Air blitz on Idlib raises fears of fears of imminent assault
Sep 09, 2018, 04:25
The fate of the insurgent stronghold in and around Idlib province rests on a meeting to be held in Tehran on Friday between the leaders of Assad's supporters Russian Federation and Iran, and the rebels' ally, Turkey.
The conquest of Idlib will allow Syrian leader Bashar Assad to regain full control of the country and the Teheran summit meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is where the future of Syria is now being discussed.
Nearly three million people live in Idlib and adjacent rebel-held areas, half of whom have already been displaced from other parts of the country, the United Nations says. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib now hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).
At a meeting in Tehran on Friday, the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey failed to agree on a cease-fire to halt the violence.
Iran, Russia and Turkey all separately face sanctions from the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump.
The spokesman for the Turkish president has criticized world players for their lack of action to stop a looming offensive against the last remaining rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria.
"The Tehran summit can produce peace and reconciliation in Syria or it can deepen the mess created by endless bouts of violence mainly instigated by the Assad regime", Ilnur Cevik, a senior adviser to Erdogan, wrote in the Daily Sabah newspaper.
Aid organisations have warned that any military campaign to retake the region of almost three million people on the Turkish border could spark one of the worst humanitarian disasters in Syria's seven-year war. "That would be absurd", she told the council.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned against a "scorched earth" policy, but said "fighting terrorism in Idlib is an unavoidable".
Pro-government forces have massed on the edges of Idlib, wedged into Syria's northwest along the Turkish border.
They're outgunned by the regime, which has Russian and Iranian support.
Turkish media estimate that 60,000 Sunni jihadists are in Idlib, some 15,000 of them non-Arab foreign fighters. "We expect the Russians to abide by this agreement", Urban said.
Mr. Erdoğan has long viewed Assad as illegitimate, wrote Ms. Aydıntaşbaş, in an ECFR analysis published Thursday, so "despite a begrudging acceptance of the regime's wartime gains over the past two years, Ankara is in no mood to facilitate Assad's victory in Idlib".
Syrian civil defense members search near a burned vehicle in Hass after an airstrike southern Idlib province on September 8, 2018.
The intense air raids came a day after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a ceasefire. Russian Federation has suggested the rebels could use chemical weapons in a final battle for the rebel stronghold.
Any assault on Idlib would be "a unsafe escalation of the conflict in Syria", Haley noted.
Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive.
The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond "swiftly and vigorously" if Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in the widely expected offensive.
Although America has some 2,000 troops and outposts in Syria, Trump has said he wants to pull those forces out after the war against the Islamic State group dislodged the extremists from vast territories it once held there and in Iraq.
"The Trump administration is really at a Hail Mary moment", said Nicholas Heras, a Syria analyst and fellow at the Center for New American Security.
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