US, UK and French air strikes in Syria has attracted the attention of many media outlets and analysts. The US, despite Trump’s claims, has carried out a limited attack on the Middle Eastern country, but its consequences will certainly affect Trump and his allies in the near future. The issue can be analyzed from various angles.
First, the Trump’s administration’s objective in Syria was to salvage terrorist groups and takfiris. The fact is that the US has opened a special account for extremists such as ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish al-Islam, in line with the rise of the security crises in Syria and West Asia. With the defeat of terrorist groups, a significant part of the US capital and its partners in the region would have been lost, and thus the US has spared no effort to revitalize the assets.
Second, during the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump promised US citizens that his administration would cut US foreign policy costs in Western Asia and focus more on America’s internal affairs. However, Trump has proved otherwise and has taken the same path that former US president Barak Obama took (supporting the war and insecurity in Syria), and perhaps Trump has even put Obama to shame with his international expenditures. As mentioned “creation of insecurity in Syria and the West Asia region” is a major objective in US foreign policy, supported by both Democratic and Republican Parties.
In addition to America’s, Britain’s and France’s participation in the recent attacks on Syria, it also reflects the lack of rationality and reveals the dangerous game of the European partners and their American ally in Syria. Over the past five years, France and Britain, along with the US, have made every effort to overthrow the ruling system in Syria, but to no avail. Francois Hollande and Emmanuel Macron, as the former and current French presidents respectively, have done their utmost to support the terrorist groups in Syria. Paris is considered to be the main sponsor of Saudi Arabia, an Arab country that is also known as the main supporter of terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Ultimately, the United States, Britain, France, the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia will pay a very high price for the air strikes. The Oval Office and its allies have seriously miscalculated the consequences of the attacks and made security mistakes. It’s as if Washington and its partners have not learned their lesson in Syria and the West Asia region for the last five years.
First published at our partner Mehr News Agency
Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ as I Recommended
As I recommended in a post on September 10th, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan jointly announced on September 17th, “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide,” which compares to the Korean DMZ’s 4-km width. I had had in mind the Korean experience, but obviously Putin and Erdogan are much better-informed about the situation than I am, and they have chosen a DMZ that’s four to five times wider. In any case, the consequences of such a decision will be momentous, unless U.S. President Donald Trump is so determined for there to be World War III as to stop at nothing in order to force it to happen no matter what Russia does or doesn’t do.
What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops who now are occupying Idlib province of Syria will take control over that land, and will thus have the responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet: Idlib. It contains the surviving Syrian Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, including all of the ones throughout Syria who surrendered to the Syrian Army rather than be shot dead on the spot by Government forces.
For its part, the U.S. Government, backed by its allies and supported in this by high officials of the United Nations, had repeatedly threatened that if there occurs any chemical-weapons attack, or even any claimed chemical-weapons attack, inside Idlib, the U.S. and its allies will instantaneously blame the Syrian Government and bomb Syria, and will shoot down the planes of Syria and of Russia that oppose this bombing-campaign to conquer or ‘liberate’ Syria from its Government. The U.S. has announced its determination to protect what one high U.S. official — who is endorsing what Trump is doing there — “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” He admits it, but he wants to protect them from being bombed by Syria and by Russia.
During recent weeks, the U.S. military has increasingly said that even if the jihadists they’ve been assisting to assemble the materials for a chemical-weapons attack fail to carry it out or to stage one, any attempt by Syrian and Russian forces to destroy the jihadists (which the U.S. side calls ‘rebels’) in Idlib will be met with overwhelming U.S.-and-allied firepower. That would spark WW III, because whichever side — Russia or U.S. — loses in the Syrian battlefield will nuclear-blitz-attack the other side so as to have the lesser damage from the nuclear war and thus (in military terms) ‘win’ WW III, because the blitz-attack will destroy many of the opposite side’s retaliatory weapons. In a nuclear war, the first side to attack will have a considerable advantage — reducing the number of weapons the other side can launch.
