More Turkish army servicemen have fallen in Idlib over the past few days as fighting intensified in the border province following the Syrian army’s recapturing of the strategic town of Saraqib along with a few other villages earlier in the week. Turkish jets have reportedly shot down 3 Syrian fighters, while over 15 state-of-the-art Turkish attack drones were shot down by Syrian air defence units so far. More importantly though, at least 4 Turkish army soldiers were captured and over 67 others were killed in heavy close-range clashes between the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters on one side and the Turkish army, al Nusra terrorists and other pro-Ankara militants on the other.
The Battle for Saraqib
Hezbollah had publicly confirmed the death of 7 of his fighters in a Turkish drone attack in Idlib during the battle for control of Saraqib which straddles both the M 5 and M4 highways linking Aleppo to the capital Damascus and the Mediterranean port city of Latakia, respectively. Erdogan’s unwavering barrage of threats prior to the important summit this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin to work out an exit of the Idlib dilemma, appear to have done very little to silence the raging guns or minimize Ankara’s heavy losses in the battlefield.
All eyes are now focused on the Russian-Turkish urgent summit planned for tomorrow, and much is hinged on the outcome of the meeting, given the failure of at least 2 previous military and security meetings in Ankara and Moscow between the two sides.
New UN Accusations Haunt Erdogan’s Proxy Militias in Syria
As Erdogan’s Idlib adventure sinks his army deeper into the Syrian quagmire, with heavy personnel and equipment losses, a new UN accusation of war crimes committed in the country by Ankara’s militia, the SNA (Syrian National Army) occupying sways of land in mainly Kurdish-controlled areas in the northern parts of Syria have surfaced this week. Matters were made even worse by Erdogan’s extremist militias fighting in Idlib, when footage of the terrorists beheading of at least 2 Syrian army soldiers ran wild on social media outlets, as well as ISIS terrorists’ badges appearing on the uniform of some proxy fighters crossing the border in Turkish military vehicles alongside Turkish soldiers.
The UN’s Special Investigative Committee in Syria claimed in a statement that the Turkish military operation in northern Syria ( launched last October under code named ‘Peace Spring’) has exacerbated the humanitarian disaster for many Syrians, and that “Ankara should bear full responsibility for war crimes perpetrated by its proxy militias”, Committee member Hani al Majali said Monday.” The Committee has strong reasons to believe that the pro-Turkish SNA militia has committed war crimes in Syria”, Majali added.
The UN Committee’s report concluded that ” should any individuals or group (that committed the reported war crimes) have done so under the supervision or leadership of Turkish forces, side criminal charges might be filed against those commanders”. The UN report also blamed the Trump administration’s decision, last October, to withdraw US forces from the area, thus increasing the number of refugees and making living conditions for those living in Kurdish-run areas, much worse.
Things got even more embarrassing for Erdogan when the Saudi terrorist leader and mentor of jihadists in Idlib, Abdullah al Muheisni appeared in a televised speech that was carried on all pro-Erdogan channels, media outlets and social media sites. Muheisni appealed to Erdogan personally: “You, the grandchildren of the Ottomans, are closest to them, (Syrians in Idlib), so answer their call.” Muheisni is a widely considered the most powerful, influential and wanted figure among extremist terror groups currently operating in Idlib.
Will Ankara Be Left Alone to Fight the Idlib Battle?
NATO is distancing itself from Erdogan’s Idlib operation, now codenamed ‘Spring Shield’, refusing to provide him with Patriot missile systems, and a fragmented internal Turkish front, given the strong opposition of the Turkish military effort in Syria by secular GHP (People’s Republican Party established by Ataturk himself in 1923), and now the right wing MHP, (National Movement Party) warning that losing the Idlib battle will end up by the Syrian army retaking the entire Iskenderun province – snatched by Turkey in 1939 in a deal with colonial France-stretching over 4800 square kilometers.
With all that in mind, let alone the rising economic, political and human cost of the war effort, will Erdogan be left alone to fight the Idlib battle, in which his defeat could spell his own and his AK party’s end once and for all? After all, Turkey is fighting a war of its own, outside its borders, an invading army on the offensive, not under attack within its own borders. Is Idlib strategically worth such cost and risk, and why? Has someone, in the West or in the East, pushed Erdogan into a trap similar to that set for (late Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein when he was encouraged to invade Kuwait in 1990? So many questions need to be answered, and the next few weeks might provide just that.