Idlib Front: 6 Turkish soldiers martyred, Turkey claims it killed 30-35 Syrian soldiers3 February 2020
Conflict between Turkey and the Russia-Damascus Axis escalated on Monday, as an attack by Syrian Army killed 6 Turkish soldiers, wounding 7. According to Ankara, retaliatory artillery fire killed 30-35 Syrian army personnel, which we can’t independently confirm. However, the attack is yet another signal that Assad intends to conquer the whole of Idlib Province, pushing up to half million, may be more, refugees to Turkey. Ankara is getting ready to intervene, according to several credible news reports, unless Putin convinces Assad to cease fire.
It is noteworthy that ignoring Russian air space controls, Turkey deployed F-16 fighter jets against government forces in northwestern Syria on Monday, a sharp escalation of the conflict there after six Turkish soldiers were killed by artillery strikes. To recall, last week President Erdogan warned both Putin and Assad that Turkey shall not remain silent to further advances by Syrian Army in Idlib.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said that it was maintaining suppressive fire on Syrian targets for self-defense to evacuate the dead and wounded. “The perpetrators of this hateful attack will be brought to account and our right to self-defense will be exercised in the most robust way,” the ministry said, according to New York Times.
President Erdogan’s junior coalition partner MHP leader Bahceli condemned the assault on Turkish soldiers in the harshest terms, “Using our political and diplomatic initiatives as well as our military deterrence to this end, we should make the life miserable for the enemies in Idlib and the surrounding area,” he said in a statement. “The security of the observation points and the surroundings of the Turkish Armed Forces should be ensured, and Bashar al-Assad be regretted for his bloody attack. “It is clear that Turkey is not the one who violates [cease-fire] agreement on Idlib,” Bahceli added.
According to the AREA Research survey of January, Syrian refugees are the second most important complaint of Turkish voters, with 13.5%, after economic misery and unemployment. Mr. Erdogan has a plethora of incentives to keep his cherished strategic alliance with Russia intact, but he is coming under intense public pressure “to do something about Idlib”. It is up to Putin to act next, to give Turkey something to appease Erdogan and Turkey. His spokesperson Mr. Dimitri Petkov already suggested another summit.
Putin might realize that Russia’s economic ties to Turkey such as the new Turk Stream natural gas pipeline, S-400 contracts and Akkuyu nuclear reactor are too expensive to ditch to defend Assad, but it must be remembered, Iran is Assad’s true master. Another Turkish campaign in Syria promises to be bloodier than the previous ones, as Assad’s regular army is certain to resist fiercely, while Iran, too might reconsider its cordial relationship with Turkey. Finally, with the Treasury nearly bankrupt, the military expenditures to aid al Sarraj government in Libya, defending the safe zone in East of Euphrates and now potentially an Idlib incursion could bankrupt Turkey. The opposition press is already full of rumors of new taxes and another hike to natural gas prices, which we can’t confirm.
By columnist Atilla Yesilada