The troubled Middle Eastern region is in the throes of war and chaos yet again with blood being spilt, mounting casualties and millions of refugees. This time around, the target happens to be Syria. Its people have been suffering for many years now at the hands of terrorists, generously funded and armed by various external players, particularly by Western nations and monarchies of the Persian Gulf.
Tensions in Syria’s Idlib Governorate have risen after militants linked with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (a terrorist group banned in Russia) began their attack against Syrian government forces on 27 February. The Syrian Arab Army counterattacked. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Turkish troops also came under fire because they were among the terrorist units that had launched an offensive against the Syrian forces. Based on coordinates provided by Turkey’s military to that of Russia, the former’s troops should not have been anywhere near the settlement of Behun, among terrorists who had been the target of a massive strike. The tragic deaths of Turkish military personnel occurred in areas where terrorists had staged their attack. Incidentally, there are numerous foreign fighters in these terrorist units.
Some important questions arise at this point. To begin with, why did the Turkish military give Russia inaccurate information about the location of its forces? It is possible that, first, the coordinates had been provided, and then Turkish troops changed their location and ended up in the line of fire. After all, it is well-known that, at present, confusion reigns among Turkish military personnel, and oftentimes it is quite difficult to find out who has given a particular order. There is also a great deal of corruption as terrorists can easily bribe Turkish servicemen to their own benefit.
Then, whoever said that Turkish military leaders were completely loyal to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his clan? It is common knowledge that a couple of years ago, a military coup was being planned in Turkey. Vladimir Putin personally warned President Erdoğan about it, thus surely saving his life. So is it not possible that Turkish generals could be setting their leader up by turning him against Russia? Has the climate in Turkey changed since the coup attempt? Probably not.
It is perfectly understandable that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as the current President and a descendent of great sultans, could not simply accept the loss of 33 Turkish soldiers (even if their death lies at Ankara’s doorstep) and ordered a military retaliation. Turkish armed forces dealt a massive blow to the Syrian troops in Idlib, destroying their Buk and Pantsir missile systems, 23 tanks and an equal number of field and self-propelled guns, as well as 5 helicopters. We can only imagine how happy the terrorists must have been to see Syrian troops massacred and their equipment destroyed. It is quite clear that while Syrians targeted insurgents and terrorists, the Turks focused their attack on Syria’s forces in their own territory.
As the unfortunate events continued to unfold in Syria, reports published by many Western media outlets have clearly showed the West’s appetite for a possible confrontation between Russia and Turkey Baseless accusations against Damascus and expressions of support for the terrorists and insurgents flooded their pages. Even Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (who is on US payroll) took an active part in the spectacle orchestrated by Washington. He suggested that Russia and Syria’s government forces halt their attack in Idlib.
Jens Stoltenberg’s statements about this issue have been truly unbelievable. Instead of urging terrorists to lay down their weapons and stop killing civilians: the elderly, women and children or encouraging all parties to the conflict to come to the negotiation table, he has appealed to troops who have been putting their life on the line by battling terrorism and trying to bring peace to the war-torn nation of Syria to put down their weapons and let insurgents take over.
Another question arises at this stage “So why do European governments battle extremism in their own territories, refuse to negotiate with terrorists or bring them to justice, but still express support for such talks in Syria?”.
After all, the aforementioned “plan of action” is being advocated by the West. US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft demanded that Russia immediately stop its air strikes in Syria, seemingly failing to grasp the unfolding situation there. The Ambassador also said that she had absolutely no faith in the Astana Process, aimed at resolving the conflict in Syria and agreed on by Russia, Turkey and Iran in 2017, or its revival.
It is, therefore, clear who is fanning the flames of war in Syria: US-led Western countries and monarchies of the Persian Gulf that “stuffed the pockets” of various terrorist groups in Idlib with dollars. The Pentagon has been responsible for military supplies, generously funded by some Arabic nations. Turkey is currently dancing to their tune, as its President tries to get the West to forgive him for his friendship with Russia. What other possible explanation is there for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s suggestion, during the telephone call with his counterpart Vladimir Putin on 28 February, that Moscow stop intervening in the confrontation between Ankara and Damascus.
It is quite an interesting state of affairs – Turkish forces have illegally entered the Syrian territory, seemingly tasked by the West and monarchies of the Persian Gulf with toppling Syria’s legitimately elected President, Bashar al-Assad. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to be on a quest to re-create the great Ottoman Empire, and the illegitimate occupation of Syria’s northern territories is just a start. In Ankara, the thinking probably goes: “At some point in the past, Syria was a part of the Ottoman Empire, i.e. a vilayet (an administrative division)”.
The Kremlin is concerned about the current situation in Idlib, and has pointed out that it is essential to destroy terrorist units that are staging attacks against the Syrian armed forces. Moscow has also urged that cooler heads prevail discounting the possibility that Russia–Turkey relations will significantly worsen. There is no point in being pessimistic at present, Russian and Turkish military forces are in constant contact, and if the need arises, leaders of both nations join the talks about the aforementioned issues. And Syrian armed forces have every right to respond to any attacks staged by terrorists in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. After all, according to the United Nations Security Council resolution, each country, including Syria, has the right to respond to terrorism in its own way. Both Moscow and Damascus have dismissed the possibility of reaching a compromise with terrorists in the Middle East.
Russia’s peace-seeking stance is aimed, on the one hand, at completely defeating various militants and terrorists, sent from Turkey to Syria, and on the other hand, at engaging in negotiations with the leaders of the opposition who are keen on resolving the drawn-out conflict in Syria by peaceful means.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”