If, on the other hand, the DMZ-plan works, then Turkey’s forces will be responsible for vetting any of Idlib’s residents who try to leave, in order to prohibit jihadists and their supporters from leaving. Once that task (filtering out the non-dangerous inhabitants and retaining in Idlib only the jihadists and their supporters) is done, the entire world might be consulted on whether to exterminate the remaining residents or to set them free to return to the countries from which they came or to other countries. Presumably, no country would want those ‘refugees’. That would answer the question.
America’s Arab allies, the oil monarchies such as the Sauds who own Saudi Arabia and the Thanis who own Qatar, and which have funded Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, would then be put on a spot, because if they say “Exterminate them!” then their clergy who have provided the moral imprimatur upon those families’ ownership of those nations, will either be in rebellion or else will themselves become overthrown either by their own followers or else by their monarch — overthrown from below or from above.
Alternatively, after Turkey’s forces in Idlib will have allowed release from Idlib of all who will be allowed out, Syria’s and Russia’s bombers will simply go in and slaughter the then-surrounded jihadists and take upon themselves the responsibility for that, regardless of what the leaders of the U.S. and its allied governments might say.
On the night of September 17th in Syria, there were missile-attacks “from the sea” against several Syrian cities; and those attacks could have come from either Israel’s or America’s ships, or from other U.S.-allied ships. Russian Television bannered, “Russian plane disappears from radars during Israeli attack on Syria’s Latakia – MoD” and reported:
A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at the Khmeimim Air Base “lost contact” with the aircraft on Wednesday evening, during the attack of Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MOD.
Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17. …
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province
If the missiles were authorized by President Trump, then WW III has already begun in its pre-nuclear stage. However, if the attacks were launched by Israel’s Netanyahu, and/or by France’s Macron, without U.S. authorization, then the U.S. President might respond to them by siding against that aggressor(s) (and also against what he used to call “Radical Islamic Terrorists”), so as to prevent a nuclear war.
Late on September 17th, Al Masdar News bannered “NATO warships move towards Syrian coast” and reported “The NATO flotilla cruising off the Syrian coast reportedly consists of a Dutch frigate, the De Ruyter, a Canadian frigate, the Ville de Quebec, and a Greek cruiser, the Elli.” Al Qaeda and ISIS have influential protectors.
Ultimately, the decision will be U.S. President Trump’s as to whether he is willing to subject the planet to WW III and to its following nuclear winter and consequent die-off of agriculture and of everyone, in order to ‘win’ a nuclear war, such as America’s aristocracy has especially championed since the year 2006. The nuclear-victory concept is called “Nuclear Primacy” — the use of nuclear weapons so as to win a nuclear war against Russia, instead of to prevent a nuclear war. That concept’s predecessor, the “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “M.A.D.” meta-strategy, predominated even in the U.S. until 2006. Trump will have to decide whether the purpose of America’s nuclear-weapons stockpiles is to prevent WW III, or is to win WW III.
In Russia, the purpose has always been to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent WW III. But America’s President will be the person who will make the ultimate decision on this. And Idlib might be the spark. Netanyahu or Macron might be wanting to drag the U.S. into war even against Russia, but the final decision will be Trump’s.
The ultimate question is: How far will the U.S. go in order to continue the U.S. dollar as being the overwhelmingly dominant global currency?
The meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani in Tehran
After the meeting of last April, Iranian President Rouhani, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met again in Teheran (and in Tabriz) on September 6-7, within the now usual setting of the Astana talks.
The specific aim of these last negotiations was to normalize the Syrian situation in the long term, as well as to further promote the eradication of international terrorism and the stabilization of the infra-Syrian political process and finally to create the necessary conditions for a return of Syrian displaced people and refugees abroad.
There are now innumerable peace meetings for war in Syria, which has been going on for about seven years.
