ANALYSIS: Turkey on crash course with Russia over Syria

War is brewing between Turkish forces and the pro-Assad coalition in northeastern Syria as Turkish military casualties mount.

Yochanan Visser ,

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Reuters

While news broke that Turkey is now also trying to take over the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem after two Israeli researchers had determined that the Erdogan regime is doing the same in Arab Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, all eyes are now on what Turkey is doing in northeastern Syria.

Erdogan’s army is risking a war with the pro-Assad coalition after the Turks decided to respond to Russian Syrian shelling of Turkish military observation posts in the so-called safe zone in the attempt to take over the last remaining rebel stronghold in the Idlib Province.

This week, five Turkish soldiers died as a result of heavy shelling by the pro-Assad coalition which has already taken over a number of towns and villages in Idlib while last week Turkey lost seven soldiers and a Turkish civilian contractor.

In addition, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 9 members of Turkish-backed Islamist militias in Tal Tamr in the western al-Hasakah Governate in northeast Syria while a pro-Assad militia engaged in a firefight with US Special Forces in the same region.

In response to the death of the 12 Turks, Erdogan’s forces killed reportedly over 50 soldiers of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s army while the Turkish autocratic leader now threatens a new invasion in Syria.

Erdogan threatened that his forces will attack Assad’s troops “everywhere” if they dare to carry out more assaults on the Turks and their allies.

“If any harm comes to our soldiers in observation posts or anywhere (in Syria), I declare that we will hit (Syrian) forces everywhere regardless of the Sochi deal,” the Turkish leader said to members of his Justice and Development Party (AKA) referring to a 2018 de-escalation agreement between Russia and Turkey.

That agreement was supposed to bring stability to northeast Syria but since the pro-Assad coalition decided to attempt re-conquering the mainly Sunni Arab Idlib Province things went out of control.

“I say it publicly that no one will be safe in a place where the blood of Turkish soldiers has been wasted. The planes that bomb the civilians in Idlib will not be able to move freely, as they did in the past,” the hot-headed Turkish leader added.

Russian warplanes are taking part in the bombardments of the Turks and their allies and this could jeopardize the emerging new alliance between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member.

The tensions between Turkey and Russia caused Erdogan to hold a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday during which the two leaders agreed to improve coordination between the two armies.

Before his call with Putin, Erdogan ordered a new build-up of forces and heavy weapons along the Turkish border in northeast Syria and sent 120 units of the Turkish army armed with tanks and rocket launchers into Idlib.

This move came after a recent confrontation between the Turkish army and the Russian military in Syria when Turkish soldiers prevented a Russian military delegation from inspecting a new water project in al-Hasakah by shooting in the air.

Putin was likely aware of Erdogan’s real intentions and instructed the Russian Foreign Ministry to issue a statement on Wednesday in which a spokeswoman for the Ministry said that Turkey was “disregarding its commitments” under the Sochi deal and apparently also under the understandings between Putin and Erdogan.

But even if Putin would decide to give in to Erdogan’s demands and would order his army to stay out of the turmoil in Idlib chances are high more bloodshed will come.

The Russian President has a different agenda for Syria than Iran and it is Iran that is behind the assault on Idlib.

Iran-backed Shiite militias including Lebanese Hezbollah are doing Assad’s bidding in Idlib and carry out the major military operation that has already driven 700.000 Syrians from their homes while hundreds of civilians have been killed in the fighting.

Hezbollah and the Shiite militias have reportedly suffered heavy losses since the start of the Idlib offensive including the high-ranking Hezbollah commander Jaafar al-Sadiq.

Most of the deaths among the Shiite militias belonged to the Baqir Brigade a militia with very strong ties to the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that is providing weapons and military training to the Shiite force.

Al Haj Hamza the operational commander of the Baqir Brigade takes his orders directly from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has threatened Israel that the day will come the Iranians and Baqir will “break Israel’s borders.”

The latest news coming out of Idlib is that Turkish soldiers are firing missiles at positions of the ‘Syrian army’ while Russian warplanes continue their airstrikes on the Turkey-backed rebels in Idlib.

Waad al-Kateab a female Syrian journalist who made a movie about the Syria war and is herself a refugee from Idlib is now trying to draw attention to the tragedy in her mother country.

Al-Kateab says Syrians are left to face death alone but is pessimistic the US or any other free country will act against what Assad, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are doing in Syria.

So, while Assad is openly ignoring Erdogan’s threat to invade more parts of Syria whenever the Syrian dictator doesn’t meet the deadline for full withdrawal from Idlib at the end of February his newly found alliance with Russians is now falling apart.

Anti-Russian rhetoric in the state-controlled Turkish media is increasing while Russia has re-imposed a ban on the import of agricultural products from Turkey. All this is happening while Erdogan’s political allies at home are demanding he invades Syria to topple the Assad regime.




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