An offensive launched two weeks ago by Al-Qaeda in the northern areas of Syria’s Hama province appears to be unravelling, with Jihadi forces in the area coming under heavy bombing by the Russian air force and forced onto the retreat by a counter-attack launched by the Syrian army.
My opinion, together with that of many other observers, is that the green light for this offensive and for the simultaneous offensive Al-Qaeda launched in eastern Damascus, came from Turkish President Erdogan, who has been struggling to achieve some gains for Turkey in Syria to justify his intervention in that country.
The fact that Turkish backed Jihadi groups were involved in both the Damascus and the Hama offensives to my mind all but confirms this fact, though in fairness to Erdogan these groups are difficult to control. However the fact that Erdogan and the Turkish authorities failed to call on these Turkish backed Jihadi groups to observe the ceasefire and desist from joining these offensives to my mind all but confirms that at the very least he gave the green light to them.
In the event the failure of these offensives has – as I discussed previously – left the Jihadis and Erdogan in an even weaker position than they were before.
The fact that Erdogan has now formally announced the end of Operation Euphrates Shield, and that US Secretary of Tillerson has announced during a visit to Turkey that Syrian President Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people and not by the US and its allies, both look as if they might be the result of this.
If so then the Jihadi offensives in Damascus and Hama may have been the last desperate throw of the ‘regime change’ coalition which has been driving the Syrian war since the conflict in Syria began in 2011.
In that case the fact the demand for ‘regime change’ is being dropped following these defeats would mark the first occasion since the USSR’s collapse in 1991 when a NATO backed ‘regime change’ war – albeit one which in this case has been fought covertly – has been defeated, both diplomatically and on the battlefield.