In this case everything stems from the foreseeable failure of the “six-point peace plan for Syria” proposed by Kofi Annan in 2012, with the authorization of the Arab League and the United Nations.
The first point of the peace plan proposed by Annan envisaged the commitment “to work for an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people” – and here I confine myself to quoting the text, whatever it may mean.
Secondly Annan called for the commitment “to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective UN supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilise the country”. And what if sometimes weapons were needed to defend civilians?
At that juncture, the former UN Secretary-General asked the Syrian government to “immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.” What about light weapons? Another ambiguous sentence. In Annan’s six-point peace plan, however, no mention was made of the rebels’ military operations, i.e. the huge amount of at least 56 groups, including the openly or not overtly jihadist groups that even today form the large-mesh net of the “Syrian Democratic Forces”.
However, the UN Envoy who drafted the “six-point peace plan” should have sought, above all, the agreement of the “opposition” – hence of jihadists, Kurds and Isis at the same time, as well as the other “holy war” groups connected directly to the Caliphate.
Nevertheless, obviously we do not know how he could have achieved an “effective cessation of armed violence”. What should he have given in return? With which operating limits? Mystery of abstract idealism also in the very concrete field of foreign policy.
The third point of Annan’s peace plan asked to “ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by fighting”. However, how could these areas be reached? Possibly unarmed as little angels?
The fourth point urged “to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons”. Once again we cannot understand how the safe return of detained persons (1,3 million people) and displaced ones (currently 6.1 million people) can be ensured without weapons.
The fifth point urged “to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists” – journalists, who are often agents in disguise.
Finally the six point called for “respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed”.
This plan -better suited to Presbyterian Churches rather than to those who have read the classics of politics – was at the basis of the UN resolutions calling for very harsh sanctions against the Syrian regime – obviously only against the Syrian regime – in the period between 2011 and 2012. Idealistic sanctions that were reasonably and rightly blocked by Russia and China in the Security Council.
At that juncture, in April 2012, Kofi Annan definitively stepped down as UN-Arab-League mediator and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was dismantled.
Furthermore, after Annan’s failure, Obama’s Administration stated that Assad could not “reasonably” remain President of Syria.
Hence was Daesh-Isis a better option? We will never know. We know all too well, however, to what extent Saudi Arabia and other Sunni and non-Sunni countries supported Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate. At that time, Putin spoke about 14 countries that used the services of the old Isis but, for example,the then spokesman of the Caliphate, Al-Adnani, revealed in a speech of May 2014 that their “forces and Al Qaeda’s forces had been ordered not to attack the lines of communication between Iran and the Lebanon”. Not to mention the large body of evidence demonstrating the vast infiltration of Assad’ Syrian forces into the Caliphate’s jihad and the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari operations within the wide range of jihadist organizations opposing Assad.
At that juncture, both Syria and other international actors, including some jihadist resistance groups, participated in the Geneva Talks, but failed to form a transitional government with all the warring parties, which was precisely the goal of the Geneva Talks.
Hence in January 2014 the so-called Geneva II phase started, with the aim of creating the conditions for new more effective talks – and nothing else.
Nevertheless, neither the Kurds nor the various jihad groups participated in Geneva II. Not even Assad participated directly, given Obama’s warning on his staying in power.
At that point, the ISIS operations between Iraq and Syria began and, at the same time, the United States created a “global” coalition of 79 States to hit the Caliphate, in particular.
The rest of the story is well-known: the Russian Federation intervened directly in the Syrian war. Hence, in November 2015, the International Syria Support Group with twenty States and international organisations, including Iran, was established within the UN framework, with a view to drawing up a draft agreement to be submitted to the future Vienna Conference.
Here Churchill’s memorable witty remark springs to our mind: “Ambassadors should be silent in at least six different languages”.
The final proposal of the Group was included in UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254, with a “Road Map for the Peace Process in Syria and the definition of a Timetable for further Talks”.
