A major development in events was confirmed late last night by the Russian Defence Ministry; a 72-hour truce in the “Hostilities Reduction zone, covering large sections of the Hama and Idlib rural areas. The ferocious battles fought in the area over the past 40 days or so, have been highly costly for both sides, particularly terrorist and militant groups headed by al Nusra Front (Syria version of al Qaeda) and Jaish al Izza, both backed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The fighting has left over 1000 dead and many more wounded among hardline terror groups, and hundreds of Syrian soldiers were martyred or wounded.
The latest truce came at a crucial phase in the raging onslaught carried out by the Syrian Army, following attacks by militants against both civilian as well as military targets in the area, which was considered a breach of the agreement reached between warring parties, and sponsored by Presidents Putin of Russia and Erdogan of Turkey.
Heavy fighting erupted in north-western Hama countryside, and soon expanded to cover much larger sways of land including the first incursion and takeover by the Syrian Army of a village in rural Idlib for six years. Al Qassabiya was a major moral and military victory for SAA, whose elite units advanced into many so-far redline enemy fortifications. Battle footage clearly reveals many Turkish modern Panthera APCs and other armoured vehicles being destroyed and left burning in the battle field. It is uncertain though, whether they were carrying Turkish troops or terrorist gunmen at the time they were targeted by the Syrian Army.
As Turkish direct involvement in military operations in Syria was exposed beyond doubt, with militias backed by Ankara bragging openly about modern APCs, Turkish-made mountain motorcycles (some 800 of them) for military operations and raids in mountainous areas, and Turkish weaponry supplies including the latest 120mm mortar launcher and its range of shells.
” Turkey is launching an undeclared war against Syria”, al Maidan online news agency titled its article two days ago. “Erdogan simply can not afford to lose Idlib to the Syrian Army; Ankara’s last strong card in the Syrian war game”.
However, Turkey, given its unhidden animosity with Washington, complicated by the unfriendly cold-shoulder personal relationship between President Trump and NATO bitter ally Erdogan, can’t risk undermining an already fragile partnership with Moscow. Trust between the two partners (Putin and Erdogan) has been running at an-all-time-low following the latter’s failure to curb terrorist attacks against Russian targets, multiplied by Erdogan’s failure to honour his pledges and commitments to Putin. Losing both Russia and the USA will almost definitely spell the tragic end and a melodramatic, Shakespearian- style ‘fall from grace’ for the uncrowned neo-Ottoman Emperor.
So much is on the line for an already domestically troubled Turkish leader. Recent municipal elections have demonstrated the fragility of Erdogan’s and AKP’s once total grip on power. Losing in at least four major cities including the most strategic of all, Istanbul, which paradoxically shot Erdogan from Mayor of the city, to Prime Minister and until recently, one of the most powerful presidents ever in Turkish post- Ataturk era. The controversial S400 surface-to-air missile deal with Moscow, staunchly objected to, by Washington who threatened Ankara with dire consequences if completed; the deal is not only still going ahead, but its delivery deadline has been brought forward.
The majority of pro-Assad or pro-government population does not believe in truces with terrorists. Reasons for this attitude are many, and make a lot of sense, truce-rejectionists maintain. After every single truce between the SAA and militiamen of almost any terror group, the Syrian Army suffered heavier losses, because terrorist have been using truces to muster support, group and rearm themselves and mobilize their forces against the SAA and attack again and again.
Another reason why Syrians who have stood their ground over 8 years full of hardships and sacrifices, are positively convinced that no ordinary person can co-exist with terrorists under one national sky. Atrocities committed by ISIS, AL Nusra and other terrorist organisations, have emanated in trust left or wavering belief in giving barbarian head-choppers yet another chance to prove that they are human.
Social media sites and Syrians’ web and personal pages reflect a growing sense of despair with any peaceful end to the war against terror, along with daily calls upon the Syrian Army to resume its military operations, build on its recent advances in Hama and Idlib countryside, till the liberation of the last inch of Syrian territories.
While the Syrian Army has recently recovered the two most strategic towns in north-western Hama, namely Kfar Nabooda and Al Madeeq Castle, Turkey is quickly losing cards in Syria war game. Following a series of humiliating defeats recently suffered by Turkish-backed mercenaries and puppet militias who have lost some 20 towns, villages and governing hilltops to the SAA, Turkish hire-guns on the Syrian ground are in an increasingly bad shape; despair-stricken and fragmented with inter-factional differences as well as conflicting agendas.
Unless Erdogan pulls out an unexpected ace hidden up his sleeve, it is extremely likely to see the Syrian quagmire, which has so far swallowed up numerous world leaders and politicians over the past 8 years, devour yet another major adventurer; the last ill-fated Ottoman Sultan along with his unattained dreams.