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Erdogan Escalates Threats, Syria Ignores Him, Scores Massive Gains

Aleppo celebrates, but Erdogan has 7000 troops in Idlib, unquestioned US support, and a penchant for occupying pieces of Syria

Erdogan has escalated threats, saying he will not wait until end of February to push the Syrian army back to its starting lines if it does not start withdrawing:

“The solution in Idlib is the regime withdrawing to the borders in the agreements. Otherwise, we will handle this before the end of February,” Erdoğan said.

Until we clear Syria of terrorist organizations and the cruelty of the regime, we will not rest easy,” he said.

The Trump administration’s unqualified (if wholly rhetorical) support for whatever Erdogan may wish to do there, as long as it goes against the Russians may have had something to do with that:

In a statement released by the White House on Sunday, Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said Trump – in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – “conveyed the United States’s desire to see an end to Russia’s support for the Assad government’s atrocities and for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict”.

“Trump expressed concern [yesterday] over the violence in Idlib, Syria and thanked Erdogan for Turkey’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” Deere said.

Either way, the Syrian army has been completely ignoring Erdogan’s demands, ultimatums and threats and it has paid off handsomely for Damascus. It has continued to make gains daily, and scored a gigantic success yesterday as rebel defenses in western Aleppo suburbs crumbled after they were outflanked from the south.

Inside a day the Syrian army gained the majority of the urbanized territory that represented the most valuable real-estate still in rebel hands. The rest of the salient will follow today or tomorrow at the latest.

This marks the definite end of the 8-year Battle of Aleppo as rebels which two days ago still held some suburbs technically inside the city limits have now been pushed far to the west. Aleppo citizens, completely besieged by Islamists in 2013, for one celebrated:

In fact, the rebel’s number one sympathizer on Twitter, Julian Ropcke, aka Jihadi Julian, has done invaluable work in counting that since Erdogan first wowed to stop the Syrian army the latter has retaken 96 settlements from the rebels:

Nonetheless, Erdogan has by now poured 7,000 Turkish soldiers with 2,000 vehicles into rebel-held Idlib. That is a very considerable force. What he will do with that is anyone’s guess.

The danger is not so much that he’ll counter-attack the Syrian army trying to throw it back, as that would risk Russian wrath, but that he’ll try to occupy a part of the rebel enclave for Turkey as he has done in northern Syria.

Situation at February 14 day-end, just before Erdogan made his latest round of threats the next day
Situation halfway through today, February 17

Erdogan and Turkey are now the biggest obstacles standing before the Syrian state and army as rebels appear to be completely broken with low morale and quick to retreat.

 

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