The expected assault by Syrian Army on Idlib begun on 19 December. With attacks on ground and air, line of defense of jihad groups has broken and Syrian Army has taken control of nearly 30 villages, which located at southwest of Idlib, in three days. It is reported that the Syrian army will move towards the strategically important town, Maarat el Numan, after capturing the Jarjanaz Village. Thus, the army will have an advantage to control the Damascus-Aleppo Highway. It is possible that an observation plot of Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) be can be besieged by Syrian Army as it happened in the town called Morek in August.
On the other hand, tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing Idlib to Turkish border. The groups, which are heading to El-Hava border gate, are demanding the borders to be opened. Although AKP keeps its silence, a new refugee wave is another problem.
While Syrian Army is moving fast, the burning question is how far can Syrian Army will march? It is known that the speed of the operation is dependent to the negotiations between Erdogan and Putin. General expectation is that Syrian Army will march until they take full control of the strategic M5 highway, which is in between Damascus and Aleppo. The outcomes of Erdogan-Putin negotiations are still unknown. However, it is apparent that jihadist militants in Idlib and Cisr el Şugur are on the ropes and they lost their resistance capacity. At this point, everyone knows that jihad groups are betrayed by Erdogan. Because of that even the partisan media of AKP cannot simply put “Esad the Murderer” in their headlines anymore.
If Syrian Army takes the full control of Idlib, the front curtain of the Syrian civil war will be down. Under these circumstances, another question arises: “What will be the future of the territories which have been controlled by YPG for a long time?” There is a big competition for these territories between Moscow and Damascus as well as the armed groups controlled by YPG, USA and Turkey. On the other hand, if Damascus captures Idlib, Esad will have a great advance.
What Had Happened?
Idlib, which located at northwest of Syria, had been the main city of jihad groups’ since the beginning of the war. The violent murder over a hundred soldiers of Syrian Army by El-Sugur jihadists was the incident that the civil war was inevitable. On March 2015, the “Conquest Army” (which was created by the support of the USA and common initiative of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) captured Idlib city center. As Syrian Army concentrated on zones that are more critical and it couldn’t attack on Idlib This important city on Turkish border became the main city for jihadist groups. However, two main groups of Conquest Army, al-Nusra Front , which is an Al Qaeda linked group- later called as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham ), and Ahrar al-Sham also fought to each other. The winner was al-Nusra, which was relatively independent group. In course of time, Turkey took the whole control of these jihad groups and played this card in the negotiations with Putin. As Syrian Army liberated the cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Dera, the jihadist militants were sent to Idlib due to the negotiations. Turkey, Russia and Iran declared Idlib Region as “Tension Reduction Zone” in Astana meeting. On May 4-5 2017.
As a result of Astana Meeting, AKP took the responsibility of separating terrorist groups (Nusra) from so called Syrian rebellions but they did not manage to do that. Therefore, Russia took the advantage of it in the negotiations between Ankara and Moscow. Although Erdoğan has a deep sympathy to these jihadist militants, he had to accept to abandon them in Idlib because Erdoğan needs Putin’s concession to stay in Syria to crush YPG.