Connect with us




IDLIB: Where sectarian wars, proxy wars and international cooperation collide

The battle for Idlib will likely be the most fraught of all remaining fights to liberate Syria.




Ankara has announced that as part of its rights and obligations, in line with the most recent Astana agreement, Turkey will be sending further troops into Syria’s fraught Idlib Governorate. According to Ankara, Turkish troops in Idlib will work along with long-time Turkish proxy forces in the governorate who tend to call themselves FSA, although as with all proxy forces in Syria, the names of any given set of militants is highly fluid.

Idlib is unique among the Governorates of the western half of Syria, insofar as it is the one part of the region which remains almost totally controlled by terrorist factions. What’s more is that as al-Qaeda and FSA terrorists have been shoved out of much of western and southern Syria, competing terrorist factions within Idlib, have turned on one another in what amounts to a civil war between terrorist factions, each vying for control of land, resources and international attention.

Added to this mix, the geographic location of Idlib makes it well placed to act as a kind of buffer zone against Kurdish attempts to annex or else dominate the northern frontier of Syria. Earlier this year, Kurdish groups in Syria confirmed their ambitions to create Kurdish enclaves which stretch along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean. Such a development, were it to come to fruition, would be equally opposed by both Turkey and Syria.

While much of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric on his new operation in Idlib sounds markedly similar to that which he employed during the height of Operation Euphrates Shield, an illegal Turkish incursion into Syria designed to destabilise the Syrian government, the facts of Turkey’s current operation are greatly different, albeit in subtle yet profound ways. When it comes to testing Erdogan’s rhetoric against his foreign policies, one only needs to see how closely Turkey is currently cooperating with the Shi’a dominated government in Iraq, a country which is a close Iranian ally. Furthermore, Turkey and Iran are cooperating closely in Iraq and other areas concerning economic and security matters. If Erdogan was purely a Sunni extremist as some of his domestic rhetoric suggests, he would not be cooperating with Iran or Iraq, but he is. This reality speaks for itself: Erdogan is more pragmatic in his executions of policy than he is when describing them to his base at home.

First of all, while Euphrates Shield was illegal, openly anti-Syrian and for all intents and purposes serving the interests of both the US and Israel, Turkey’s current operations in Idlib are part of the legal framework of the Astana Agreements which were reached with Syria’s long time allies Russia and Iran. Furthermore, Damascus gave its approval to the recent Astana Agreement as it has done in respect of all previous such agreements.

Turkey has said openly and in some respects even pridefully, that its Idlib operation is being coordinated with Russia and Iran. Furthermore, Russian Aerospace Forces are working with Turkish troops on the ground against targets in the region.

The practical difference between the current Turkish operation and Euphrates Shield is that Turkey has swapped a dangerous and unrealistic goal of destabilising Syria through the use of proxy Sunni supremacist terrorists, for a realistic and legitimate goal of creating a buffer zone on the Syria-Turkey border which will contain the Syria based Kurdish YPG, an armed group which is allied with the Turkey based Kurdish terrorist organisation PKK.

Today, the Turkish President admitted that this is a major goal of his current operation in Syria. He said,

“YPG is a terrorist organization, which wants to create a terrorist corridor from Afrin to the Mediterranean Sea. We will not allow that and are forced to destroy this corridor. We do not want to seize these territories but we will ensure the security of our borders”.

With Russia acknwoelding that the YPG dominated US proxy force SDF is both colluding with and in other places failing to fight ISIS and with Iran being consummately opposed to the SDF: Turkey, Iran and Russia, along with Syria, all now have a common enemy in the form of the Kurdish led US proxy militia SDF. In this sense, one ought to realistically see Turkey’s new operation in Idlib as a preemptive and possibly soon, an active battle between Turkish and Turkish proxies, against Kurdish positions in Syria, all being done with the direct approval of Russia and Iran and also the tacit approval of Syria.

Whether so-called FSA fighters who in Idlib are little more than mercenaries working for Turkey, actually fight al-Qaeda groups or not, remains to be seen. As it is, Idlib is already a blood bath whose contents are a mixture of blood spilt in a manifold conflict between rival elements of al-Qaeda, the FSA and armed Muslim Brotherhood factions. Put simply, there are no ‘good guys’ in Idlib and haven’t been for some time.

The fact remains that it will not be until the kind of Russo-Syrian cooperation that has been successful in Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Deir-ez-Zor, commences in Idlib, that the world will witness a meaningful liberation of Idlib. Furthermore, because of the manifold nature of the sectarian conflict between terrorist groups in Idlib, there is increasingly little to liberate at this point in time. Here, one can point to Syria and Russia playing a long game, waiting for others, including Turkey, to weed out various factions in order to make the fighting to liberate Idlib more straightforward at a later (but not that much later) date.

Another important factor to remember is how meaningless the title FSA really is. Throughout Syria, various factions call themselves FSA simply to allude to the fact that they are jihadists who are not necessarily directly aligned with the command structure of al-Qaeda nor ISIS. That being said, many of the fighters between various groups are interchangeable.

Just as the US toys with various names for its jihadist proxies ranging from FSA to NSA (New Syrian Army), Turkey is playing the same game of misleading and ultimately inconsequential alphabet soup. What is important to remember is that on the whole, Turkish proxies in Idlib are little more than Turkish mercenaries. So long as Turkey provides the money and/or weapons, they will fight under Turkish orders and at present, in spite of the typical militant Sunni rhetoric that Erdogan offers to his domestic base, in reality. the Turks are going back into Idlib to create a buffer zone against the Kurds and this means, so too will their proxies/mercenaries.

There is always the chance that some factions of the Turkish proxies in Idlib will ‘go rogue’, perhaps even with the tacit consent of some Turkish commanders and align with al-Qaeda as they have done in the past. While this would be an objectively harmful thing, the fact remains that the scope of any such operation would be limited by the prevailing circumstances in Syria.

Everyone from elements of the US State Department to the leaders of France and Germany to the Turks themselves, to the Saudi Foreign Minister, now acknowledge that the Syrian government is not going to fall.

Instead of asking weather Erdogan will revert to his ‘old ways’, a more pertinent set of questions is as follows:

–Will Idlib become a second Golan Heights only substituting Israel for Turkey? 

–Will Idlib fall to Kurdish militants who are on the whole, little more than US and by extrapolation, Israeli proxies? 

–Will Idlib eventually be liberated by legitimate actors and returned to a part of a unitary Syria in line with Syria’s legal position and the stated aims of Russia and Iran? 

The answers to the questions depend on first of all, how successful Turkey is at restraining Kurdish ambitions along the Syrian border and secondly, how committed all of the Astana parties are to respecting Syrian territorial unity.

The best outcome is the full restoration of Idlib under Syrian control. The worst that could happen is a perpetuation of the long time status quo of Idlib being a terrorist no-man’s land. As the US continues to be squeezed out of Syria, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Washington or Tel Aviv will be able to fully get its hands on Idlib, not least because Turkey is now an adversary of both in all but name and right now Turkey is boss in Idlib, along with two other opponents of US ambitions against Syria, Russia and Iran.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Notify of


‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.





Via RT

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading


Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran



Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said ( the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading


Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.



Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading


Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...


Quick Donate

The Duran
Donate a quick 10 spot!


The Duran Newsletter