It should by now be clear to anyone following the Syrian conflict that things are starting to turn bad for the Turkish and Saudi backed Islamist militants in northwestern Syria. The Syrian Arab Army and its allies backed by Russian airstrikes are steamrolling the Islamist militants, capturing town after town, village after village.
Ever since the start of the successful Latakia offensive back in November 2015, Ankara and its allies have been trying to undermine the effort and even sabotage the Russian air campaign.
Right from the beginning of the Russian campaign, Washington and it’s western media propagandists have been trying to accuse Russia of only bombing “moderate rebels” while sparing ISIS militants.
Of course, they could never provide any evidence to their claims, nor could they prove who these supposed “moderate rebels” actually were. Washington and certain social media “activists” tried to demonstrate on different maps where the Russian airstrikes took place, in order to reinforce their claim of Russia not targeting ISIS.
The uninformed viewer will easily buy into this propaganda, since most people find the Syrian conflict very confusing and complex. But for the one who follows this war, it was rather obvious that the areas Washington was referring to are in fact Al-Qaeda controlled areas. This came as Erdogan kept pushing for an invasion of Syria under several pretexts such as “creating a buffer zone in northern Syria” and “defending the Turkmen minority.”
In late November, Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet flying over Syrian territory. This later turned into a diplomatic crisis where Turkey cited it’s right to defend it’s airspace. The only problem was that the Russian plane was still in Syrian airspace. But of course, in Turkish President Erdogan’s view, northern Syria is now Turkish airspace. Indeed Russian president Putin correctly labeled this as a “stab in the back by terrorist accomplices.”
The Turkish response was irrational, aggressive and hostile. Instead of immediately calling his counterparts in Russia and try to resolve the incident diplomatically, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for a urgent NATO meeting. Why would he do that unless he was expecting further confrontation? This along with Turkey’s refusal to apologize for the incident made it clear to the world who’s side Turkey is on (as if there was ever any doubt), after all, Russia was striking Al-Qaeda linked militants, who supposedly one of NATO’s main enemies since 2001.
Since the incident on November 24, Russia has responded by exposing Ankara for it’s dealings with terrorism, especially ISIS and increasing it’s activity in Syria. Russia vowed to never again let such an incident occur and has reinforced their positions with some heavy defensive equipment to counter the Turkish threat.
It has also been clear that Erdogan’s plan of drawing NATO into a conflict with Russia has failed as Ankara’s NATO allies have not been interested in a direct confrontation with Russia.
Recently, the Latakia offensive was interrupted shortly by a failed Islamist counter-offensive after the Islamists received some much needed reinforcements. But where did they come from?
Erdogan has taken upon himself to do whatever it takes to stop the Syrian and Russian efforts as witnessed by his constant attempts to undermine and threaten Russia for its actions in Syria. This means we can expect Ankara to do more to try to sabotage the progress that Syria and its allies are making.
Last week, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated that fresh Islamist recruits are still pouring in from Turkey in an obvious attempt to gain favorable position ahead of the Syria peace talks this week.
This weekend, in light of alleged news emerging of a planned Russian airbase in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli, Erdogan threatened Russia again, “We will not allow such a thing in northern Syria” he said.
It remains to be seen what Erdogan’s next move is. The erratic and reckless president is known for his unpredictably.
Whatever he chooses to do, a confrontation between Syria with Russia by its side and Turkey seems inevitable as the Syrian Arab Army and its allies are marching towards the Turkish border.
This turn in the tide of the war can largely be contributed to the excellent coordination between the Syrian Army and their Russian counterparts. With the recent capture of Salma and Al-Rabiiah in Northwestern Syria, the province of Latakia is almost cleared from Islamist militants of the Al Nusra Front and Harakat Ahrar al Sham. Sadly, when truth and reality prevails, western media of course, is nowhere to be found.
We can be sure that Erdogan and NATO won’t back down to this, neither will the Syrian Army who is fighting for it’s country’s survival.
The Syrian-Russian response has been clear, they will press ahead and liberate more areas from Al-Qaeda linked Islamists and ISIS terrorists.
The ball now lies in Ankara’s court, as the Turkish president’s nightmare scenario continues to become a reality, time is running against him. Your move, Erdogan.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al-Masdar News.
Aram Mirzaei is an Iranian MA Candidate writing his dissertation titled “The Syrian Conflict – A Struggle of Interests”.