After a period of calm and relative stability for 18 months, following the signing of the ceasefire agreement by the Turkish and Russian sides in March 2020, Idlib recently returned to the face of the Syrian war. After this period, the confrontations between the parties in the Idlib region once again, where the city is experiencing one of the largest military build-ups in the Syrian field. Turkey has sent large military reinforcements. Artillery pieces, armor, troop carriers, and others have been spread over several points representing the Turkish side’s strengths and bases, such as Ras al-Ayn,Tel Abyad and Ain Issa area.
The Russian side did not stand idly by but also continued to mobilize at ground level in some areas, such as Mount Corner in Idlib, as well as areas east of the Euphrates near points of contact with Syrian armed factions loyal to the Turkish side, and Turkish army positioning there. Syrian and Russian forces conducted maneuvers in the town. As a result, the Syrian army has also sent reinforcements to areas of contact with terrorist and armed groups in the Idlib countryside, including armor, military machinery, and hundreds of soldiers and officers. Therefore, Idlib is experiencing extensive movements in several respects that could lead to a range of scenarios regarding the situation.
Thus, in this paper, we will take up the most recent developments regarding the Turkish-Russian conflict in Syria, and the most significant escalation on all sides, in order to come up with scenarios: the future of the rivalry and the fate of Syria.
Reading on developments in Idlib
Against the background of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sochi talks on the situation in Syria and agreement on a road map on the situation in the province. The recent meeting addressed a final and sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis, emphasizing the parties’ commitment to the Turkish-Russian Agreement on the Situation in the North-East of the country, with regard to ending the presence of armed terrorist organizations , which Turkey classifies as terrorist regimes in the region , and affirming its full commitment to the outcome of these talks , affirming its commitment to output. In addition to supporting bilateral relations between the two countries at the commercial level, and supporting the trend towards cooperation at the military level, Sochi talk 2018 also discussed recent discussions on the regional crisis file, which included Afghanistan, Libya, and the situation in the Azerbaijani-Armenian tention areas.
This step is important in resolving the Turkish-Russian conflict in Syria, but Syria’s military muster confirms that a summit has been held. Putin, Erdogan, ended without a new agreement on the situation in Syria, but only with assurances on the previous agreements between the two parties. This does not mean that either party assigns the pre-established agreements, especially the Russian side’s emphasis on the need to separate the extremist and moderate opposition, and to establish the safe passage around the international route, which means that the Russian side will resolve the situation and give the Turkish side a greater chance to implement what it has committed. In his meeting with the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out that the sooner Turkey will eliminate terrorist organizations, the better the situation will be, which confirms that the recent talks are a confirmation of what has already been committed.
This formula was reflected in the Russian tactics adopted before any offensive operation within Syrian territory. We are talking about extremist and armed organizations in Syria and the need to eliminate them urgently as part of a sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis.
What is the consequences of the situation in Idlib?
Scenario one: Trend towards limited escalation
This scenario leads to the possibility of limited escalation between the two sides, by pushing Russian forces to control areas of influence of opposing factions, so that there is no direct clash with Turkish forces to maintain Russia’s goal not to escalate hostility with the Turkish side. This escalation may, in these cases, enable Russia to impose a view on the Idlib file, with some withdrawal concessions from some areas so that they do not appear to be unique in the solution in Idlib.
While some concessions have been made regarding withdrawal from certain areas so that they do not appear to be unique to the solution in Idlib, this scenario may lead to the denial of joint confrontations between Russian and Turkish forces, but unlikely in the middle of the deteriorating internal Turkish situation as a result of the interventions in Syria and their reflection on the economic situation, but this scenario is considered to be the closest to verification, confirmed by skirmishes and movements between the two parties.
Scenario 2: A Large-Scale Military Clash
The situation in the north could lead to a large-scale military clash between the two sides, whereby Russia would launch an attack on the entire areas of Idlib to clear the city of armed and terrorist factions, which would lead to joint confrontations with the Turkish army, resulting in its full control of the areas of Idlib, which will force Turkey to respond to its demands, impose its view on the Syrian crisis file. This scenario is one of the most serious at the humanitarian and security level but could occur in the event of intensified clashes between the forces in the north.
Scenario 3: Turkey’s Concessions
This scenario would result in the Turkish authorities making concessions regarding the partial withdrawal from some areas of Idlib, urging the armed factions to clear the international road or to ease the presence in this area, but it is not a case of Turkey military build-up in the north of Syria.
Current indications of the situation in Syria illustrate the failure of the Russian-Turkish negotiations on the resolution of the Idlib file. They also indicate that the Turkish authorities have retreated their control in many areas, confined them to the overall escalation that affects their negotiating position, as well as their weak presence due to the internal economic effects of their military operations in Syria. This corresponds to Russia’s clear position on the need to resolve the crisis radically and sustainably, taking advantage of regional and international changes.