Sunday, 23 July 2017

Turkey Poised To Invade Syria's Idlib Province As Inter-Jihadist Violence Rages


Two Salafi-jihadi factions in Syria's Idlib province have been engaged in a brutal inter-"rebel" (or rather inter-jihadist) war this week, prompting Turkey to prepare a potential invasion to protect its favored factions on the ground. On Thursday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS/Al-Qaeda) continued to capture towns in Idlib's countryside from rival Ahrar al-Sham and Turkish backed FSA groups after an uneasy truce between the rebel factions quickly collapsed days prior, causing the weaker Ahrar al-Sham to call in Turkish support.

Multiple reports coming out of the region indicate that Turkey has been transferring hundreds of jihadists from its former Euphrates Shield forces in northern Aleppo province (the Turkish occupied "Jarabulus pocket") to Turkey's Hatay border region, where they began entering Idlib through the Ahrar controlled Bab al-Hawa crossing. However, in the early morning hours of Friday HTS reportedly captured part of the Bab al-Hawa crossing in a significant blow that could trigger a bigger Turkish response. A larger force may be awaiting word from Ankara for a full scale invasion involving Turkish Army troops which might come at any moment.

What is certain is that things are about to get even bloodier, and either Turkey will occupy yet more Syrian land, or the Syrian Army will eventually move in to mop up Idlib once the warring groups have depleted and utterly exhausted each other. The latter scenario is a likely possibility given increased Russian leverage over Turkish actions: Turkey would have to seek a nod from Moscow before occupying Idlib overtly. So far, Turkey's proxy forces are being swallowed up by the more formidable HTS.

Dozens of militants from both factions have been killed across the rebel controlled Idlib province in a week that's seen dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape over Syria, including sudden news of the White House's ending the CIA weapons program, as well as Turkey's leaking of US forward operating base locations in northern Syria through its state-run news channel, further escalating tensions between Turkey and the US.

On Wednesday Al-Masdar News reported the extent of initial fighting, which even involved tanks and other major weapons systems:

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-21/turkey-poised-invade-syrias-idlib-province-inter-jihadist-violence-rages

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, July 23rd, 2017.]

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