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article imageOp-Ed: As Turkey sends more troops to Idlib Syrian conflict escalates

By Ken Hanly     Feb 22, 2020 in World
This week fighting in northeastern Syria escalated significantly with disturbing results as Turkey became directly into confrontation with Syrian army forces. Russia which is supporting Assad's forces could come into conflict with Turkey as well.
Turkey's support for the rebels could escalate into war with Syria
Russia has already warned Turkey to cease its strong support for the rebels the main group of which is associated with Al Qaeda. For its part Turkey would like to see the US involved in the area. The US already has troops in Syria but no doubt neither Russia nor the US want to come into direct conflict. However, the US has approved of Turkey's actions.
Turkey probably hopes that the US expression of support will lead to military help as well. However, the US supports the Kurds while Turkey considers many of them terrorists. The US is no doubt conflicted about its position in Syria and is hardly likely to complicate things even further by initiating clashes with the Russians.
US troops in the northeast are protecting oil fields
US troops are in the northeast supposedly protecting oil fields. However, Trump has claimed that the oil belongs to the US. He no doubt would like to sell the oil and use the revenue to pay for military operations. However, because of the doubtful legality of any such sale no large oil company has so far shown any interest in helping out Trump. As Assad forces gain confidence as they have retaken considerable territory in the Aleppo and Idlib region, US forces may find that they too will be challenged by the Syrian Army creating another front and an expanded conflict.
As a recent article notes: "Syria’s civil war long has provided a free-for-all battlefield for proxy fighters. But in its ninth year, it is drawing major foreign actors into direct conflict, with the threat of all-out confrontations becoming a real possibility."
Turkish President Erdogan threatens larger operation
The Syrian Army has launched an offensive that has taken considerable territory around Aleppo including opening the M5 highway that joins Aleppo to Damascus. Assad forces are now carrying their offensive into the governorate of Idlib the last remaining stronghold of the rebels. The offensive have driven thousands of civilians away from the front lines to closer to the Turkish border. The Turkish border is closed creating a humanitarian disaster. Erdogan has threatened Assad with serious retaliation should Turkish troops be killed. Some have already been killed and Erdogan has retaliated. Turkey seems determined to stop the Assad offensive. This however, could bring a serious confrontation with Russia. Perhaps there will be talks that may be able to stop the clashes at least for a time as earlier talks had done. However, in the longer run it seems that the remaining territory in rebel hands will ultimately be retaken by the Assad government unless some larger power such as the US decides to support Turkey militarily.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Syria Turkey relations, War in Syria, idlib
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