There was conflicting news about the movement of military troops belonging to the Turkish army on the Syrian border toward Idlib governorate. The citizens of the region discussed expected scenarios about the possibility that the army crosses the border to the Syrian interior, then to the center of the governorate.
The “Free Army” leaders in the northern countryside of Idlib denied the intention of a Turkish intervention and this corresponds with the denial of the governor of “Hatay” province of this role. Although they described what people are talking about as “rumors,” the citizens of the province and the displaced people expressed different points of view: welcoming, refusing or being afraid of the intervention.
Airplanes and helicopters stopped targeting Idlib and its countryside following the signature of an agreement to activate the “decreasing tension” zones on 4 May, what strengthened the possibility of having Turkey as a guarantor of the agreement.
To Repel the Attacks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and the Regime:
Enab Baladi knew from a well-informed source that Turkey might consider intervening in Idlib in order to face the possible intrusion of the Assad forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD). Turkey will enter from two areas: either through Atma to the town of Darat Izza and Jabal Barakat west of Aleppo or through Salqin and Harem.
Darat Izza is located on the lines of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (QSD) control points, northwest of Aleppo. Different factions exist there, most notably the “Ahrar al-Sham” Islamic Movement and the “Sham Legion.”
Turkey’s intrusion into in Darat Izza will take place in case the forces of “Democratic Syria” attack Idlib, according to the source. The latter spoke of seven axes of attack that the regime and “QSD” are preparing for, in a simultaneous operation (the regime from four axes and QSD from three) stretching from Afrin region on the Turkish border to the town of Khan Tuman, southwest of Aleppo.
The source predicted that Turkey would set up a base to repel the Syrian Democratic Forces’ attack in Jabal Barakat. He talked also about fears of clashes with the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant,” which moved in the region for the same reason, amid a dispute between the factions stationed in the region and the Organization.
An Organized Army is Better than Fighting Factions
“Quite honestly and without shame, I am waiting for Turkey to enter the Syrian north with impatience,” says Mohamed Nur Halaq, a resident of Idlib. He sees that “the issue is no longer frightening. It already exists in the north of Aleppo. Everyone sees how the situation is improving there. At least, aviation does not kill safe people, and this is our essential demand.”
The young man attributes his support of Turkey’s entry to the dispersion of the factions. He wonders: “is there a faction in the region that is really interested in the lives of the citizens, amid conflicts and internal strife, and this one is accusing another of apostasy and the other is stealing?”
The governorate is witnessing intermittent internal clashes between two main poles: the first belongs to the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant” and the second to the Free Army and “Ahrar al- Sham” factions. Although it has not developed into a “total fighting,” it is hampering the stability of the region, along with the bombing of the Assad forces which was restless before the Astana agreement.
Mohammed Nur does not see any hope of uniting the factions as “all of them are talking about unification, but all of it is a mere talk.” He adds that “when we unite the factions and implement what the people want, we will say that we do not need the intervention of anyone.”
In his turn, the pharmacist Manar Kayal thinks that talking about intervention is strange. “It is as if Turkey is entering today in the Syrian war,” said Manar Kayal. He wondered “was not what it provided enough to believe that it was an ally and advocate for our issue, from opening the border to sheltering the displaced and supplying weapons?”
“There is no fear of Turkey’s entry at all levels, and we have no doubt about Erdogan’s credibility,” says Kayal and adds “his intentions have become clear to the Syrian people, and we owe them much.”
Military and Not Civil
There are no official statements from Turkey till today. Although the idea of intervention is widely spread, there are no clear details. But the school teacher Batul Haj Assaad sees the need to be a militarily intervention and away from civil matters.
The school teacher in the city of Jericho says that it is necessary to look thoroughly at the intervention as the word carries more than one meaning. She clarifies: “if Turkey intervenes to establish a military base at certain points so as to protect the areas and civilians and ensure the region and its security, this intervention is limited and clear, and I do not think that Syrians will object.”
Haj Assaad, however, draws attention to the possibility of intervening on a larger scale, including details of civil administration and control of education and other sectors. She points out that “this is not a normal intervention, it is even bigger … we simply welcome a Turkish military and not civilian intervention.”
Turkey Has an Interest Like Other Countries
Akram Ghali, a young man who owns a shop selling used clothes in Idlib, believes that “neither Turkey nor any other countries offers their services for free, since they seek to intervene in the region in order to achieve their goals and not to protect civilians.”
According to Ghali’s perception, Ankara seeks “to stop the expansion of the Kurdish units towards the Syrian coast, or perhaps to expand its influence in the Syrian file, though the intervention can be read as a convergence of interests between Turkey and the revolution.”
The head of the Kurdish Federal System’s Constituent Assembly, Hadiya Yousef, told the British newspaper The Guardian in early May that the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (which include the Kurdish units) were seeking to open a sea crossing when she said that the project of federalism “will include access to the Mediterranean, and this is our legal right.”
“Turkey, in case it interferes with its army, is an occupying state,” says Ghaith Arwani, who migrated from Homs to Idlib and works in the relief field. He pointed out that “even if its objective is actually to protect civilians, I find no justification for its entry which will cause many problems and will complicate things further.”
Predictions about Turkey’s entry into Idlib are still under analysis, especially with the difficulty that the governorate is witnessing. But the Ankara – supported factions see it as an opportunity to ease the targeting of the region, like northern Aleppo.