by Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog
After the successful south-western Syria offensive which saw the Western-backed Jihadist rebels get expelled from the region, the Syrian Army and its allies are turning their attention to the north-western parts of the war-torn country. Early reports indicated that Moscow was unwilling to give the go ahead for a large offensive on the jihadist controlled Idlib province, mostly due to these areas being part of the “de-escalation” zones set up jointly by Russia and Turkey.
This however changed over the past weeks as jihadist rebels affiliated with Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham have continually attacked the Russian airbase at Hmeymim with armed drones. Although all attempts to breach the airport were thwarted by the Russian air defences, Moscow has had enough of these terrorist threats to their forces. So finally after weeks of speculation, Army forces are building up at the frontlines in the Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Latakia provinces in preparation for reportedly the largest offensive yet seen during this 7 year conflict.
Meanwhile, the Russian and Turkish defence ministers met the other day to discuss the situation in Syria, most likely in connection to the upcoming offensive. Despite Ankara’s regular contradictory statements on its position with regards to the Syrian government’s go or no go, Ankara has understood that Moscow will end this war with or without Ankara. Some Turkish Army representatives have allegedly vowed to confront the Syrian government forces in the Idlib and Hama provinces, however this has been considered a bluff by the Syrian Army high command, especially as Moscow has consistently held successful high level talks with Ankara.
Officially, Moscow has declared this offensive to be targeting the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, but anyone who has followed this war knows by now that all other so called “rebel groups” in Syria are deeply affiliated with HTS and share the same frontline with them. It is very likely that the Western-labeled “moderates” will also be targeted. Even if this offensive was to target only HTS, the rebels would still suffer a heavy blow as HTS is undoubtedly the strongest faction among the “Syrian opposition groups” and with them gone, the rest of the “opposition” would be forced to reconcile with the government or face certain death.
Moscow offers another way out
Meanwhile, some reports indicate that the US-backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” are ready for talks with the Syrian government. While the initial reports shockingly alleged that there was an agreement between the SAA and the SDF to launch the Idlib offensive jointly, those allegations have proven to be false and denied by both sides. Instead it is thought that the newly initiated dialogue between the Kurdish dominated SDF and the government, with or without US consent, is aimed at reconciliation. It is believed that the Syrian government will offer the Kurds in the north-western parts of the country a place in the future parliament and government.
Whether or not this happens with Washington’s consent is really irrelevant as several SDF commanders have in recent weeks stepped forward and declared their intentions to reconcile with the government. One SDF commander even lambasted Washington’s untrustworthy nature when he said that “The USA can give up on us (Kurds) any minute. Therefore we need to find other alternatives and stop depending on the Americans”. In a press conference in Qamishli, he said: “Kurds are ready to fight side by side with the Syrian Army against terrorists”. It is yet too early to say that the Kurdish leadership have learned their lesson when it comes to putting their faith in the treacherous Washington, but these statements cannot be overlooked so easily, especially in light of Washington’s inaction with regards to the Turkish aggression on the SDF. Faced with the prospect of complete annihilation as Ankara is threatening to attack the remaining SDF territory across Syria’s northern borders, it is only natural that the SDF leadership would be looking for another way out. Turning to the government and attempting to reconcile could be the best chance the Kurdish leadership and the ethnic group as a whole have to ever gain any sort of power, with regards to the leverage they hold (controlling ~ 25% of the country’s territory).
It is obvious that the SDF commanders have seen indications of what some of us observers have been saying for months: Washington is finished in Syria and is looking for a way out. What only a year ago looked like a collision course between the SAA and the SDF, has now turned into a potential reconciliation between two of the strongest forces in this conflict, the most definite proof of Moscow’s tireless efforts to rally all non-terrorist forces in the country and offer them another way out than the conflict-ridden one that Washington offers.
One of the last reasons for Washington’s long overdue stay in Syria was eliminated a few weeks ago as the Syrian Army cleared out the entire south-western parts of the country. This was done despite Israeli and US threats of action against “approaching Iranian forces” near the Golan Heights. As I explained in a previous piece a few months ago, Russia recognized the dangers of the Israeli-Iranian escalations in Southern Syria and stepped in to de-escalate the situation, which they did successfully through diplomacy. The Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv remained satisfied with the scenario presented by Moscow, one where only Syrian troops were involved in liberating the Daraa and Quneitra provinces. Now that Israel’s northern perimeters are secured, with Tel Aviv putting its faith in Moscow to uphold its role as a guarantor for peace, Washington finds even less reason to remain in Syria, as Moscow has totally side-lined Washington in Syria, even among its own allies.
It is with great confidence that the Syrian Army enters Idlib, knowing that the end is drawing near for the 7 year long terrorist plague that has struck their country. The time has come for Washington to pack up and leave, Syria and her allies have won.