale war in Syria, that nation has suffered enough at foreign hands for far too long already, but that is what is needed, not just threats or peace talks or political settlements, to quell this Turkish expansionism.
Gabbard talk about US not getting involved in Turkey’s war with Russia. Unfortunately, at this time there is no war between Turkey and Russia.
Just where does Russia stand? And are they a reliable ally? Those questions are up in the air at the present time, and much depends on how they are answered.
As both a Russian and Syrian sympathiser myself, and a long time admirer of Vladimir Putin, it pains me to ask these questions. But this is how it looks from the outside. A response is required. A no response will be very telling.
Of course, if the only visible response is a unilateral withdrawal of the Turkish military, that will also be very telling.
I sometimes forget that there are Iranian forces and militias, including the equally noble forces of Hezbollah in Syria, fighting alongside Syrian government troops. They generally receive little credit for what they do, operating mostly independently in the background but enabling Syrian forces the space and opportunity to perform the great work they are capable of, knowing their backs are covered and the ground they take is being held by strong allies.
Up to this point Iranian forces in Syria have refrained from hitting Turkish forces helping the terrorists, targeting only terrorist groups. But they are now seeing their own troops being killed by Turkish fire. They have had enough, it seems, and any further Turkish aggression towards Iranian or Iranian backed forces will likely escalate to Turkish forces becoming targets themselves.
Syria’s allies appear to have had a gut full of being hit by those who are supposed to be fighting the common enemy.
It is about time that Russia stopped hiding behind the same thinking and began to see Turkish troops as legitimate targets also. Come on Mr Putin, time to take the gloves off. Whose side are you on here? Are you prepared to see more than four years of hard work overturned for the sake of etiquette? Have you forgotten why your forces are there?
There is a lot of disinformation going around on the conflict in Syria’s Idlib province at the moment, mostly emanating from the Turkish side.
Claims of massive Syrian casualties are unsupportable. As are claims of the destruction of Syrian chemical weapon facilities. No such facilities exist.
It is clear that the conflict has taken a turn in the last few days, with the Turkish backed terrorist forces making some gains (retaking Saraqib and surrounds), yesterday launching a massed attack to claw back some of the recent Syrian gains in southern Idlib south of the M4.
The change came, I think, following the killing of a number of Turkish troops in a single incident – troops intermingled with leading terrorist forces. The appearances are that when Russia realised this was happening, and Russia has been careful not to injure Turkish military, they have reduced their air support of Syria to limited areas away from the main struggles. Whether this is just what appears to be happening or not I am not prepared to say – because I don’t know. But even the Russian online media appear to have gone quiet recently – preferring to talk about ‘talks’ rather than actions. Maybe something big is brewing, and we are in an intermediate phase, I don’t know. Only time will tell. There are reports of a massing of Syrian reinforcements being sent to Idlib from coastal areas. It is all up in the air just now.
Erdogan has little support back in Turkey for this war and similarly from his NATO allies. But Russian support for Syria is crucial to any swift conclusion to this affair. We will have to watch carefully which way the wind blows in coming days. The Syrian government still has my unconditional 100% support for its drive to free itself from externally driven aggression. There can be no negotiation on those principles.