The Operation Idlib Dawn Paradox in Syria
The end of the very long Syrian conflict is trying to come to an end, yet even now, ending it is problematic.
The city of Idlib is around 3 million. Within that civilian base are between 10-30,000 rebels that remained defiant and well armed. The Russian navy of some 20+ warships, many with cruise missiles, await further orders from Putin, in the meantime, Russian and Syrian aircraft sporadically attack the approaches to the city. Some 60,000 Syrian soldiers and hundreds of tanks have been deployed within striking distance. The world awaits.
While the Russians, Syrians, and Iranians coordinate their plans, Turkey, which is usually in agreement with Putin, strongly objects to any attack on Idlib, which is not far from the Turkish border. The fear of a mass exodus of civilians fleeing into Turkey would create another crisis. The USA, Britain and France have also clearly stated that this last attack of the Syrian war must not occur and warn that should ANY chemical weapons be used, the NATO countries (which still includes Turkey) will punish the aggressors. There are some 2000 American soldiers in southern Syria. But lately, the Trump administration at the U.N. clearly has stated that the U.S. will respond if the Idlib offensive actually occurs, chemical weapons or not.
It is ironic that the NATO countries in some odd manner are allowing the 10-30,000 terrorists or rebels to remain intact by warning the would-be attackers. One might think that NO country would like to see these terrorists continue on with their jihad and that Russia, Syria, and Iran, would be doing all the world a favor by destroying them. But that is not the case.
Even in this final battle of the Syrian war that has killed 300,000 or more during its many years, there is no agreement about how to conduct this last bastion of al-Qaeda fighters because of the toll to the innocent still living there. Yet, the offensive seems to gradually starting with over 100 Russian airstrikes in that area and a continued Syrian Army build-up. Meanwhile, in a show of force and resoluteness, the Americans have conducted their own military exercise south of Homs to send Putin a clearer message about U.S. capabilities last week. The Pentagon has also stated that all military options are being explored.
If you are the attackers, do you take the gamble and ignore the warnings by some very powerful forces and decimate the rebels in Idlib? Russian air defenses have some the best technology. It would be a delicate situation where a real major conflict could occur between former friends and current enemies. One could see how this offensive just might ignite another Middle East war because Israel is also in the mix and one wrong move just might be enough.
The Americans and Russians are uneasy partners so far in Syria. There is a mutual respect and both really do not want Iranian meddling, which simply acerbates the region. Iran has its own objective with or without the Russians. The Syrians will only go forward if Russia is game. Turkey's position is like a red-line. Russia knows Turkey and other NATO countries will respond. If chemical weapons are used, the Syrians will blame the rebels and vice versa. In either case, America and others will respond.
The Syrian end-game is here and some predict it will be a lake of blood before it is over. What else could possibly happen there?