What after Tahrir al-Sham's control over Idlib?  

FERHAD SHAMI

It is clear that Sochi Agreement on the Idlib between the Turkish and Russian presidents needs to address and introduce a large number of amendments to suit the recent situation that the region reached under the absolute control of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib, especially that both parties do not want to end the agreement at the present time despite the apparent lack of trust between them since the signing of the agreement, and waiting each party of both for the other to veto the convention and apply it to the extent that suits its interests.

However, it has become clear that Turkey has failed to a large extent in implementing the convention, and it suffers from the heavy burden of obligations and mercenary organizations that are out of discipline as it needs to get rid of some of the organizations, re-position others on the fronts corresponding to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and preoccupy others with battles here and there. It does not have a clear plan to deal with the reality only to tak

+e advantage of the changes that may not be in its favor after today in light of the local and international dialogues on the Syrian crisis after the US withdrawal decision.

Perhaps the most important challenges to the steadfastness of Sochi is the recent control of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham over the largest part of the province of Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo reaching Hama and Lattakia. The organization that was required to be dismantled by Turkey in Sochi Agreement which would have resulted in the opening of international roads and the installation of the truce for a longer period of time to get away the region from the battle.

But what happened was the dismantling of many mercenary groups that were described as moderate and extended more to Hayet Tahrir al-Sham under the eyes of the Turkish observation points, which opened more questions about Turkey's role in the recent development and its position after that, especially after a meeting held about a month ago gathered the leaders of the mercenary factions, including the leaders of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham, where they were informed by orders of the Turkish President Recep Teyyip Erdogan the need to merge all factions in one group (the National Liberation Front - the Syrian National Army - Hayet Tahrir al-Sham) which were ignored by Hayet Tahrir al-Sham and the movement of Nour ed-Din al-Zenki. 

Other orders have been rejected; the implementation of one of the provisions of the so-called Sochi Convention, namely the handover of at least two border gates in the areas of the Turkish mercenaries to the Russian military police as a condition for the opening of the international road between Aleppo and Enteb which passes through the western countryside of Aleppo under al-Zenki control and as an exchange for the Turkish presence in Idlib, and 2 gates of Jarabulus and Bab al-Hawa in Idlib were nominated to implement the convention, which prompted Turkey to urgently open the crossing border of the village of Hamam, west of Afrin to secure the contact with its mercenaries through the crossings in the event of the development of things.

Contrary to the expectations, it seems that the new situation does not disturb the Syrian regime and Russia which appear to be more comfortable in dealing with the flexible Hayet Tahrir al-Sham in their relations according to previous experiences, and they are busy now in the situation in the east of the Euphrates where the compass of all forces and local and international parties in Syria headed to. Russia continues to rely on the Turkish factor to confuse the Americans, push them to abandon their projects, and put pressure on the Syrian Democratic Forces and their political cover to accept the conditions of the regime and restore the situation to what it was before 2011.

Perhaps the most important questions raised after Hayet Tahrir al-Sham's control of Idlib are whether the battle will erupt soon? Can the parties that have opposed and prevented the regime's campaign and former Russia find sufficient grounds to keep the war out again? Will Turkey launch a military campaign against Hayet Tahrir al-Sham?

At the beginning of August 2017, the mercenaries of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham began a military campaign against Ahrar al-Sham mercenaries in Idlib, where they took over vast spaces of lands and important sites including the border crossings with Turkey. At that time, the US Special Envoy to Syria Michael Ratney threatened and promised to target the fighters and leaders of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham and the interface that is created to cover them, stressing that in the case of control of Hayet Tahrir al-Sham on Idlib, it will be difficult for his country to convince the international parties after taking the military actions required.

Today, after about a year and a half, Hayet Tahrir al-Sahm is re-establishing itself again wider, thus giving way to the regime and Russia as well as Iran to carry out a military campaign if they wanted, especially that the international position cannot oppose such a procedure under the last situations as much as offering proposals to participate in it. Russia cannot carry out the campaign on its own unless it forms international and local coalitions no less powerful than the coalition formed to fight IS, or agrees with the United States to do so. It has been proved that relying on Turkey to fight Hayet Tahrir al-Sham would be useless so a search for international and local parties to save the west of the Euphrates region from terrorism is the best and shortest way for Moscow if it serious about getting rid of terrorism.

For Turkey, it is certain that it will not wage any battle against organizations it has originally formed and relied upon to sabotage the region, divide it and change its demographics, and its mobilization of its forces on the border is to exploit these organizations in further incursions into Syria and stop any development that might lead the Syrian parties to discuss the military presence and the Turkish Intelligence on the Syrian territories falsely and recklessly, or to protect it in the event of danger. It has not accepted yet the idea of ​​watching its mercenaries going to collapse as happening with IS now. 

At a time when everyone was waiting for the war in Idlib four months ago, when the regime and Iran had mobilized most of their forces on the fronts, Russia surprised the world by agreeing with Turkey in Sochi. Today, it will not be strange for Russia to direct its interest to north-west Syria, specifically Idlib and the northern countryside of Aleppo, resolve the issues there militarily again, and leave the Euphrates to the rounds of negotiations between the regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces, following them from afar until the clarification of the reality of the American withdrawal in the coming period.

Russia needs to unravel the developments in the East Euphrates and Idlib so that its vision would be clear away from the Turkish lies before terrorism recovers again in new forms and formulas by Turkey on which it is currently working.

A.H

ANHA


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