Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Just when one thinks that the conflict in #Syria could not get any more bizarre it manages to do so. On August 19th 2019 reports emerged that a Turkish Column moving in the #Idlib Province was targeted by an airstrike by the Syrian Air Force.
By Scott Morgan
Idlib Province currently is one of the last major fronts in a conflict that seems to be in the process of conclusion. This data suggests that the backstory leading up to the incident may show that one of the most interesting alliances in recent times may be fracturing. This could lead to a future escalation instead of a conclusion.
The Turkish version of this incident was that this column en route to the Observation Post near Morek. Reports have indicated that the rebels have moved away from the area after a series of aerial bombardments. The Turkish OP was one of a dozen such facilities allowed under an agreement reached between the Governments of Turkey, Syria and Russia to prevent a large scale offensive in the province last year.
One of the most interesting parts of the accord was the provision encouraging the Turks to rein in some of the insurgent groups that have been active in the region. It is this reasoning that caused the Syrian Government to launch the airstrikes. The Turkish Column was accused of supplying the insurgents by the Syrian Government. The logic being presented makes this incident a potential harbinger of a dangerous escalation.
So if it appears that several cracks may be appearing in this relationship. Under the terms of this deal the Turks were supposed to rein in the activities of the Jihadist Groups that are operating in Idlib Province. Turkey has had its own agenda in Syria supporting several groups that were fighting to remove embattled President Assad.
Recent allegations by Moscow state that the rebels continue to fire upon areas controlled by the Government and Russian Military Installations. In the view of the Kremlin this shows that Ankara is failing to live up to their end of the bargain. One question that arises from the Russian complaints has to be just how much control or influence do the Turks have over certain groups especially Hayat Tahrir al-Sham which is the name of the former branch of Al-Qaeda that controlled vast portions of Northwest Syria during earlier phases of the conflict.
In June the Turks complained that Syrian Government Forces fired on one of their outposts which resulted in three soldiers being wounded. At the time Russia blamed the incident on Syrian Opposition Forces. The Turkish Foreign Minister stated that in his view that this was a deliberate attack.
The situation presents that it is not if another incident will occur to place more tension on this fragile agreement but when will it occur. The location of the next incident has yet to be determined but there are general ideas of who the parties are generally known not just within Syria but also in general around the world. There will be some criticism about who does what to whom in Syria but ending a protracted conflict does tend to be a tad messy and that is what Damascus, Ankara and Moscow are learning the hard way.