A large Turkish army convoy consisting of more than 100 Turkish soldiers, including special forces and commandos, along with at least 30 armored trucks entered Syria’s Idlib region around 22:15 local time, for a joint mission with Russia and Iran to monitor a local de-escalation zone and “pacify al-Qaeda linked militants” there, Hurriyet newspaper reports. While their destination was not clear, local sources told Al Jazeera the troops were headed towards the western part of Aleppo province.
The de-escalation zone forms part of an agreement reached between Turkey, which backs forces battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and Iran and Russia, which support his government.
This move by the Turkish Army comes just days after Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield Forces were preparing an operation to expel the Al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham terror group from the Idlib Governorate.
Al Jazeera, reporting from Antakya, along Turkey’s border with Syria, said:
“This is what we know so far: dozens of military vehicles have crossed into Syria. “It remains to be seen what happens to the fighters who control Idlib province. Civilians there have been living in fear of potential clashes between Turkish-backed opposition Free Syrian Army fighters and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of armed groups that controls Idlib.”
A military build-up has taken place of late along Turkey’s border with Syria, with Turkey supporting a campaign to secure opposition control over Idlib province.
With Turkish relations with the US – not to mention Europe – at rock bottom, we doubt that the US State Department will be pleased by this sudden escalation in which Russia once again projects to the west that Syria is its domain, and that NATO member Turkey has become one of its biggest allies in the middle east region. The US, however, will have no choice but to respond as the Turkish incursion means that Kurdish US-coalition allies will demand a US response, or else the entire region will henceforth perceive Washington as a paper tiger.