Russian Airstrike Hits HQ of Syrian Islamist Group Close to Turkey; 80 Killed

Russian message that it is displeased with Turkey de-stabilizing the Caucusus?

The structure bombed is far from the front-line, and there is a ceasefire that Turkey is in a technical breach of, but that is mainly nonetheless upheld. Clearly, the parading Islamists had assumed they were protected by the Russian-Turkish deal from March.

— Rebel-held Idlib is al-Qaeda dominated, but instead of hitting the latter, the Russians specifically hit the largest of the groups close to Turkey.*

They did not leave it to Syrians to deliver the strike but carried it out themselves.

Minor strikes close to the front line when there are cease-fire violations are not unheard of, but something like this is not at all business as usual (has not been since March).

This points to it being a message to Turkey from the Russian military. Moscow doesn’t hold much love for the current Armenian PM, but at the same time it can not be happy that Turkish backing and encouragement for Azerbaijan was pivotal in starting the ongoing Armenian-Azeri war.

Moscow wants decent relations and a measure of influence with Armenia and Azerbaijan both — if for no other reason then so that they’re not applying for NATO in the manner of neighboring Georgia — but a war between the two complicates that goal.

The Russian message is clear: if Turkey insists on fueling the Armenian-Azeri war in the Caucasus, Russia can in turn re-open the Idlib front and back another Syrian government push to retake it from the rebels grouped around al-Qaeda.

 

*Faylaq al-Sham is a Muslim Brotherhood outfit once bankrolled by Qatar, and now the central member of the “National Front for Liberation” umbrella group of rebel outfits in Idlib formed and financed by Turkey.

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