Russian fighter jets and Syrian barrel bombs pound Idlib province

Arturo Kim
September 9, 2018

Three million people are trapped in the Syrian province of Idlib. Turkey has troops and 12 observations points that ring Idlib.

A top U.S. envoy said there was "lots of evidence" that chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib.

Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia's stance that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad should be able to regain control of all of Syria. 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).

Syrian Army troops have been steadily fortifying positions along the front lines around Idlib over the past few weeks and are expected launch an all-out assault on the province in coming days.

Turkey - which has long backed some rebel groups - fears a final assault will trigger another major refugee crisis on its southern border. Chariman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford warned against a large scale Assad-forces attack in Idlib as that might lead to a humaniterian disaster.

Erdogan even tried quoting a Persian poet at Rouhani: "If you've no sympathy for human pain, the name of a human you can not retain".

"Russia is reminding Turkey it needs to stay in Russia's good graces if Turkey wants to avoid a painful catastrophe in north-west Syria", Mr Heras told Agence France-Presse.

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Iraq's state-run Sabah newspaper reported that Erdogan said the next summit will be in Russian Federation, asserting that Ankara will not spare any effort to achieve stability in the region. Idlib and its surroundings are now the only significant area where armed opposition to Damascus remains.

As for Trump's take on the reversal, Jeffrey said, "I am confident the president is on board with this". It would be nice [if they declared a cease-fire]. They remain "the biggest number of [Islamic State] and Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Syria", wrote columnist Murat Yetkın in the Hürriyet Daily News on Wednesday. "We are postured to respond".

Speaking at a major summit in Tehran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, warned his Russian and Iranian counterparts that an attack on the densely populated province would lead to a "bloodbath" and an unsustainable surge of refugees into Turkey. "So that is a scenario Turkey wants to prevent and relies on Russia's support".

Mr Putin said Russian Federation would continue its fight against "terrorists" there.

One small source of comfort is the Turkish military presence in Idlib.

Afrin is the mainly Kurdish enclave Turkish troops invaded with Russia's blessings and rebel boots in March. Renewed chaos in Idlib could potentially jeopardise such gains, and draw its proxies into the crosshairs of the Russian air force, which played decisive roles in the battles for east Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, both of which have been returned to regime control. Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Assad, while Turkey supports some of the rebels.

Western countries have promised they will strike Assad's forces if chemical weapons are used. "With millions of civilians at risk, an offensive against Idlib would be a reckless escalation". This suggests Turkey is increasingly isolated as it weighs its next move in Syria. "There are more babies in Idlib than there are terrorists and I think that should give those engaging in military action pause for thought".

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