Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016. Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office/Handout via REUTERS
CAIRO - 8 March 2020: On March 5, Russia and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire one day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated he targets freeing East Euphrates after Idlib.
Strikes by militants backed by Turkey, which still sends troops to Syrian territories, persist against the Syrian Arab Army showing signs of continued fighting and fierce battles to come.
Writer and International Affairs Journalist at Al Ahram Ihab Omar explains to Egypt Today the aspects of the situation in Syria and speculations on its evolution.
Factors behind advances of the Syrian Arab Army
“Despite European and U.S. media support to Turkey, Russian-Western understandings took place behind the scenes. Based on those understandings, spheres of influence have been divided between Russia and the West until present. Also based on those understandings, the expansive Turkish role western Syria is no longer desired by the West. In spite of Western statements backing Turkey, Europe and the United States have agreed with Russia to dismantle Turkish influence western Syria, precisely in Idlib, and the western and middle sections of Aleppo,” Omar says.
“In light of the aforementioned, the Syrian Arab Army fully equipped by Russia, backed by Iranian militias and Russian Air Force as well as Russian military consultants running operations rooms, was able to achieve success in Idlib and that success is expected to persist in the upcoming period,” the writer adds.
Will the Syrian Arab Army hold out?
“Unfortunately, that matter is bound to international adaptations. It is true that there is Russian-Western consensus over eliminating the Turkish role western Syria but what if [Turkish President Recep Tayip] Erdogan makes a concession pertinent to Turkish sovereignty like a military base for Russia or advantages to Europe for it to import Russian gas through Turkey,” the international affairs journalist suggests.
“I estimate that the Syrian Arab Army will restore control over Idlib entirely this year, and that Erdogan’s maneuvers will fail as the West and Russia have gained enough from Turkish concessions,” Omar says.
The fate of armed groups
“Erdogan attempts to export the militants of Idlib and Aleppo to Libya; however, I estimate that southern Turkey is the prime destination of those terrorists. There is a Turkish branch of the Islamic State (IS) that came into existence there since 2015 and that will become active soon in light of the fleeing of Idlib militants,” the writer highlights.
The stance of the international community
“The United States and France want to end the sphere of influence of political Islam in Syria, particularly Idlib. There is consensus among Trump and Macron over that matter. That is why France and the United States direct the international community into ignoring what is happening in Idlib and letting the Syrian Armed Forces finish its Turkish counterpart on Syrian soil,” Omar says.
What will Turkey do about its defeat western Syria?
“Like it did about its defeat eastern Syria and northern Iraq, and after the success of the June 30 Revolution in Egypt in 2013 and the failure of its role in Yemen. Nothing but more funny statements by Erdogan,” the international affairs journalist says.
As to how realistic Turkish threats are, the writer points out, “Turkey will not be able to escalate unless it gets U.S. military support, and that is very unlikely.”
Impact on the buffer zone Turkey aims for
Turkey has been attempting since last year to create a buffer zone on Turkish and northeastern Syrian borders where one million refugees will be brought from Turkish cities to dwell in that area.
Whether the fighting in the west will have its toll on the plan or not, Omar says, “there is a Western consensus over the accomplishment of that project to inhibit the inflow of refugees to Europe.”
The fate of Eastern Syria
“The Russian-Western understandings over eastern and western Syria after the clearance of Turkish influence in Idlib are fixed. The east belongs to the United States and the west belongs to Russia, while a Turkish pocket in the northeast is allowed. That is the buffer zone,” the writer explains.
The fate of Syrian refugees in Turkey
“The Turkish society has concerns over Syrian refugees, and Turkish authorities have started to harass them. That makes it clear that Erdogan uses refugees to blackmail Europe or create a Syrian lobby in Europe that serves the agendas of Turkey and political Islam. Once the door of Europe was slammed shut in the face of Syrian refugees, their working conditions in Turkey have become miserable,” Omar clarifies.
“I estimate that Turkey will make large numbers of refugees return to Syria within a couple of years,” international affairs aspect speculates.
Impact on Libya
“Erdogan is trying in vain to make up for his political, regional and military losses in Syria, Iraq and Yemen by intervening in Libya. Yet, that intervention is very late as international parties have already drawn up the plan leaving no room for Turkey,” the writer suggests.
“Now, we see Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed mercenaries falling in Libya. In Summer, the Libyan National Army (LNA) will take over Tripoli and end Libyan division while Turkey will stand helpless,” Omar estimates.