Mon 21 Sep 2020

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Turkey takes new steps for establishing high committee for military coordination in Syria’s Idlib 

Combatants of the “National Front for Liberation’s” Special Mission Forces - 24 July 2020 (Azaaeem)

Combatants of the “National Front for Liberation’s” Special Mission Forces - 24 July 2020 (Azaaeem)

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The Turkish government keeps trying to re-arrange its military cards in the war-battered province of Idlib, northern Syria, and integrate different military opposition factions under one umbrella and military leadership away from factional pluralism, in anticipation of any escalation and military confrontations that may occur at any moment in the region by the Syrian regime and its main allies Russia and Iran.

Turkey has worked, since the reinforcement of its presence in northern Syria through the introduction of military convoys that included thousands of elements and heavy weapons, to establish a new structure for the factions and create a new military formation between the factions and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). However, this move has yet to be translated on the ground, owing to the intransigence of some parties and their rejection of any process of integration. 

Integration but in a different way

Amid going expectations that the calm in Idlib will end and the battles will return and as the risk of Russian military escalation grows, as evidenced by the regime’s military build-up on the fronts across Idlib last week, talks about meetings between the faction leaders in the “ Syrian National Army (SNA)” and Turkish officers were held, aimed at achieving a single military structure.  

A military source from the “National Front for Liberation” (NFL- a Syrian rebel coalition that is part of the SNA), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the first line leaders in the “SNA” met a few days ago with Turkish officers to discuss the formation of a new military body, without further explanations on the formation mechanism. 

The source told Enab Baladi, that the military integration project is not new; Turkey has been working on it over the past months, stressing the existence of serious efforts to reach an agreement between the military parties at the present time. For his part, Captain Abdul Salam Abdul-Razzaq, an opposition leader in the SNA,  explained to Enab Baladi that there is currently seriousness regarding the process of merging the opposition factions into one military formation, but so far there is nothing on the ground.

Abdul-Razzaq confirmed that the talk was about forming a single military body in all liberated areas, led by officers and a military organization, but there were many obstacles to forming a single military body, while there are attempts now to establish such a body despite conflicting statements.

Meetings took place between various parties, including factions, formations, officers, and opposition political parties, according to Abdul Razzaq. Nevertheless, it is not possible to talk about something new unless we see real steps on the ground.

Abdul Razzaq spoke about the presence of obstacles in the way of forming the military body, but he confirmed the existence of one operations room. 

According to Enab Baladi’s information, there is no new operations room, but rather there is talk about the formation of a high committee composed of several factions that will supervise the military operations, distribute the components of the various factions, and control the level of the camps, which was confirmed by HTS’s media relations manager Taqi al-Din Omar. 

Omar said, in an email correspondence with Enab Baladi, that “The committee, made up of factions (al-Fateh al-Mubeen operations room), supervises jihad, distributes the forces of the various components of the operations room, adjusts the level of camps, functions the fire support, prepares and distributes military brigades. In addition, the committee’s task is also to fortify the fronts and develop various ranks and military actions.”

The “al-Fateh al-Mubeen” operations room includes both the groups of the HTS and NFL that are part of the SNA, along with “the Army of Glory.”

Following the Turkish-Russian agreement to a ceasefire on 5 March in Idlib, the military factions operating in the region in the past few months began to study the recent military campaign that led to the regime’s re-control of strategic towns in the eastern and southern countryside of Idlib, and discovering gaps on the combat front.

Prospective military escalation

The move to merge the military factions into one body coincides with expectations that the battles will return to northern Syria, after nearly five months of calm, with the exception of some violations of the regime.

The leader, Abdul Razzaq expected that the next battle if it took place, would be fought, south of the Aleppo-Lattakia (M4) international highway, but he ruled out that it would be close.

For his part, the spokesperson of the HTS’s military wing, Abu Khaled al-Shami in an interview with the HTS-linked news agency, Ibaa on 19 July this year, expected that the Syrian regime forces, supported by Russia, would begin military action at Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib countryside at any moment.

Al-Shami said that the Syrian regime restored its weapons and conducted camouflage activities to conceal the weapon. He added that the HTS expects a military action at any moment, and is watching Jabal al-Zawiya, amid the mobilization of the Syrian regime forces and Russia on the outskirts of Jabal al-Arbaeen, Saraqib and the Kabana fronts in the northern countryside of Lattakia. 

The “al-Fateh al-Mubeen” operations room also sent military reinforcements to the lines of contact with the Syrian regime forces and their allied militias, south of Idlib.

The NFL spokesperson, Captain Naji Mustafa, told Enab Baladi that the military factions sent reinforcements to the fighting axes south of Idlib and strengthened their defensive positions.

The people of the Syrian north are watching with caution what will happen in the upcoming days, amid growing fears of the return of battles and the military escalation again, especially in light of their suffering from the deteriorating living conditions in addition to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID- 19) and the number of infected people reaching 23. 

 

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