Resolution No. 2254 envisaged a maximum period of six months for negotiations between the Ba’athist government and the opposition – without further details and specifications on the latter – hence indirectly accepting at the negotiating table the Caliphate that as many as 79 nations should fight together with the United States. It also envisaged further political elections (with which parties or lists?) within that six-month period.
In December 2015 Saudi Arabia offered to organize a High Negotiations Committee(HNC) by its own, with most of the jihadist groups operating at the time in Syria and also in Russia, as well as with the major countries of the region.
The HNC included 33 members from the following political and military opposition organizations: 9 members of the “National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces”; other members of the Kurdish National Council, who withdrew after a short lapse of time; 5 members of the “National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change”; a bunch of 13 Syrian left parties, with others that later disappeared thanks to Assad’s intelligence services and after an eventful meeting in China.
The HNC also declared that it wanted “religious and political pluralism” and, for that reason, was often hosted by the British government.
In that case the primary issue was the Syrian Kurds, who were excluded from negotiations thanks to Turkish pressure alone.
Later even Geneva III began, which immediately failed due to the Russian and Iranian military initiatives on the Syrian territory.
Finally, a new Geneva IV phase started, which hosted other talks between Bashar el Assad’s government and the aforementioned High Negotiations Committee. Nevertheless, also the Astana Talks began – an indirect series of Talks between the Syrian Ba’athist regime and Russia and later Iran and Turkey, which were anyway sponsors of the negotiations. With a range of jihadists, who participated in the talks held in Kazakhstan with unusual attention.
In the first meeting held in the capital of Kazakhstan, the Head of the HNC of the time – who was the leader of the jihadist group Jaish al-Islam – defined the Syrian government as a “terrorist entity”.
Although characterized by unimaginable offenses and insults, the Astana talks managed to reach a truce between the fighting parties.
In fact, in late October 2017, four de-escalation zones were established between the States and the Syrian jihad.
They included the city of Idlib and the surrounding countryside, in addition to the provinces of Latakia and Aleppo; the Northern Homs countryside; Eastern Ghouta and parts of Deraa and Quneitra. Almost all areas which, apart from Idlib, have already been currently conquered by the Syrian government on a permanent basis.
Hence they were zones defined by agreements – especially bilateral agreements – between Russia and the jihadist groups operating in the region.
In fact, Russia signed an agreement with the so-called “Southern Front”, so as to keep Iran out of Deraa, while Russia replaced the militia of the allied countries with its Chechen and Dagestan police.
Russia also reached a specific agreement with the jihadist group Jaish al-Tawhid, directly in Cairo – an agreement that is known to be very costly for the Russian State budget.
Meanwhile, Iran was working to strengthen its connection and communication line between Tehran, the Iraqi Shiite military areas and, finally, the Lebanon.
It is Iran’s primary project in Syria – the idea of finally closing Israel strategically, which would currently find a far more solid defence than the Syrian one in the Golan Heights and on the border of the Litani River with the Lebanon.
Therefore only Russia is currently playing its role as great broker and mediator for the whole Syria, after having de facto won on the ground.
Hence what results have the three governments reached at the last meeting in Tehran, which is, however, part and parcel of the “Astana process”?
Iranhas recorded the undoubted success of being part of the winning coalition, in Syria, together with Turkey and Russia – a highly useful relationship, just when the United States and Saudi Arabia are doing their utmost to marginalize Iran on the international scene.
The Islamic Republic of Iran wants to be part of the great and rich reconstruction program for Syria, thus ensuring its presence on the ground.
In fact, there had been various and contradictory news about the upcoming US military pressure to reduce only the Iranian presence in Syria.
Currently the United States will try to organize a harassment guerrilla warfare to keep the Russian, Iranian and Syrian forces on the ground beyond the limit; to increase the Russian, Iranian and Syrian military spending and finally create the peripheral destabilization of the new Assad’s Ba’athist State.
