Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Syrian Sitrep: Idlib & Realpolitik. Russia/US Tug of War with Turkey in the Middle

So far the ceasefire announced  a week ago is holding.

Breaking: Russia (Initiated) & Turkey Broker Complete Ceasefire in Idlib

Russia and Turkey have brokered a complete ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province between Syrian government forces and rebels, Russian news agencies cited the Russian military as saying on Wednesday.

Turkey and Russia are still talking  (from Monday)
Shoigu and  Akar

National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu held phone call Monday evening to discuss measures to be taken in Syria a week after a cease-fire in Idlib fell through over the Assad regime's attack on a Turkish observation point in the province.

 Idlib Offensive, on hold for now, is real world Realpolitik 
Link "The study of the forces that shape, maintain and alter the state is the basis of all political insight and leads to the understanding that the law of power governs the world of states......................"
The Syrian Army is tired and you have only few corps able to launch offensive, like the Tiger force from the 4th Corps,” says Fabrice Balanche, a professor Universit√© Lyon 2 and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Syrian regime’s ground troop reserves have dwindled steadily since the beginning of the war.”
The fact that Syrian Army is tired shouldn’t even need to be stated. It should be understood to be fact.  It’s been 8 years of continuous warfare. That has to take it's toll
The not so Subtle Diplomatic Game
Both Russia and Turkey appear to be using the Idlib campaign to achieve a set of political ends in and out of Syria.

Turkey, dead-set on maintaining a sphere of influence in northwestern Syria, is doing all it can to bring Assad and Putin back to the negotiating table for a ceasefire.

Turkey is walking a fine line between making the offensive more costly for the regime, and thus extending it, and seeking a halt and a return to the ceasefire,” Nick Grinstead tells Al Bawaba.

“It is doing so because it does not want millions of refugees, many of whom have been displaced multiple times, to rush towards its border as a regime offensive rolls on. So it is looking for ways to halt the offensive while not extending it indefinitely,” he adds.

Turkey initially took in over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, but it has since closed its border with Syria to prevent further intake. If the battle of Idlib were to escalate and the rebels rapidly lost ground to advancing regime forces, Turkey would be faced with up to 3 million Syrians currently trapped in Idlib, desperately trying to enter the country.
“This offensive on Idlib is still at the beginning and depends on the Russian Turkish deal about S 400, Fabrice Balanche tells Al Bawaba.
In 2017, Turkey a deal with Russia to acquire the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. The deal has since been mired in intense controversy, because the S-400 cannot be integrated into the NATO-made missile defense infrastructure.
    More curiously, the precise level of Russia’s support for the regime campaign may rely on something entirely unrelated to the current fighting: a controversial arms purchase by Turkey.
 This was an idea that had actually occurred to me given the timing of the move by SAA aided by Russia, resulting in the Russian ceasefire call. The US pressure on Turkey to cancel the deal has been immense. Russia was obviously going to counter. This is realpolitik.  The push on Idlib and sudden ceasefire, not once but twice, sure looked a whole lot  like Russian pressure on Turkey. Turkey would inevitably respond for reasons already mentioned so many times here that I'm tired of repeating them!
 HTS would respond no matter what.  The rebels  that Turkey supports participated alongside, which is not the norm. HTS and the Turkish backed rebels most often fight. However in this case they had a mutual interest in blocking the advances. Realpolitik. 

  Briefly: I'm hoping my readership is realistic enough to understand this reality and not get caught up in propagandistic emotional manipulation and jingoism. (attitudes of belligerent nationalism which is just simplistic black vs white idealogy)

Idlib, Turkey. Russia  and the S-400.
The U.S. and other NATO allies are worried that Russia could glean sensitive information about their technology by installing the S-400 in Turkey.

More broadly, the purchase signals that Turkey is distancing itself from NATO and the U.S. and beginning to warm to Russia. In response, the U.S. threatened to withhold a massive shipment of F-35 Jets to Turkey and gave Erdogan a July 31st deadline to withdraw from the arms deal with Russia.

According to Balanche, the arms deal gives Russia leverage over Turkey in the Idlib campaign. “If Turkey decide to cancel the deal because of U.S. pressure, I think we will have a large and intense offensive in Idlib with the help of Shia militias. If not, the offensive will be limited.”
In other words, Russia may be keeping the offensive limited in scope to ensure Turkey follows through with the purchase of the weapon.
If Turkey backs away from the deal, Russia may ramp up the assault, compel thousands to the border with Turkey and put immense pressure on Erdogan, who currently has a fragile hold on power. (The AKP party has a pretty solid hold on power, but, it appears the west has destabilizers embedded in Istanbul. From my reading that latest election was tampered with by outside interests- Most likely emanating from the EU. This is a typical destabilization tactic)
The missile system can then be seen as a way Russia generates power over Turkey.

Two earlier posts:

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