It’s time for Syria to reclaim its roads to recovery, but Turkey now seems to be standing in the way to rebuild the Arab Republic.
Everything about the slowly evolving, messy chessboard in Idlib hinges on two major highways. Fully reclaiming these two crucial axes will finally turbo-charge the ailing Syrian economy.
The imperative for the government in Damascus is to control both the M5 highway between Damascus and Aleppo and the M4 highway between Latakia and Aleppo.
Very few players nowadays remember the all-important Sochi memorandum of understanding signed between Russia and Turkey in September 2018.
The Western spin was always about whether Damascus would comply. Nonsense. In the memorandum, Ankara guaranteed protection of civilian traffic on both highways.
Now, it’s Ankara that is not complying, not only in terms of ensuring that “radical terrorist groups” are out of the demilitarized zone.
Especially on point number 8: “In the interests of ensuring free movement of local residents and goods, as well as restoring trade and economic ties, transit traffic along the routes M4 (Aleppo-Latakia) and M5 (Aleppo-Hama) will be restored before the end of 2018.
Vast stretches of Idlib are in fact under the yoke of Hayat Tahrir al Shams (HTS), shorthand for al-Qaeda in Syria. Or “moderate rebels,” as they are known inside the Beltway, even though the US regime itself branded it as a terror organization before 2018.
For all practical purposes, the Erdogan system is supporting and weaponizing HTS in Idlib. When the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reacts against HTS’s attacks, Erdogan goes ballistic and threatens war.
The West uncritically buys Ankara propaganda. How dare the “Assad regime” take back the M5, which “had been under western supported rebel (terrorist) control since 2012.
Erdogan is lauded for warning “Iran and Russia to end the support for the Assad regime.” NATO invariably condemns “attacks on Turkish (NATO) troops.”
There’s no way Damascus will “comply” because these Turkish troops are a de facto occupation body-protecting “moderate rebels” fighting for “democracy” who were decisively excluded by Moscow – and even Ankara – from the Sochi memorandum.
Moscow and Damascus control the airspace over Idlib. Su-34 jets patrol all of northwest Syrian territory. Moscow has warships – crammed with cruise missiles – deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The whole SAA offensive for these past few months to liberate national territory has been a graphic demonstration of top Russian intelligence – planning, execution, logistics.
What’s being set up is a classic cauldron – a Southwest Asia replica of the cauldron in Donbass in 2014 that destroyed Kiev’s army.
The SAA is encircling the Turks from the north, east and south. There will be only one way out for the Turks: the border crossing at Bab al-Hawa. Back to Turkey.
However, Washington is forcing Erdogan to pledge full support to NATO ally. Also the Turkish Armed Forces cannot afford to lose face, and more important the “moderate rebels” don’t give a damn about Ankara.
It’s enlightening to compare the current Turkish predicament with the Turk/Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxy gang alliance when they were fighting the Kurds in Afrin.
Ankara then had control of the skies and enormous artillery advantage – from their side of the border. Now Syria/Russia rules the skies and Turkish artillery simply cannot get into Idlib. Not to mention that supply lines are dreadful.
Erdogan knows Damascus has all but won a vicious nine-year proxy war – and is reclaiming all of its sovereign territory. There’s no turning back.
And that brings us to the complex dynamics of the Turkish-Iranian puzzle. One should always remember that both are members of the Astana peace process, alongside Russia.
From the 16th century to the 19th, Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni Ottoman empire were engaged in non-stop mutual containment. And under the banner of Islam, Turkey de facto ruled over the Arab world.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu argued that the Middle East had to be Turkey’s backyard. And Syria would be the golden gate through which Turkey would “recover” the Middle East.
All these elaborate plans now lie in dust. The Big Picture, of course, remains, The Zionist USA is determined by all means necessary to prevent Eurasian unity.
The Russia-China strategic partnership must be blocked from having access to maritime routes, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean through Syria via Iran.
The micro-picture is way more prosaic. It comes down to Erdogan making sure his occupying neo-Ottoman troops do not get routed by Assad’s army.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point Middle East News 2020.