A New Disaster for Turkey Brewing in Idlib #SyriaWar
Turkey may be heading for a new refugee disaster it never factored in when it agreed with Russia and Iran to take on the responsibility of the so-called “de-escalation zone” in the northern Syrian city of Idlib.
Ankara’s keenness on taking on this task was driven by a number of reasons which are not compatible with one another.
This was not what Russia was thinking when it agreed with Turkey on setting up these zones, but the foremost consideration for Ankara, as intimated on a number of occasions by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and members of the government, was to gain a new military foothold in the region which could be used against the Kurdish YPG.
There was also the consideration of establishing something of a safe haven that Syrian refugees could be sent to, thus alleviating some of the burden for Turkey of playing host to over 3 million refugees from this war.
Thirdly, and this was probably part of Ankara’s hidden agenda, the intention was to give the Turkish backed Free Syria army safe bases which would not be attacked by the regime.
The problem for Turkey from the start, however, has been that very little in Syria has worked out the way it expected, planned or wanted.
We hear now from Panos Moumtzis, a senior official from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), that they are on “high alert” because of the risk of a new and massive flood of refugees as a result of the regime assaults on Idlib.
According to Moumtzis the situation in Idlib is “much more complicated and brutal” than other conflict zones in Syria, and may produce the worst scenes of the Syrian crisis we have seen over these past 7 years.
Moumtzis indicates that OCHA is on “high alert,” in order to address the potential of 2.5 million refugees heading for the Turkish border, because there is nowhere else for them to go.
Yet all we hear from out authorities is much talk about Manbij and Qandil and hardly anything to do with what is brewing in Idlib.
There is also no indication that Ankara is engaged in intense open and behind the scenes diplomacy with Moscow, so that Russia can rein in the regime, and help Turkey in this fresh crisis that is brewing.
To the contrary, Moscow remains firmly behind the Assad regime and continues to support the Syrian army’s attacks against opposition forces backed by Turkey. It has also made it clear that it expects territory captured by Turkey from the YPG to be handed over to the regime.
Ankara has been unbelievably short-sighted when determining its policies – if one can call piecemeal reactive steps a policy – in Syria. It has failed to bring a multidimensional holistic approach to this crisis, and the result has been to cause much headache for itself.
Whoever wins the elections on June 24 and becomes president, it is clear that he or she is going to face massive problems in Syria, which that have the potentials to destabilized Turkey.
Supporters of Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) insist that Turkey’s policies in Syria are “morality-based” and “honorable.” It may be so from their perspective, but looked objectively what is clear is that these have not been “realistic” from the start, and Turkey continues to bear the brunt.