18 June 2019 — Inforos
This may spoil Moscow-Ankara relations
Yury Veselov, military observer, Inforos
The Defense Ministry of Turkey officially confirmed on June 16, 2019 that Turkish artillery was involved in shelling Syrian governmental army positions near Tell Bazam in the “de-escalation zone” in the northwest of the Idlib province. This was allegedly “made in agreement with the Russian side as response to accurate data indicating from where two Turkish observer posts were attacked.”
In turn, representative of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman, who usually strives to highlight successes of Syrian militants, proudly said that the Turkish command used artillery to shell Syrian troops. Abdulrahman amazingly accurately reported that the Turkish army used self-propelled artillery. Meanwhile, militants used multiple rocket launchers to attack Syrian troops in the communities of Suran, Tell Bazam, Maan, al-Kubariya and al-Karim in the north of the Hama province.
On June 15, the Turkish Armed Forces command redeployed a tank battalion, a battalion of self-propelled artillery and up to one infantry battalion to the north of the Hama province.
It should be noted that several days before the Turkish attack on the Syrian troops a joint Russian-Turkish group had started operating in the combat zone to order to define where Turkish observer posts and checkpoints had been attacked from. Military experts clearly identified after the ceasefire declared on June 12 that the attack had come from the terrorist positions. Arab news agencies published these reports.
The command of the Defense Ministry of Turkey said that its military facilities in the “Idlib de-escalation zone” had been shelled by Syrian artillery on April 29, May 4, May 12 and June 13. Three Turkish servicemen were wounded as a result of these attacks. The Syrian side officially said that it had nothing to do with these provocations.
Noteworthy, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu came up with loud and threatening statements about the incidents. The latter also accused Syria of the situation and justified actions of the Turkish Armed Forces. President Erdogan hasn’t commented on the situation, although the open confrontation of Turkey and Syria poses a real threat of destabilizing the situation in the region and spoiling relations between Ankara and Moscow.
It is unlikely that Syrians themselves attacked Turkish facilities in the northwest of the country. Damascus just doesn’t need additional military confrontation.
On the other hand, it cannot be ruled out that pro-Iranian militia who are taking part in the army operation against militants were involved in artillery attacks on Turkish troops. It isn’t a secret that the command of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps that is controlling Shia militia isn’t subordinate to the Syrian military-political leadership and prefers acting on its own. It is possible that Ankara’s ongoing supplies of large batches of arms and equipment to militants could have prompted the armed provocations against the Turks.
These data are confirmed not only by Syrian military intelligence but also by statements of many field commanders. And vice versa Mevlut Cavusoglu categorically rejects this information…
It should be mentioned that official Damascus has not so far reacted to Turkey’s recent actions. Just as the Russian Defense Ministry prefers to delay publishing its comment. At the same time, the involvement of the Syrian armed opposition on the Turkish shelling of the governmental troops is alarming given the development of the military-political situation surrounding Syria.