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“Militarization” Race and Idlib’s Future as a Trophy

Turkish armored vehicles inter Idlib to position the 12th de-escalation monitoring point – May 16, 2018 (Enab Baladi)

Turkish armored vehicles inter Idlib to position the 12th de-escalation monitoring point – May 16, 2018 (Enab Baladi)

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Idlib governorate, today, awaits the next stage, following Turkey’s spread of the last “de-escalation” monitoring point and the developments that ensued, on top of which are the internal military movements undertaken by the active opposition factions there.

 

A “militarization” race represented these movements, taking a very rapid pace. While the “Free Army” factions announced integration and the formation of a new group, the “National Liberation Front,” “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” also moved and opened the door for enrollment, aiming to graduate new segments of fighters in northern Syria.

It was not only that, for “Tahrir al-Sham” has changed its attitude towards the Turkish role, for the relationship that joined it with Turkey is balanced and continuance seeking to achieve security and stability, which stands in contrast to a former attitude, in which it stressed its total enmity in regard to the Turkish government for backing the “Euphrates Shield” factions.

 

Wining the Future

In the governorate’s political landscape, the ninth version of “Astana” Talks is viewed as a turning point, since it stressed the continuation of the “de-escalation” agreement and the protection of the included areas, agreed upon by the guarantor countries, in addition to a discussion about the stages of the shift from the “de-escalation” state to a complete cease fire.

Following the Talks’ final communiqué, the Russians have announced their intention to spread 17 joint monitoring points with Iran in the surrounding of Idlib’s governorate, in correspondence with the 12 Turkish points. This has been interpreted as licking the northern area’s borders into shape, after which the focus would be given to steps relating to “stable” civil and military life.

Today, Turkey is the one entrusted with the organizational dimension of the upcoming phase of the governorate’s life ـــ services, civil life and military structureــــ under a similar scenario to that of the “Euphrates Shield” in the northern countryside of Aleppo, which triggers the factions to curry favor with it as to win the governorate’s future.

Turkey has played a major role in the formation of the “National Liberation Front,” which it basically backs both financially and militarily, and through which it aims to initiate a new military structure in Idlib.

Last February, Enab Baladi managed to get information pointing out that Turkey is actually active in drawing a new military structure for Idlib’s factions, following the model of the “Euphrates Shield” areas in northern Aleppo.

Back then, three military sources informed Enab Baladi that the “Free Army” factions, active in the area, have received funding from the Turkish government as a substitute for the American support, in a step to form a new “National Army” after the spread of the Turkish monitoring points.

 

 “Tahrir al-Sham” Changes Its Attitude to Curry “Favor”

Facing the current imposed reality, “Tahrir al-Sham” was forced to change its previous opinions, the ones relating to Turkey in particular, trying to win its favor to have a military and civil role in the indicated next phase.

Tahrir al-Sham’s vicissitude presented a coup de maître and a contradiction in the political and military discourse. In the past a few years, the faction stressed its disapproval of the Turkish intervention in Idlib while today it alludes to the necessity of bonding with Turkey because its intervention represents a positive point in its favor.

Yousef al-Hajer, “Tahrir al-Sham’s” political affairs official, said that “the shared historical relations between the Turkish and Syrian Muslim nations are as deep as history itself.”

In an interview with “al-Jazeera.net” he added that the manifestations of the shared relations could best be referred to with what happened during the Syrian revolution, for Turkey has given these relations a real depth, despite its changed political position. This is in addition to its becoming an incubator for millions of Syrian refugees, the dignity of whom it protected.

In May 2017, “Tahrir al-Sham” attaked Turkey and the factions of the “Free Army” during the Friday prayer ceremonies in Idilb city’s and its countryside’s mosques. The ceremony described the factions as “secular” groups that want to give the “Levant” up to the Syrian regime and to conspire with it.

However, according to al-Hajer’s latest statements, “Tahrir al-Sham’s” opinion about the Turkish monitoring points is identical to that of the Syrian revolution, seeking to achieve a high-end.

“It was us who helped in their admission and positioning. We have also thwarted the counter revolutionists, who wanted entice a clash between the revolution and its alley, when they placed the Turkish side in front of an international agreement that provided for spreading monitoring points,” he said.

The official explained that, “Tahrir al-Sham’s” being the major faction in Syria, “it had to be the concerned party, for after the shura and sharia-based consultancies and discussing with decision makers and people of wisdom, we made up our mind and managed to preserve our revolutionary choice, in addition to reinforcing the Turkish alley.”

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