With or without the collaboration of old and new jihadist groups, having anyway relations with Saudi Arabia, which would like to harass Iran so as to reduce the Shiite pressure on the Houthi rebels of Yemen.
Iran was very cautious in providing significant and steady support to the Turkish government during and after Erdogan’s repression of the coup staged in August 2016 – the most vulnerable phase of the Turkish system, which is very subtle and careful, a “deep state” system built around Erdogan’s AKP Party and the Sunni destruction of the previous initiatory-Masonic-Kemalist Ergenekonsect in April 2011.
Hence any monetary, tax or political tension between Trump’s USA and Turkey, which is NATO’s second largest Army, is music toIran’ Shi’ite ears.
Another aspect to be underlined is the good and new economic relations – through the tripartite commitment in Syria – between Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are essential to create a sort of “replacement or substitution economy” during the period of the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and some European countries.
Particularly in the Iranian oil system, but also in the banking sector.
Furthermore, Erdogan wants a sound military agreement with Iran for a targeted approach on Idlib.
In Erdogan’s plans, the Turkish intelligence services (MIT) shall eliminate the Al Qaeda network in Idlib, while leaving the Sunni opposition untouched – a favour to Assad but, above all, to Iran.
Iran cannot certainly afford the destruction of its relations with the Sunni majority in Syria, which occupies precisely the territories of its future networks uniting Iran, Iraq and the Lebanon.
Just while Turkey held two US citizens and was subjected to a “money-laundering operation” through foreign operations abroad on its Lira and the new US tariffs on aluminium and steel, Erdogan played all his anti-American cards betting on the success of the Astana talks, so as to recover – to the East – the power that was now forbidden to the West.
For Assad and his Russian allies, the only way to put an end to the war is to take effective, and above all, quick action in Idlib.
An action which is, by majority, still organized by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, the Syrian faction of Al Qaeda.
As we will see at a later stage, the United States is fully opposed to the final operations on Idlib.
Russia, however, wants to attack Idlib so as to avoid keeping – on the border with Turkey – a pocket of jihadists who, by now, would immediately be out on the market for sale to the highest bidder, be it Western or Sunni.
Moreover, the liberation of the Kurdish city of Idlib would be an excellent calling card to deal with the three main Kurdish Armed Forces, which already actively cooperate with Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Hence Turkey wants to convince Russia to accept its new influence in the region, so as to conquer the city’s terrorist bases at first and later protect the inhabitants.
Conversely Russia wants to keep full control and command over the process for eradicating jihadist terrorism in Syria, which is still the necessary basis for the upcoming jihad in the Islamic republics of Southern Russia.
This is the reason why Russia has significantly increased its maritime presence on the Syrian coast.
Syria will soon accept considerable support from Russia, China, Iran and all the countries that will be at the top in the list of countries having the possibilities for investing in the deal of the century: the full reconstruction of Syrian cities and infrastructure after a bloody and ferocious war.
A deal from which the countries that have accepted an ambiguous, naive and inconsistent diktat will be excluded.
Idlib: The Final Stage through End of War
On the last week, there was a summit in Tehran failed to come up with a keen solution between Russia, Iran, and Turkey on the circumstances of Syria’s Idlib province, the final stage of the Syrian armed opposition.
A ceasefire indicated by Turkish President Erdogan was disapproved and a well-developed government offensive now seems loom, in what is anticipated to be Syria’s bloody warfare yet.
Idlib region is the final stage fence standing between the Syrian government and its military defeat against an insurgency ISIS that began seven years ago.
The northwestern area boundary Turkey was one of the four “de-escalation region” approved by Turkey, Iran, and Russian in May 2017 during the 4th Round of the Astana talks, which had been started earlier that year to seek a political resolution to Syria’s Issue.
Step by step, the three other de-escalation regions – Homs, Eastern Ghouta, and Quneitra and Deraa – were seized and secured by Syrian government forces and their allies. As Damascus grabbed back opposition-held territory, more than thousands of civilians and rebel fighters from those regions were moved to Idlib, waiting for evacuation.
