Is Idlib worth lifes of turkish soldiers?
Nowadays Turkey cannot understand what their purpose in Syria is. This question is left unanswered since 2011. Justice and Development Party (JDP) does Syrian politics unilaterally with no discussion in Parliament, which triggers displeasure from other political parties of Turkey. Oppositional Republican People’s Party (RPP) invited the President of Turkey in Parliament to hold a plenary meeting on events in Syria, especially in Idlib province. However JDP authorities declined the invitation.
About 1.5 million people lived in Idlib’s before the war. Today there are almost 3 million with huge amount of radical jihadis who stayed there after Syrian government forces forced them to leave other provinces. The situation in aggravates, and Moscow-Ankara contradictions are likely to rise. Battle for Idlib might end up as the most sanguinary in the history of Syrian war. That is why Turkish people rightfully want to know – why should their soldiers die in Syria?
At the beginning of February Turkey’s Ministry of Defense claimed, that this year’s casualties in Syria are 14 Turkish soldiers and 45 wounded. Next day, as the result of bombings, two more Turkish army service members died. Since then Turkey daily suffer losses in Idlib, which outrages Turkish people. According to polls, people do not trust government in Ankara and the tension is rising.
On February 19 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, that Idlib operation is just a matter of time. Many deputies in Parliament regarded this speech as a call for war. His statement resonated in public because nobody wants their sons and fathers to return home in coffins.
Deputy Chairman of RPP Engin Altay was one of sharper critics. “If Turkey could not evacuate its soldiers in Idlib because of Russia’s air space ban, then it means Turkey has nothing to do in there”, he claimed. In his view, Ankara policy towards Syria was inconsiderate from the beginning. “Turkey made silly promises”, Altay said referring to two agreements between Turkey and Russia on the demilitarized zone in Idlib and extermination of jihadis from Syrian opposition.
Politician also noticed that Ankara’s support for rebels in Idlib counters to its policy on territorial integrity of Syria. Rebels, supported by Turkey include members of internationally forbidden Sunni Islamist militant terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Members of the Good party accused JDP of nonfulfillment of their obligations in Idlib.“Turkey claimed that it will divide radicals from moderate opposition, but to no success. Turkey promised to clear and open M4 and M5 freeways, but to no success as well. Recent agreement with Russia on ceasefire could not have been achieved initially”, - stated the Good party deputy AhmetErozan.
Former RPP deputy BaryshYarkadash urged Turkey to quit Idlib region and free the way for Syrian soldiers, thus saving hundreds of own servicemen. “This country, scarred after war should be left for the will of its people and army”, - he said.
Ex-President Abdullah Gul criticized JDP party. According to him, Turkey should avoid full-scale combat in Syria despite possible provocations. He was asked what went wrong with Turkey’s policy towards Syria and the answer was: “Russian and Iranian support for Syria’s regime was underestimated by us. Now we need to make the right choice, and the right choice in this context mean no support for Jihadis in Idlib.”
Despite all of that, lack of unanimous internal support of combat operations in Syria is not the biggest problem of Turkish government. Tensions with Russia in Syria in the midst frangible economy and unstable currency rate may undermine the economy stabilization of Turkey started from 2018 slump conclusion. Society might accept with the death of few dozens of Turkish soldiers, but not the new economic crisis.