Russian Federation to brief UN Security Council on Syria´s Idlib

Sergio Conner
September 12, 2018

Beyond the risky prospect that the strikes could escalate the conflict (particularly given the Russian and Iranian presence in the country), they would also make it more hard for the United States and Russia to cooperate on a shared plan in Syria. Turkey has staked a major claim in Idlib as a way of staving off the chaos from its borders.

The U.S. first struck Syria on April 7, 2017, striking the Shayrat Airbase in Syria with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea in response to the use of chemical weapons (sarin) at Khan Shaykhun just three days earlier.

Iran and Russian Federation have backed a military campaign on Idlib involving Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, despite Turkey's pleas for a cease-fire.

Idlib province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered rebels, worn down by a succession of government victories in recent months. The three countries had failed to reach an agreement for a ceasefire, however, prompting Sweden and other nations to again warn of a "humanitarian catastrophe" should the Syria government, backed by Russian Federation, wage a military offensive on Idlib, where millions are at risk.

The United Nations has warned of a major humanitarian catastrophe if the offensive takes place in the enclave where some three million people live - about half of whom have already been displaced in the seven-year war.

People demonstrate against the regime and its ally Russian Federation, in the rebel-held city of Idlib, Sept. 7, 2018.

The operation "will clear remnants of (IS) from northeastern Syria along the Middle Euphrates River Valley toward the Syria-Iraq border", the US-led coalition said.

"We will keep the refugees in Syria for the safety of both Turkey and European countries".

Given Erdogan's strong support of the Syrian rebels and commitment to bring down the Syrian leader, Ankara fears a victorious Assad could be tempted to extract revenge on Turkey.

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Turkish reinforcements continue their buildup along the border of the Idlib enclave, with long-range artillery among the deployments with a range of 40 kilometers (25 miles). A senior security source said the army has reinforced 12 Turkish military posts inside Idlib itself. "Idlib can be defended against the regime", Selcen said.

"These are people who did not want to surrender or reconcile to the al-Assad Government and so they were corralled into Idlib Province."

Other analysts say they are not completely convinced. Turkey has bolstered the Free Syrian Army there with troops and military observation posts that were part of an earlier cease-fire agreement put in place previous year.

In Idlib, civilians and fighters have been scrambling to prepare for the looming offensive.

For the past 18 months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been cultivating a deepening relationship with Erdogan, much to the angst of Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have been working together as "guarantors" for a series of talks around ending Syria's war.

Analysts suggest Erdogan could be engaging in a high-stakes gamble, betting that Moscow and Damascus aren't ready to risk a clash with Turkey and could yet seek a last-minute diplomatic settlement over Idlib.

At a meeting in Tehran on Friday with the presidents of Russian Federation and Iran, seen as the last realistic chance to avert all-out conflict in the insurgent-held region, Erdogan failed to win a pledge of ceasefire from Assad's two main backers.

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