Turkey's new tricks in place in Idlib

As clashes between gang groups continue in Idlib, the Turkish state remains silent. According to sources in the region, Turkey has instated a new game plan and that is why they are silent in the face of clashes.

The Turkish state and media are conspicuously silent in the face of violent clashes between gang groups the country took on the role of guarantor for in Astana and Sochi meetings for the last 5 days. The Turkish state has kept silent about the clashes between the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) led by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki gangs.

The HTS took action on January 1 against the Nour al-Din al-Zenki brigades, a constituent of the “National Liberation Front”, in the northeast of Idlib and took over all of the region. Nour al-Din al-Zenki gang group abandoned all observation points including Darat Izza, the first one the Turkish state constructed in Idlib, and fled to Afrin after suffering heavy losses.

The “National Liberation Front”, which includes under its umbrella the gang groups Turkey gathered in Idlib, issued a statement after the HTS charge and announced that they are “declaring a mobilization and will be supporting constituent Nour al-Din al-Zenki group”, but this has gone little beyond words.


Meanwhile, Russian jets carried out air strikes in Kafr Naha to the west of Aleppo, Urm, 111st regiment of Atarib, Darat Izza and Jarmiya al-Real against the HTS yesterday evening. These areas are part of the “no-clash” zones determined in the Astana Accord signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran. This is the first time a no-clash zone was struck following the agreement. And it is also said that the airstrike is within the knowledge of Turkey.


Clashes in Idlib started after a committee made up of Turkish Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, MIT Undersecretary and Erdogan’s spokesperson visited Moscow about the case to invade Manbij on December 29.

After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said, “We have come to an agreement on how Russian and Turkish military representatives will coordinate steps to ultimately end the terrorist threat in Syria under the new conditions.”


Reliable sources in Idlib spoke to the ANF about the clashes in the city and the tricks behind the curtain, sharing important information on the meetings they had with the MIT previously. According to two separate sources, Turkey has instated a new game plan in Idlib and that is why they remain silent in the face of clashes.


Sources confirmed that there had been a meeting with all groups attending before the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin held in Sochi on October 17. A plan for a 15 km deep demilitarized zone along the Idlib border between them and the regime was discussed in this meeting. Heavy weapons were to be withdraw from this demilitarized zone before October 15.


The first source who will be kept anonymous to ensure their safety said with the plan, the Turkish state promised the groups in question that they would respond directly to regime and Russian attacks, and asked them to remove the weapons from the 15 km area.

The source said a portion of HTS’ heavy weapons were taken to Afrin and the Turkistan Islamic Party’s heavy weapons had been moved to Jisr al-Shughour: “Some small gang groups sold their heavy weapons to the HTS. Like Howitzers, Katyushas, tanks and mortars. MIT knew this and let it happen. Because Turkey knew that if the HTS was weak and defeated, their hand would weaken as well in Idlib. They weren't sure how long other groups could hold on. They needed to keep the HTS strong as a tool of pressure.


Another source said Turkey in fact wants to include the HTS in the “National Liberation Front” and added that the Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Suqour al-Sham groups met with Russia and the regime twice, so Turkey wants to eliminate these groups through the HTS. The source added that these two groups have been dubbed the “good boys of Damascus” and said there could be two possibilities on Turkey pushing the button for elimination.


First possibility is, if Turkey and Russia agreed in Moscow, a provocation would be needed for the regime and Russia to intervene in Idlib. They used both HTS and Nour al-Din al-Zenki to this end. Or, the HTS figures out the plan and took action first. If HTS took over all of Idlib, Russia could use the excuse of fighting terrorism easier. In that case, Russia could have greenlighted Turkey's Manbij operation or other operations.


The second possibility is, Turkey really is building their game over HTS, and don't want them to be weakened. A stronger HTS in Idlib would also mean Turkey has a strong hand against Russia at the table. The radicalization of HTS would also bring about a process of gangs Turkey gathered in Afrin, Bab, Jarablus and Azaz seeming better in comparison. With the elimination of Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Siqur al-Sham who met with Russia and the regime, they would be sending a message to Russia and the regime that these groups are under their control.