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Events in Syria could be threatened at any moment. The question is what will happen sooner – the breakthrough of the Syrian army in Idlib or the use of chemical weapons, which will become a pretext for a military strike by the United States. The US itself has already agreed that the goal in the latter case is the risk not only of Syrian, but also of Russian facilities. Is it so?
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) states that US forces can strike not only Syrian, but also Iranian or Russian targets in Syria. It is justified, since President Bashar Assad “allowed the Syrian troops to use chlorine” in the province of Idlib, and “from the latest intelligence data it is unclear whether he also allowed the use of sarin gas”.
However, according to WSJ, the head of the US state, Donald Trump, “has not yet decided what exactly will entail a response with military means and whether the US will choose Russian or Iranian forces as targets. Actually, there is no confirmation yet that the US air strike will in principle follow (in the case of “chemical weapons”). If it does, he will most likely be more ambitious than the previous ones, and Trump “will have to consider whether to strike at targets such as Russian air defense systems”.
The head of the State Department, Michael Pompeo, allegedly “asked his Russian colleagues to ensure that chemical weapons will not be used in Idlib”. Moscow “rejected warnings”, saying that chemical weapons can be used by militants, but in the United States they do not believe in such a scenario. Earlier, Russia warned the United States against a blow to Syria.
It is noteworthy that the text in WSJ consists almost of unspoken assumptions. The current administration of the White House fell in love with the genre of organized leaks into the press of certain “promising foreign policy plans”. Such threats usually do not coincide with reality, but in the spring, when Washington made the first attempt to attack Syria, this was also preceded by leaks to the press. True, then they came directly from Mike Pompeo and were not sanctified by the mystery of “anonymous sources”.
Anyway, the real war in Syria and the information war around it exist in parallel universe. Within the framework of the war, the real intensity of the Russian air force and the Syrian Air Force’s attacks on the facilities in Idlib increased sharply in September, and artillery preparation began along the front line. All of this testifies to the rapid advance of government troops.
Perhaps, in part this is connected with the meeting of the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey on the Idlib problem held on the 7th September 2018. The public polemic between R. Erdogan, on the one hand, and V.Putin and H.Roukhani on the other after a few days looks like a small play. In fact, it only led to the fact that the Turkish army introduced additional forces into the northern part of Idlib province, which did not affect the situation as a whole. Initially, Ankara’s position was to try to transfer power in the province to the remnants of so-called moderates, who control sparsely populated areas and are inferior to jihadists both in numbers and in terms of tactical position. The remains of the former Syrian free army have not been a real political power for a long time, but for Turkey it is now the last opportunity to retain influence over a larger part of the province than previously thought.
Washington’s motives are more complicated. Contrary to the rhetoric about “withdrawal from Syria”, the opposite process is going on – the American army is intensively increasing its contingent in the territory of the SAR, not paying attention to the absolute illegality of its stay there. In the beginning of September 2018 about a hundred more soldiers have arrived from Jordan at the base of At-Tanf, and weapons and ammunition from bases in Kurdistan are actively being transferred to lands controlled by pro-American Kurdish forces.
In the Kamyshli region, this led to an open armed clash. The American column of trucks with weapons was stopped at a checkpoint of government Syrian forces (the supply of Kurdish Rozhava goes through lands controlled by Damascus). Strangely enough, the Americans did not shoot the Syrians, but they waited, when from the side of Rozhava the Kurds approached the checkpoint, hurrying to stock up with free ammunition. They opened fire on the Syrian roadblock and unlocked the American convoy, killing 12 Syrian soldiers and losing seven of their own soldiers.
This story is notable for the lack of fire on the Syrians at the first stage. There is every reason to believe that an appropriate order has not yet been sent to the US troops, despite sporadic bombings in the province of Deir-ez-Zor.
Syria represented a typical rebus for Washington “you can not leave”, but now the very possibility to stay is associated exclusively with the preservation of the Idlib reserve as a hotbed of tension. From At-Tanf, the Americans did not conduct any operations against ISIS and the like, but they still moo about the need to “end terrorism”. And when it really is done with terrorism, there will not be any pretexts for leaving US bases and troops in the SAR.
Even if the history of chemical weapons does not work, one can always refer to a humanitarian catastrophe. True, this has not worked yet since the beginning of the operation of the Russian contingent in Syria. Even in Aleppo, where the situation with the withdrawal of civilians at first seemed hopeless.
Now in Idlib the terrorists, as well as in Aleppo, are trying to prevent the exit of civilians in the territory, controlled by government forces. This is a vital shield for them primarily to inflame the hysteria in Western public opinion, and as a bonus – as an instrument of pressure on Turkey, which fears a new wave of refugees.
Presidents of Russia and Turkey reached an agreement on the issue of actions in the Syrian province Idlib on 17th September 2018. The parties agreed to establish a demilitarized zone 15-20 kilometers deep along the contact line of the armed opposition and government troops. It will be controlled by Turkish forces and the Russian military police.
Erdogan also drew attention of the press to the fact that, according to him, “the territory that is controlled by terrorists is not limited to Idlib province”. In his opinion, for Kurdish armed groups in Syria represent a threat.
The demilitarized zone will be established by the 15th October 2018. By the 10th October 2018 it is planned to “carry out the withdrawal from this zone of heavy weapons, tanks, rocket launcher systems, guns and mortars”.
By: Clement Kpeklitsu