During unchanged condition, the three spots are likely to come up in Idlib: A massive aggression, tremendous onslaught across the region, a protracted offensive, or disagreement among rebels followed by a settlement deal with Damascus. But whatever happens, it will be the civilians directly captured in the extremely populated region that will pay the unexpected war cost. So, the questions that come into Idlib’s spot is what countries are involved and what are their goals?
Yet, Five key actors are likely to determine what is going to be happening next in Idlib: the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran, as well as Turkey and the United States.
The President Bashar al-Assad, who has frequently declared to repeal “every inch” of Syria, is seeking a “military solution” to the conflict. His aim is to reclaim back entire control to escape having to make concessions to the Syrian opposition.
Taking whole control of Idlib would signify that the opposition has no territorial involvement or presence and as result no influence in any future negotiation process.
During the short-term, the Syrian government needs to build up control over two main highways – the M4, which links the seaport city of Latakia to Aleppo, Raqqa and oil-rich Deir Az Zor; and M5, which connects Damascus to Aleppo, and finally to the trade road to Turkey and Europe.
Tehran has no primary strategic interest in Idlib, especially since the Act of an evacuation process in the two Shia towns of Foua and Kefraya in July.
Even so, Iran partakes Damascus’ aim of removing and defeating the armed opposition and is supporting the offensive with its militias. Iran’s military support goes hand-in-hand with its efforts to impact its presence forever in Syria despite pressure and tension from the US, Israel, and Russia to withdraw.
Russia, like Damascus and Iran, also wishes Idlib seized but would prefer to have the opposition giving up and integrate into the Syrian military divisions under its control like the “Fifth Division” rather than go on in fighting.
It wishes that the size of the rebel stronghold would push Turkey, the European Union, and the US to negotiate a positive political solution, as well as give it more authority in talks on the removal of US sanctions and a resolution in Ukraine.
Turkey, For its part, Idlib’s guaranty power under the Astana agreement – is keen to stop an offensive on the region and sustain its control over it. Already hosting over three million Syrians refugee, Ankara terrifies about a serious crisis in northwest Syria would bring the influx of several refugees into its land and further tension its affected humanitarian capabilities.
At the Tehran conference, the top leaders of Turkey, Russia, and Iran declared opposing views about the way out forward in Idlib, but in a joint statement restated that the Syrian issue can only achieve a final resolution through a “negotiated political process”.
The United States, at the same time, has no mutual strategic interest in Idlib and has pointed out that it does not argue a limited offensive on Idlib. It also wants the HTS (Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), one of the two major armed group controlling Idlib) removed and has already targeted a number of its key leaders towards drone attacks.
After all, US has warned a military reaction if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons. On September 3, US President Donald Trump cautioned in a post on Twitter that al-Assad “must not carelessly attack Idlib”, adding that it would be “a serious humanitarian mistake” for Russian and Iran to “take part in this potential human tragedy”.
Washington fears about Tehran’s involvement in Syria and has notified several times that Iranian forces and militias withdraw. The Trump administration, which earlier examined a withdrawal of its boots from Northeast Syria: territory under the control of US-allied Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, has now made anticipations for their improbable stay.
Does Idlib become a ‘headquarter for extremists in Syria?
Idlib region is subdued by two main armed groups: HTS and al-Jabha al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir (the National Liberation Front, NFL).
Over the past few months, Russian officials have been informing for the removal of HTS.
“This is the final headquarter of terrorists who are attempting to figure out on the region’s status as a de-escalation region, who are willing to keep the civilian population hostage as human shields,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently.
HTS, officially named as al-Nusra Group, has an important influence and involvement in Idlib city and other areas in the province.
Al-Nusra Group emerged in 2012 as al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria but, in July 2016, it rejected its pledge of loyalty and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Last year, after it attacked other rebel groups in Idlib, it merged forces with a number of more hardline factions and named itself into to HTS.
