Last week, there was a new round of aggravation of the conflict between the United States and Iran in Iraq. Compared to Iraq, the Syrian Idlib had a relatively calmer situation.
The last picture looked like this. During the military operation launched in Idlib with the support of Russia, the Syrian army advanced to the M4 and M5 highways. The tension, which increased until the Turkish and Syrian armies clashed with each other continued until March 5, 2020. After the meeting of Erdogan and Putin in Moscow on March 5, the Syrian army did not retreat from the positions it was in, and Russian patrols wedged between the two forces. At the leaders' talks, it was agreed that Turkish and Russian forces would patrol in some areas, primarily along the M4 highway. The details of the March 5 talks have not yet been publicly announced. With the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, Idlib dropped to the bottom of the agenda.
On the one hand, the coronavirus infection began to spread, and on the other, the radical groups that control Idlib continued to keep the part of the M4 highway, which is one of the two main routes connecting Derja to Damascus, Damascus to Aleppo and the Iraqi border. They recently announced that they would not leave the region.
At the same time, there are reports that the number of Turkish observation posts in Idlib exceeded 50. And the question of Turkish observation posts was one of the main causes of the Turkish-Russian crisis that erupted before March 5. Russia claimed that the Turkish observation posts were created as a result of the Sochi agreement, but Turkey does not fulfill the obligations that it took upon in this agreement.
As a result, neither Sochi-Astana nor the March 5 talks gave any sustainable solution to the problem in Idlib. Yes, they could not give. For example, at a meeting on March 5, the "introduction of a ceasefire" was announced. Although the news about Idlib reveals that a ceasefire extends to armed groups in the region, nonetheless Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, trained by al-Qaeda. And the parties agreed that the ceasefire will not be introduced spread to radical terrorist organizations. In addition, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham made a standard statement: "We will not abide by the ceasefire." In other words, the main purpose of the armistice was to prevent clashes between the Turkish and Syrian armies, and for some time this worked out. Turkey is currently focused on the coronavirus epidemic. There is no such an intensive diplomatic process with Russia on the Idlib issue as in early March. In addition, both the March 5 negotiations and the statements after them have repeatedly emphasized that Russia will not make concessions on the Idlib issue.
Due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to find a diplomatic solution in Idlib and Russia does not intend to make concessions, some comments and speculations have appeared regarding the negotiations on March 5. For example, the assessments voiced in Russia and Damascus say that the parties agreed that Turkey will fight radical groups in Idlib.
In a word, the Idlib field, which had been calm for several weeks, began to heat up again. Judging by the latest reports coming from the region on the one hand, and the Syrian army on the other, the Turkish Army is concentrating forces in the areas of their presence. In Damascus, assumptions are being made that "the Idlib problem will be resolved before the end of 2020." It is noted that the Syrian army is phasing out the last transfer of forces and is preparing to begin the final stage of the Idlib operation, which lasted almost two years. There is also evidence that along with the Syrian army, Russia is also preparing for the operation.
In the coming days, Idlib appears to be on the agenda again. However, it is still not known whether Turkey’s position on this issue will change. A few weeks ago, radical groups attacked the Turkish Armed Forces. It should be noted once again that the more difficult the position of groups controlling the city will be, the higher the likelihood that they will go to any provocation. Turkey’s position on the Idlib issue can cause both a new, even tougher Turkish-Russian crisis and a clash between the Turkish armed forces and the Syrian army.