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Assad Turns the Tide - Saurabh Kumar Shahi - The Sunday Indian
 
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Sunday, November 19, 2017
 
 

As Turkey dithers in a Catch-22 situation, Syrian Army gains new grounds against rebels and foreign-backed terrorists, says Saurabh Kumar Shahi

Assad Turns the Tide

 

recent wins have not only emboldened the regime, it has given them the upper hand in negotiations as well
SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | Issue Dated: February 16, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Assad Turns the Tide | Syria | Turkey | Muslim Brotherhood | Egypt | Abdel-Jabbar Ukaidi | Kurdish |
 

After months and months of supporting, arming, financing and coordinating terrorist groups in Syria, Turkey is now in a bind. There are several factors that are playing now. First, there has been an overall erosion of support for Turkey among the Arab world, including among those who wanted to see Assad go.  Arabs saw Turkey’s role as an infringement in their internal affairs and there is no widespread support for it with the exception of Muslim Brotherhood whom it supported. However, the fall of Brotherhood government in Egypt substantially dented Turkey’s position everywhere and its resources got depleted overnight and so did the space for manoeuvrability.

In the meanwhile, the areas controlled by Turkey supported rebels especially in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo suddenly saw changed circumstances on the ground. The push by Liwa al Islam/Jaish Islam, ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra saw most of the areas under Turkey supported Ahrar Al Sham and Al Farouqe brigades going to them. This badly disturbed the calculation by Turkey. These groups are hardcore Islamist and consider Turkey as a legitimate infidel target. As of now they have stopped supplies to Turkey supported groups through the border posts which are in their control. This has led to lots of brutal infighting among the Turkey supported Syrian rebels and Saudi supported outsiders and Islamists.

In the initial days, because of the weapons provided by Turkey, its supported groups had upper hand, but when new weapons started pouring from Jordanian border courtesy Saudi Arabia to its groups, the Turkey supported groups suddenly saw themselves outarmed and outwitted. Also, most of the arms that turkey sent to its groups in last few months were either looted by ISIS and Liwa Islam or were simply captured at the border the moment it entered.

Another major problem that Turkey faces now is erosion of its manpower. There has been lost of erosion in the base of the groups supported by Turkey. There are two reasons for this. First, they die in huge number compared to Islamists fighters when fighting against government forces. Second, since they are mostly Syrians, they see incentive in taking up the general amnesty program offered by the regime rather than dying. Both the factors have depleted their ranks grossly.

The resignation of Abdel-Jabbar Ukaidi, the head of Turkish supported FSA in Aleppo has further eroded their influence. Although Aleppo city still is under the groups commanded by Turkey, but the story outside the city in other towns of the governate, especially border towns is changing rapidly. And that has worried Turkey. Also, many of the Kurdish areas are now controlled by Kurdish militias who have ties with PKK. This is dangerous for Turkey and that is why it has started dithering.

The problem is, Turkey is in Catch-22 situation. Since Turkey slowed down its support and supply in order to not let it fall in hands of Islamists, it actually indirectly helped Kurds gain upper hands on them. Now it cannot restart supply because that will strengthen only Islamists and not Turkey supported groups, if it does not start than it will help Kurds. Both the situation is bad for Turkey and it does not know what to do now in such situation.

There is too much pressure from US not to support ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra, and it is highly unlikely that Turkey will directly support them now. But since it is not supporting them now, these Islamist groups have started saying that Turkey is also an enemy. I will not be surprised if things in Turkey start to deteriorate in few months. It has started arresting al Qaeda fighters in several parts of Turkey whom they allowed to roam free only few months ago. It is also intercepting some arms and ammunitions which were collected by private Islamists in Turkey to help Jabhat al Nusra.
It is because of this panic that Turkey has started to reach out to Syrians once again and want a solution where Assad is kept out while agreeing to all other Syrian demands so that it manages to save some face. But Assad and Syrians now know its predicament and hence they don’t want to give any quarters to Turkey and Erdogan.

On the other hand, Syrian troops have started to gain grounds in areas that were hitherto untouched. After months of inaction, Syrian Army has started full-fledged operations at Aleppo front. Three mechanized divisions have been pressed there. One has been brought from Homs where major battle is finished and just mopping up operations is left. Another one has been brought from Idleb in North where it has been replaces by Kurdish militia who are pro regime and have achieved remarkable victories against foreign terrorists. Total three divisions are in service now. The operation is named Amaliaat Nizm. Two mechanized divisions have been pushed from north of Aleppo and major fighting is taking place there. Regime has won quite a few towns in the outskirts and the speed with which they have fallen to Syrian troops tells that the rebels in Aleppo are in severe crunch of arms and other logistics. Winter is also playing its part as earlier suggested. 

As this story goes for print, Doomaa has been completely liberated by the troops. Another town of al Nashabiya is also under government control. The idea is to cut the northern escape route. By early this week, troops had also captured over 50 percent of Al Lyramun. If al Lyramun is captured totally, it will leave only al Anadaan to be captured in the northern side.

The recent victory has not only emboldened the regime, it has also given them a distinct upper hand in negotiations with the opposition. In the recently concluded Geneva II dialogue, that confidence was visible. It was not for nothing that the representatives of the regime summarily rejected any discussion on removal of Bashar al-Assad. The opposition was categorically told that any decision on the removal of Assad will be taken by the people of Syria.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017