March 6, 2018


Stakes rise in Syria as Turkey clashes with pro-Assad militias (Metin Gurcan, March 6, 2018, Al Monitor)

After the loss of eight Turkish soldiers in Rajo clashes March 3, TSK and FSA elements captured central Rajo by launching a heavy assault supported by Turkish warplanes and T129 assault helicopters. Also, the TSK and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered their first clash at Afrin. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Coventry, England, reported that Turkish airstrikes in the area of Kafr Janna killed some 36 pro-Assad troops.

That first armed confrontation between the TSK and pro-Assad militias in northern Syria is cause for serious concern, especially for Moscow, because if the fight escalates to clashes between TSK and Assad's army -- rather than just supporting militias -- it could mean the collapse of de-escalation efforts west of the Euphrates. Moscow's vision for northern Syria is clear. On one side of the negotiation table, Assad will sit as the big brother under Russian wings with the Democratic Union Party as the younger brother representing the Syrian Kurds, who must be pro-Russia, staunchly secular and leftist. On the other side of the table facing them will be the Syrian opposition, under the tutelage and control of Ankara.

This is why Ankara will have to quickly extract the Sunni opposition from radical jihadist groups, to give the opposition a more moderate outlook. That, in turn, requires eliminating the resistance in Idlib and consolidating the Sunni opposition under a single political and military command controlled by Ankara. There is no place for the United States at this table Russia is setting. 

Posted by at March 6, 2018 4:39 PM