BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 A.M.) – The Syrian government has repeatedly vowed to retake “every inch” of Syrian land that is currently under the control of the opposition and Kurdish-led forces.
However, despite these proclamations by the government, the Syrian Armed Forces have been unable to launch any significant ground offensives against groups like Jaysh Al-Izza (FSA faction), Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (jihadist faction), and the Turkestan Islamic Party (jihadist faction).
One of the key players in preventing this Syrian Army’s offensive in both Idlib and Hama has been the Turkish Armed Forces.
Using their “observation posts”, Turkey has strategically placed its troops near the Syrian Arab Army’s front-lines, which has ultimately forced the latter to halt any potential ground operation inside the demilitarized zone.
The presence of the Turkish Armed Forces near towns like Tal Al-‘Eis (southern Aleppo) and Morek (northern Hama) has left the Syrian military with limited options in northwest Syria.
As repeatedly seen over the last few months, the Syrian Arab Army has relied on shelling and missile strikes to target groups like Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Izza in the demilitarized zone between the Hama and Idlib governorates.
Even with their thousands of soldiers in northwest Syria, the Syrian Arab Army has been ordered to halt any operation that would threaten the safety of the Turkish Armed Forces near the demilitarized zones.
The force behind this decision to keep the Syrian Arab Army idle in northwestern Syria has been the Russian Armed Forces.
The Russian military has relied on dialogue with their Turkish partners in order to patrol the demilitarized zone and halt hostilities between the government and opposition forces.
Without Russia’s approval, the Syrian military would not launch an operation of this magnitude, especially with a potential conflict with the Turkish Armed Forces hanging in the balance.
Russia has a strong desire to keep Turkey happy because they have proven to be a thorn in the side of the U.S. Coalition, who currently backs the Kurdish groups that Ankara has labeled ‘terrorists’.
Turkey’s Conflict in Northern Syria
Turkey wants to expel the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Aleppo, Al-Raqqa, and Al-Hasakah governorates, despite the fact these groups are NATO-backed.
The Russian Federation sees this brewing conflict as a way to force Washington to either withdraw from Syria or worse, clash with their NATO ally.
The U.S. and Turkey would not likely engage in combat with one another; however, Turkey’s refusal to accept a U.S.-administrated buffer zone in northern Syria could further strain their fragile relationship.
The Syrian Arab Army has mobilized its forces in northwestern Syria and they are ready to launch a new offensive; however, the current conflict in the eastern Euphrates will likely have an integral effect on the decision to begin a military operation.
It is very likely that Russia will prevent the Syrian military operation until the Turkish Armed Forces begin their push to expel the SDF and YPG from the eastern Euphrates region, and there is no guarantee that Turkey will actually launch an offensive.
If the Turkish military and their rebel allies do attack the SDF-held areas, it could pave the way for the Syrian Armed Forces to push into the demilitarized zone and begin retaking the territories they lost during the opposition’s 2014 southern Idlib offensive.