Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 13:07 (GMT+7)

Thursday, April 16, 2020, 14:44 (GMT+7)
The battlefield of Idlib - the ending of the “mini world war” in Syria

Since the end of 2019, with the comprehensive support from Russia and Iran, the Syrian Armed Forces have launched a military campaign to liberate Iblib and annihilate the remnants of terrorist organisations right at their ultimate base. This campaign is of paramount importance to the fate of Syria and the global war on terror. 

Identifying the war in Syria

Over the years, the war in Syria has been considered, interpreted and defined in various ways. First, some people think that it is a civil war between the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition which is also known as the anti-government forces. This interpretation fails to reflect the political, economic, and military intervention by the U.S. and its allies from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Middle East in the war in a bid to topple the government of Bashar al-Assad and establish a new political regime to defend their interests. Second, it is a “proxy war” waged and led by the U.S., NATO, and especially Turkey in which they use the so-called “opposition” on the pretext of fighting terrorism in order to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, Russia, Iran, and Palestine’s volunteer forces support the Syrian Government and Armed Forces and protect this country’s national sovereignty and political regime. Third, developing the second interpretation, some people believe that it is a “miniature world war.” In the interviews with foreign press, President Bashar al-Assad has said that there is no civil war in Syria and that it is a “miniature model of world war.” According to him, in this war, the U.S. and its allies have used the so-called “opposition” with terrorist organisations and particularly the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State (IS) playing a central role.

The third interpretation has been built on several criteria when comparing with the World War II. 72 countries had taken part in the World War II while nearly 80 countries have participated in the war in Syria. The World War II took place in almost all continents and oceans. Meanwhile, the Syria war has occurred mainly in the Middle East. However, it has been related to the war on terror in the Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. The US military intervention in Syria is aimed at executing its Greater Middle East Project, controlling the geo-political belt stretching from the Middle East to the Europe, the Central Asia, and the South Asia, and maintaining the unipolar world order established after the end of the Cold War.

The context of the battle in Idlib

Since it faced the anti-terrorism war in the name of “Arab Spring” in 2011, with the comprehensive support from Russia and Iran, Syria has won the “proxy war” waged by the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East. Being unable to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, in 2013, inventing the excuse that “Syrian Armed Forces used chemical weapons,” the then US President Barack Obama stated that America would employ its military strength to topple President Bashar al-Assad, like the war in Iraq in 2003. According to Russia’s initiative, Syria removed its full chemical weapons arsenal under the supervision of the United Nations; therefore, the U.S. had no reason for launching a war against Damascus.

After the rise of the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in June 2014, under the motto of “fighting the IS,” on September 11th, 2014, the then US President Barack Obama formed a coalition with the participation of nearly 40 countries to attack targets in Syria. However, one year later, the IS and other terrorist organisations were not destroyed; they even took control of most of Syria’s territory, with more than 1,000 anti-government armed groups, 70,000 combatants, and tens of thousands of terrorist mercenaries from nearly 80 countries. More seriously, they approached the capital city of Damascus and directly threatened the survival of Syria’s political regime.

Against that backdrop, Syria officially petitioned Russia and Iran to join the fight against terrorism. According to the Resolution by the United Nations Security Council, the military deployment by a country to another’s territory must be at the request of the latter one. So, the military intervention in Syria by the U.S. and its allies on the pretext of “combating terrorism” violated the international law. In response to Syria’s reasonable and legitimate request, on September 30th, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially launched a military campaign against terrorism. More than 2 years later, on December 6th, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that basically, the IS in Syria had been defeated. Since then, in cooperation with Russia, Iran, and Palestine’s volunteer forces, the Syrian Armed Forces have hunted down the remnants of the IS and other terrorist organisations, thereby forcing them to flee to Idlib.

The battlefield of Idlib - the ending of the “mini world war”

When launching a military campaign in Idlib, Syria encountered many difficulties and challenges. More specifically, after announcing the success in “the fight against terrorism,” the U.S. continued to illegally maintain a military force in Syria, pretending that “it would protect Syria’s oil fields.” Meanwhile, Turkey pursued an ambitious goal of expanding its border into Idlib. At that time, Idlib was under the control of the “opposition” which mainly consisted the remnants of the IS and the “Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham”.

