26 March 2020 — Inforos
The Russian ultimatum to detachments of all the Idlib de-escalation zone militants expires by the end of March
Yuri Veselov, military observer
Turkey is unable to fulfill all the agreements with Russia. Following the March 5 Moscow talks, Recep Erdogan vowed to establish joint patrol of the M4 highway between Aleppo and Latakia starting March 15 in exchange for Syrian government army’s terminated offensive in the Idlib province. But he never got round to get this agreement done. The Turkish leader has pledged to ensure that all the detachments and weapons along the highway are withdrawn by mid-March for a distance of six kilometers on both sides. The militants do not shy away from their unwillingness to leave the positions.
Curiously, the Turkish military and politicians keep calm about this problem, with the national media carefully suppressing the topic. Politicians are only concerned about ways to more efficiently use the Syrian refugees piled up at the Turkish border and in Turkey itself, to maintain fighting capacity of terrorist groups in North-Western Syria and to resume financial assistance from the European Union.
Meanwhile, the Turkish armed forces command is hastily expanding military presence in the Syrian territory. During the period of March 13-21 alone, the Turks established three well-fortified observation posts outside Jisr al-Shughur: on the outskirts of the villages of Badana, Al Najiya and Az-Zaaniya. Each garrison accounts for over a hundred special forces soldiers, is reinforced with tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery, and equipped with communications and electronic reconnaissance infrastructure. Great efforts are underway to harden firing positions, to construct warehouses and fortified command points, to create forced entry-resistant construction and to mine the adherent terrain.
Before those efforts began, the Turkish command had deployed additional gun-carrying military garrisons in the settlements of Mukhmabal, Masybin, Shalkh and Ram Hamdan in Northern and Eastern Idlib, aimed to prevent Syrian army movements in the area. This followed the deployment of additional forces and assets around Kfar Nabil and Saraqib, in a number of villages in the Zawiya heights in Southern and Eastern Idlib, as well as in northern Latakia province’s Al Kabina. Even though these positions belonged to the service areas of the Syrian government forces.
According to the Syrian command, a-thousand strong group of the Turkish army is stationed in the northwest of the country, which includes up to 300 units of various armored vehicles, more than 100 different artillery and air defense systems. The Turks densify engineering efforts on a durable adaptation of strongholds and their protection from artillery and aviation.
Disregard of meeting the latest Moscow agreements and abandonment of the previous Sochi commitments indicate the Turkish intention to preserve the military potential of illegal armed groups in North-Western Syria by evading promises. All of this testifies to the military and political leadership’s plan to create an Ankara-controlled enclave and ignite a territorial division of Syria.
It is quite natural that Syria, Russia and Iran will never agree to such a state of affairs. All the more so as Recep Erdogan’s promises made during the previous talks with President Vladimir Putin turned out to be fictitious…
On March 23, 2020, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. According to official information, the two discussed issues of “Syrian post-war reconstruction”. However, this is probably not quite true.
The command of the Syrian armed forces has concentrated major forces in the southern and eastern parts of Idlib province, bringing the most combat-capable units and divisions there. The presence of Iranian troops and Shiite militia units is on the increase here. Early onMarch 24, the Syrian General Staff imposed a ban on all the flights in the airspace over the provinces of Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo, deploying means of military air defense within easy reach.
Earlier, Arab news agencies reported on the arrival in the Eastern Mediterranean of two Russian Navy missile ships, an assault landing ship and several military transport vessels. During these days, another military transport accompanied by a support ship passed through the Bosphorus Strait.
There is a good chance that the Syrian army, in concert with Iranian units and after heavy military support from Russia, will launch a decisive offensive in the north-west of Syria anytime soon with a purpose of completely defeating the armed gangs, ignoring the presence of Turkish troops in the region.