Signs of near implementation of Turkish military threats in Idlib

A Turkish military column stopping near Maar Hattat village to the south of Maarrat al-Numan in Idlib after being targeted by the Syrian regime forces. 19 August,2019 (Enab Baladi)

A Turkish military column stopping near Maar Hattat village to the south of Maarrat al-Numan in Idlib after being targeted by the Syrian regime forces. 19 August,2019 (Enab Baladi)


 Residents of Idlib province and its countryside in northern Syria awaits in fear the outcomes of the Turkish-Russian talks. This fear of the unknown increased following the Turkish warnings to launch a massive military operation if the Syrian regime forces did not pull back behind the Turkish observation posts.

A deluge of general indications is provided over the last hours that Turkey is willing to implement its military threats in Idlib.

This indicated the failure of negotiations in the meeting between Turkey’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sedat Önal, with the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Ryabkov and the Russian President’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev.

Turkey did not announce the outcomes of the meeting, which took place last Saturday; however, Turkey said that the two delegations decided to hold further discussions in the coming weeks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan has given a deadline of the end of February for the Syrian regime to retreat from the observation posts.

He warned that if the Syrian regime did not withdraw from the observation points, Turkey intends to launch a military operation.

Signs of implementing the Turkish threats included:

Officials’ Statements

During the last hours, Turkish officials released statements implying a possible military attack. The Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, confirmed that his country has plans that will be executed in Idlib. He declared that “If the Syrian Regime did not comply with the deadline till the end of February, we would implement the plan (B) and plan (C).”

When asked about what is meant by plan “B” and plan “C,” he said that they had previously spoken to their partners (The United States) regarding the elimination of what he described as “terrorists” from the Turkish borders.

He added that when Turkey’s demands were ignored, the Turkish Armed forces carried out “Euphrates Shield” military operation against the so-called “Islamic State,” “Olive Branch” operation in rural Aleppo and “Peace Spring” operation in the countryside of al-Hasakah against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Akar’s announcements indicate the possibility of carrying out a new military operation even without the approval of Russia, which is one of the three guarantors of “Astana Peace Talks,” just like when the United States was against the previous military operations in rural Aleppo and eastern Euphrates region.

Reuters, an international news agency, reported of a Turkish official who is described as “prominent” that Turkey had sent large military reinforcements to Idlib province, stressing that “all options are on the table.”

The continuance entry of military columns

On the military side, Turkish military columns loaded with military heavy vehicles and tanks kept entering Idlib after the Turkish President threatened to start a military attack.

The latest military column entered Bab al-Hawa crossing towards Idlib, including armored vehicles and tanks at the dawn of Monday, 10 February.

According to the Turkish official, the most significant military column of 300 military vehicles entered Idlib last Saturday. He also confirmed that the total number of columns reached nearly one thousand vehicles in February.

The Turkish official mentioned that military reinforcement of soldiers and equipment was sent to Idlib in recent weeks, noting that “both Turkish observatory posts and Idlib’s frontline were militarily supported.”

Ankara did not officially announce the exact number of its soldiers and military vehicles in Idlib as speculations roam over the reason why Ankara is sending all these military columns to Idlib.

Raising military readiness

Turkey asked the Syrian opposition factions to boost their military availability, a leader in the Syrian National Army (SNA) confirmed to Enab Baladi today.

The (SNA) leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed that Turkey requested all factions to increase their readiness as talks of a possible military offensive to regain several areas from the grip of the Syrian regime in rural Idlib continue.

He confirmed that factions are waiting for “Zero Hour” to begin the operation, which will be entirely led by the (SNA) excluding “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”

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