To achieve the goal of liberating Idlib, Syria focused on screening and correctly recognising and annihilating terrorist elements within the “opposition” to avoid civilian casualties. By means of the initiative by President Vladimir Putin, Russia managed to reach three important agreements with Turkey and Iran. Firstly, Russia, Turkey, and Iran would co-sponsor the political process in Syria, and Turkey would acknowledge Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Secondly, since September 2018, a 15km-20km wide demilitarised zone in Idlib would be established under control of the Turkish Armed Forces and Russia’s military police and Turkey would be responsible for disarming and driving the terrorist forces out of this region by October 15th, 2019. Thirdly, Turkey would put an end to its “Peace Spring Operation” against the Kurdish armed forces in Northeast Syria and commit itself to respecting Syria’s national sovereignty and territory.

However, Turkey broken its commitments and created a favourable condition for the terrorist organisations to consolidate their strength and acquire more weapons and equipment to regain the initiative on the battlefield. Hence, in 2019, with the support from Turkey, the terrorist organisations conducted a lot of attacks on Syria’s forces and even Russia’s targets at the military base of Khmeimim. In response to those attacks, on December 19th, 2019, the Syrian Armed Forces launched an offensive against the terrorist forces in Idlib. On February 27th, 2020 the terrorist group “Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham” carried out a large-scale offensive against military bases of the Syrian Armed Force. According to a report by Russia’s Ministry of Defence, Turkish troops within the terrorist forces’ combat formation were under the fire range of Syrian military units; therefore, 30 of them were killed. After the event, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Syria’s Government and those who support Syria would be enemies of Turkey. Moreover, he reported the scene to the NATO and asked it to hold an emergency meeting on February 28th, 2020 for the consultation process according to the Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty. However, at the meeting, NATO only called on Russia and Syria to stop their offensive without any military decision being made.

During his phone talk with President Vladimir Putin on February 29th, 2020, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan required Russia to “step aside” and let Turkey militarily confront Syria. Mesut Hakki Casin, an adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, even claimed that Turkey had “fought Russia 16 times in the past, we will do it again.” On March 1st, 2020, Turkey launched the Operation “Spring Shield” against the Syrian Armed Forces in Idlib. It is clear to see that the scene in Idlib would possibly lead to a “clash” between Russia and Turkey. Obviously, the confrontation would pose a threat to Tayyip Erdogan and directly impact on the relations between Russia and Turkey.

To prevent the danger of confrontation, President Tayyip Erdogan hurriedly flew to Moscow and had a private talk with President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, dialogues between two sides’ foreign ministers and experts were held. Consequently, Russia and Turkey signed a ceasefire. The ceasefire began at midnight on March 6th, 2020. According to this agreement, Syria would regain control of the strategic city of Saraqib which is the intersection between the M5 highway (connecting Damascus with Aleppo) and the M4 highway (connecting Aleppo with Latakia and the region around Idlib with a total area of over 600 square kilometres). Russia and Turkey would establish a 12km-long “safety corridor” along the M4 highway from the North to the South, which Russian and Turkish forces would co-patrol. The deal is an important step to settle the conflict between the two sides by peaceful means. However, according to President Bashar al-Assad, to end the war in Syria, the U.S. and Turkey have to withdraw their troops from his country as there is no legal foundation for their military presence in Syria. He also believes that Syria and Turkey are neighbours, adding that all military operations by Damascus will be aimed at only attacking terrorism and completely liberating the country, in stead of Turkey.

According to experts around the world, the war in Syria is a confrontation between the two sides. Syria as the first side supported by Russia, Iran, and Palestine’s volunteer forces only hopes to defeat terrorism and liberate the country. Meanwhile, Turkey as the second side backed by the U.S., NATO, Israel and a number of its allies in the Middle East resolutely provides assistance for the “opposition”, including the terrorist organisations in gaining control of Syria. Developments of the scene in Syria have proved President Bashar al-Assad’s judgement about the war in his country as a “mini world war.” To end the war and restore peace in Syria, it is necessary for permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to raise their voice. Hence, on January 23rd, 2020, attending the World Forum held in Jerusalem to remember the Holocaust in the World War II, Russian President Putin proposed a meeting between 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council about handling the threats to global peace and security, including the war in Syria. Analysts described the meeting proposed by Russia as the “ second Yalta Conference” (a meeting between America, the Soviet Union, and the UK organised in February 1945 to reshape the world after the end of the World War II).

Leaders of the U.S., France, and China agreed on this proposal. Notably, US President Donald Trump recommended holding the “second Yalta Conference” in his country on the occasion of the 75th founding anniversary of the United Nations. The “second Yalta Conference” will give major powers a chance to settle many global security issues, including the “miniature world war” in Syria. In case this Conference is not held, resolution of the global security issues must be based on the consensus among all members of the United Nations Security Council.

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