Turkey’s Idlib victory

MEHMET ACET,  Wednesday 13:42, 19 September 2018

A demilitarized buffer zone will be created between the Syrian opposition and regime forces, and Turkish and Russian troops will patrol the region.

This was the most important result from the Putin/ Erdoğan summit held in Sochi the previous day.

If we are to visualize the equation in which all cards were laid on the Idlib table roughly a month ago, then this decision taken at the summit is clearly a significant achievement for Turkey.

Thanks to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's efforts during the Tehran summit on Sept. 7, the pessimistic scenarios specific to Idlib shifted into a prudent optimism atmosphere.

The 3.5 million people who reside in Idlib, the last shelter for Assad opponents, exhaled a sigh of relief following the Russian Defense Ministry’s "there will not be a military operation in Idlib" statement that was released after the Sochi summit.

Initially, an area of 1,000 square kilometers was recommended to Turkey

To appreciate the importance of the Idlib agreement for Turkey, one must evaluate the situation one month ago and observe how much progress is made.

The Damascus regime besieged the city with heavy weapons from three sides and Russia declared that the only option to prevent an operation was disarmament.

According to the information obtained from a source at the center of the Idlib negotiations, in those days a proposal was made to Turkey as follows:

"We will let you control 1,000 square kilometers right below Turkish border, but do not interfere with the rest."

I asked my source how Ankara responded:

"It was rejected,” my source said.

We can also appreciate the reasons for rejecting this proposal.

An air and land operation against Idlib would not differ from the Grozny model, the examples of which we have already seen in Aleppo and Ghouta before.

That is to say, Idlib would return to the Stone Age.

Everybody knew that other results of it would be a huge massacre and the migration of hundreds of thousands of Syrians towards Turkish border.

Erdoğan's insistence and the use of his influence on Putin most importantly prevented a grave slaughter.

After Idlib, Afrin and the Euphrates Shield area would follow

The achievements of the Sochi agreement is not limited to what is noted above.

There is one more important reason behind Ankara's resistance regarding Idlib, which closely concerns Turkey's security.

As expressed by a source who took part in the negotiations with the Russians, "If Idlib fell, then Afrin and the Euphrates Shield area would follow."

As a matter of fact, the Russians openly raised this demand in their previous meetings with their Turkish counterparts.

The Idlib agreement also protects the gains procured through the Afrin and Euphrates Shield operations.

Furthermore, the communication of demands between Putin and Erdoğan turned the Damascus regime’s desire to capture the remaining Syrian territory into a mere dream.

I asked another question to my source who took part in the negotiations between Turkey and Russia. "What is Turkey's ultimate exit strategy regarding Syria?"

Here's the answer:

"Constitution efforts will be completed, a political solution will be developed and elections will be held. Unless all these are achieved, it will not be an option for Turkish forces to withdraw from Syria.”

Who is disturbed by the Sochi agreement?

In fact, we received the answer to this question on the evening of the same day.

We all know what happened right after Erdoğan and Putin announced the framework of the agreement in front of the press.

It was evident that the attacks on the bases of regime forces in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Banias by Israel was a response to the Sochi agreement.

On top of this, in an attempt to respond to these attacks, the Syrian air defense system accidentally shot a Russian plane and killed 15 Russian soldiers.

It is very easy to clearly interpret all these incidents:

The U.S. and Western block had anticipated that the cooperation environment which was established between Turkey and Russia in the process starting from the days of Euphrates Shield to our present time would deteriorate in Idlib.

We know that they have previously struck below the belt in order to ruin this alliance.

Heightened awareness by both Turkey and Russia negated sabotage attempts.

With the Sochi agreement, their hopes were postponed.

What we were late to notice is is that the cooperation environment between the two countries has revealed to which extent this discomfort has increased.

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