According to some surveys, HTS has some more than 10,000 fighters in Idlib, the majority of whom are foreigner fighters. But Ahmad Abazeid, a Turkey-based Syrian analyst, says that number is an exaggeration and the fighters number only a few thousand.
Additionally to HTS, there is also the fewer and more hardline al-Hizb al-Turkestani: the Islamic Party of Turkestan made up mainly of Uighur fighters and Heras al-Din (the Guardians of Religion, a splinter of HTS).
How much estimation will chemical weapons be used in Idlib warfare?
In addition to the danger of conventional battling, civilians also face the fear of a chemical weapons attack -a call made by the United Nations, as well as several sides to the conflict.
The United States has cautioned the Syrian government repeatedly against using chemical weapons in Idlib.
As the White House stated in a statement earlier in September. “Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,”
Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told news reporters on September 7 that the US armed forces and the White House are promoting a plan with “military alternatives” in case chemical weapons are used in Idlib region.
Currently, Syrian and Russians officials have refused the US claims and suggested that “staged” chemical weapons attacks are being planned to prompt Western intervention.
While, a “diversified provocateurs, including extremists are calling themselves the White Helmets :”volunteer rescue groups operating in rebel-held parts of Syria”, who are well known for putting on chemical weapons attacks and blaming them on the Syrian government, in order to give the western countries with an excuse to finalize attacks on Syria,” Lavrov told reporters last week.
In accordance with Kabalan, these statements point out that the Syrian government might be planning to use chemical weapons.
In the previous times, he said, the government notice it necessary to use chemical weapons in some areas where conventional arms, including aerial campaigns, were not adequate to make much progress in the battlefield. In particular, the presence of underground shelters and channels has been a huge challenge to Syrian government forces.
“The only way they operate to smoke people out of the channels is by using chemical weapons. Why did al-Assad forces use chemical weapons in Ghouta – because that was the only way to win,” said Kabalan.
During the past three years, rebels have been establishing channels across Idlib’s urban areas. In the lead-up to the potential offensive, amidst expanding fears of possible chemical attacks, more channels have been dug and supported.
If Idlib falls, what is next for Syrian government?
At the Tehran summit, Russia, Iran, and Turkey called to look for a “negotiated political plan” through the Astana diplomatic trail.
Despite that, it sustains unsure what an upcoming political resolution would entail.
Russia and Iran have maintained that Assad President keeps in power. The United States, for its side, has claimed that he cannot be part of a government acceptable to all Syrians.
With the key political opposition bloc performed ineffectively in negotiating on behalf of the Syrian people, those who oppose al-Assad are left without any representation.
It is also unsure whether Syrian refugees will be able to go back again.
While Russia has encouraged and supported returns, SNHR’s Abdulghani believes those who decide to do so will not necessarily find safety back home.
“These refugees will danger detention, torture and will be subject to forced disappearances by the regime,” he said.
There is also a probability that refugees would have no homes to return to. In April, the Syrian government passed the so-called Absentee Property Law, or Law Number 10, which would give citizens 30 days to register their property with the ministry of local administration.
The constitution, which has not yet been realized could see more than 12 million displaced Syrians – either within the Syria or oversea -exposed of the rights to their property.
The move of millions and the death of at least half a million Syrians have also deepened the country’s sectarian divides.
According to Kabalan, while Syria is unlikely to have another outbreak, security will not return to the country yet.
Alternatively, Syria will observe an unstable security circumstance similar to the one in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion. Without a just political solution, Syria will destabilize arena.
To the end, the time of sending off the military strike by the Syrian-Russian army is decided by the time taken to deal with the mentioned scenarios, and all key players will just play the roles imposed on them by the Russian-American accord, this dispute is proved by CNN’s claims that Moscow informed Washington of the possibility of military attack by Russian and Syrian forces on the regions Where the US boots safeguard the militants, and Washington’s reply by warning Moscow from endangering the US military bases in Syria.
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