members of the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which is cleaning Afrin for the Turkish government "clean". Propaganda image
Rifts between Moscow and Ankara? Russian Auben Minister Lavrov stresses cooperation between the two countries
The Turkish government remains silent on yesterday’s attack "on Syrian rebels", who are being trained by the Turkish military, Turkish journalist Ragyb Soylu commented this morning. Soylu is an interesting source, as he has good access to information from the Turkish government.
Indeed, the English-language editions of the Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah and the Hurriyet Daily News Today, other topics: Erdogan versus Macron, Erdogan versus Wilders, Greece, Nagorno-Karabakh. But the attack was allowed to be a topic of discussion in the Turkish government.
It is a setback for the approach in Syria.
Idlib: A major compoundeter of the turkey
The training camp of the Islamist militia Faylaq ash-Sham in Idlib, Syria, near the border with Turkey, was hit. Casualty figures vary, roughly ranging from over 40 to as many as over 100 dead. According to some reports, civilians were also hit.
There are no exact reliable data yet, but many unconfirmed rumors: for example, that militia fighters were to be sent to Azerbaijan for an operation. The rough rumor about the air attack on the camp is that it shows the rupture between Russia and Turkey.
The attack was carried out by Russian planes, according to a report by Sputnik. It was directed against an important ally of Turkey in northern Syria. The central role of the Islamist, sometimes jihadist, militia Faylaq ash-Sham (aka "Failak" written or with "al" instead of the assimilated article "as(c)h") in the Turkic occupied zones in northern Syria has already been mentioned here in several reports (see, for example, Afrin: The Turkic Jihad).
It played a significant role in the conquest of Idlib in 2015, where it was an ally of al-Nusra (which at the time gave itself the collective name Jaish al-Fatah) as well as Ahrar al-Sham. Later, the militia was part of the Turkic alliance that took part in the military operations "Euphrates Shield" (near Jarablus) and "Olive Branch" (in Afrin). It also has good ties to Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham (HTS), the ruling militia in Idlib, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, whose leader al-Golani is also the head of HTS.
Thus, the Russian attack on the training camp of the militia – which is trained by Turkish militaries, so Turkish casualties of the attack cannot be excluded – also has a significance for the events in Syria above all. According to the Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin, who is also a well-informed author, the Russian attack was preceded by months of strengthening of the Turkish military presence in Idlib.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey
Since Turkey and Russia reached an agreement on Idlib in March of this year, tensions developed. Especially since, according to Tastekin, there were signs that Turkish intelligence was trying to bring the HTS together with the Syrian National Army (SNA) and National Liberation Front (NFL) militia alliances under the umbrella of a military council. The two militia alliances are allies of Turkey.
The fact that there is cooperation between Turkey and the al-Qaeda affiliate HTS is an open secret. It is also obvious that the HTS makes propaganda efforts to appear as moderate as possible and, in the course of doing so, more radical jihadist militias are "harmless" has made. Quite a few observers saw this as an activity entirely in the interests of Turkey, which is also securing its influence on Idlib via the HTS.
The HTS is aiming to establish itself as a negotiating partner that cannot be bypassed when it comes to settlements on Idlib; Turkey is pursuing its plan to establish an alliance between the two countries "Safety zone" along the Turkic-Syrian border to push back the Kurds and connect the Turkic occupation zones in Syria.
There was prere from Russia on Turkey to dismantle observation posts in Idlib, Tastekin said, to make way for the Syrian army. Turkey complied, but probably "contre coeur"; its policy in Idlib, not least because of its interconnectedness, is aimed at keeping the Syrian army’s presence as small as possible. Kurdish media report that after the withdrawal of the observation posts, there were Turkish attacks outside Idlib on areas of Kurdish self-government, for example in Ain Issa.
Turkey’s protective umbrella over militias affiliated or cooperating with it also includes the fact that HTS militias and NLF militias strengthened their military training in order to avoid any disadvantages against the Syrian army "in night fights" to compensate. According to Tagesschau information Failak al-Sham is a member of the alliance NLF.
A stop signal…
From the looks of it, the Russian air force in Syria yesterday sent a clear "stop signal" for the militia activities launched and sponsored by Turkey. "This is a big move, as Faylak ash-Sham is the darling of Turkey, a leading faction of the Syrian National Army and a participant in the Astana process as well as the intercepting committee. But this is how Moscow draws its red lines", This is the opinion of Maxim A., an al-Monitor specialist on Russia’s Middle East policy. Sukhkov, whose views on Russian policy in Syria are critical, but who does not belong to the camp of Russia-bashers.
If one adds to these events in Syria the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Greece yesterday and emphasized the special role of Greece for Russian relations with the EU, one could conclude, following the tenor of some reports, that more and stronger fault lines are now emerging between Russia and Turkey.
… and a rupture?
Some of the comments published on the occasion of Lavrov’s visit to Athens fit in with this. For example, Mitsotaki’s assessment that Turkey is the troublemaker, as it is made in the context of the visit, almost reads as if this is supported by the Russian auben minister’s agreement.
The Syrian news agency Sana also quotes from the press conference on the visit that the "negative role of Turkey in Syria" was criticized. The Greek Aubenminister Nikos Dendias is reproduced by the conference with the fact that Turkey in all regional developments of the "destabilizing factor" be.
However, the Sana report also states that, according to Lavrov, the Russian and Turkish positions on different ies, although "not identical" but he also stressed that Moscow was determined to continue cooperation with Ankara to resolve conflicts and crises in the Mediterranean region.
In Libya, Lavrov said, negotiations between Russia and Turkey are an important basis for bringing the parties to the conflict closer together. In the conflict in Azerbaijan, too, there are said to have been consultations between Moscow and Ankara. As far as NATO is concerned, Turkish journalists have recently stressed that Turkey is completely on the side of the alliance in Georgia, for example, and there have also been positions on Ukraine that appeal to transatlanticists. However, Erdogan is going his own way, as shown by the test of the S-400 – he will not be forbidden to do so.
According to the critical observer of the blog Moon of Alabama, the Turkish claim to power finds its limits in the overstretching of the Turkish state. In order to protect its military and economy, a withdrawal from some of the current fronts is necessary.