Turkey Poised To Invade Syria's Idlib Province As Inter-Jihadist Violence Rages

Two Salafi-jihadi factions in Syria's Idlib province have been engaged in a brutal inter-"rebel" (or rather inter-jihadist) war this week, prompting Turkey to prepare a potential invasion to protect its favored factions on the ground. On Thursday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS/Al-Qaeda) continued to capture towns in Idlib's countryside from rival Ahrar al-Sham and Turkish backed FSA groups after an uneasy truce between the rebel factions quickly collapsed days prior, causing the weaker Ahrar al-Sham to call in Turkish support.

Multiple reports coming out of the region indicate that Turkey has been transferring hundreds of jihadists from its former Euphrates Shield forces in northern Aleppo province (the Turkish occupied "Jarabulus pocket") to Turkey's Hatay border region, where they began entering Idlib through the Ahrar controlled Bab al-Hawa crossing. However, in the early morning hours of Friday HTS reportedly captured part of the Bab al-Hawa crossing in a significant blow that could trigger a bigger Turkish response. A larger force may be awaiting word from Ankara for a full scale invasion involving Turkish Army troops which might come at any moment.

What is certain is that things are about to get even bloodier, and either Turkey will occupy yet more Syrian land, or the Syrian Army will eventually move in to mop up Idlib once the warring groups have depleted and utterly exhausted each other. The latter scenario is a likely possibility given increased Russian leverage over Turkish actions: Turkey would have to seek a nod from Moscow before occupying Idlib overtly. So far, Turkey's proxy forces are being swallowed up by the more formidable HTS.

Ahrar al-Sham tank/ via jihadi social media.

Dozens of militants from both factions have been killed across the rebel controlled Idlib province in a week that's seen dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape over Syria, including sudden news of the White House's ending the CIA weapons program, as well as Turkey's leaking of US forward operating base locations in northern Syria through its state-run news channel, further escalating tensions between Turkey and the US.

On Wednesday Al-Masdar News reported the extent of initial fighting, which even involved tanks and other major weapons systems:

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.

 ...Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.

Video: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Clashes With Ahrar al-Sham In Idlib Province/Source: SouthFront

Idlib's in-fighting can be seen as a mini civil war for leadership and land among terrorist factions. Some reports link the cause of this week's major escalation to a dispute over the presence of FSA and more "nationalist" flags being flown by Ahrar-aligned groups. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which opposes FSA leaning groups, is essentially the current iteration of al-Nusra Front (now calling itself Fateh Al Sham), which is a coalition led by al-Qaeda's main off-shoot in Syria. While ISIS has been the focus of international headlines over the past years, Nusra has been no less barbaric in unleashing terrorism on civilians, and like ISIS it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Nusra's ideology is indistinguishable from that of ISIS, and the two were the same organization as they fought as one in Northern and Eastern Syria throughout much of 2013. More recently Nusra has made multiple attempts to rebrand itself in the hopes of attracting more external support. But rival Ahrar al-Sham has had more success in this area as it's been a favored so-called "moderate" opposition group of choice among prominent think tanks such as The Brookings Institution (which has a location in Qatar) - this in spite of being more accurately called the "Syrian Taliban" by some prominent experts for its brutal sharia style rule.

Shockingly, the group landed an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2015, and made a direct appeal to the American public, defending itself as "moderate" and not "extremist". Even now, Syrian opposition media and friendly political and media allies in the West are championing the cause of Ahrar al-Sham, continuing to claim it represents the true spirit of the "revolution".

Map source: Andrew Illingworth, Oz Analysis

But Ahrar al-Sham also has organizational roots in al-Qaeda, though external patrons - especially Qatar and Turkey - have long seen the group as a viable partner on the ground. Even the US has at times entered into a de facto relationship with both groups now vying for control of Idlib: in 2015 both Nusra and Ahrar were key leading factions of the umbrella organization "Army of Conquest" which captured Idlib City from the Syrian government in March 2015. As was widely reported at the time, US intelligence officers assisted the al-Qaeda stacked Army of Conquest from a US-Turkish led "operations room" in southern Turkey.

This week it was revealed that Trump made the decision earlier this month to shut down the years-long CIA covert program to aid rebel groups in Syria, while the Pentagon continues to support the Kurdish-led SDF as it fights in Raqqa and elsewhere. Various media pundits have immediately begun blaming the renewed Idlib chaos on Trump's closure of the CIA program. The Daily Beast's Roy Gutman (who actually believes Assad created ISIS) laments:

As moderate rebel groups in Syria tried to digest the news that the U.S. will soon cease all covert support for them—a sudden revelation they learned from press reports—northern Syria descended into further chaos.


...Now the very existence of moderate local forces backed by the U.S. hangs in the balance.

And more absurdly the usual neocons are using this as an opportunity to call for revived CIA intervention a mere two days after the covert program's termination was announced: David Ignatius, quickly out with a teary-eyed post mortem on the CIA's Syria campaign (which he gleefully boasts in its heyday "may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies"), writes:

Contrast the sad demise of the CIA’s anti-Assad program in western Syria with the rampaging campaign against the Islamic State in the east. What’s the difference? In the east, motivated, well-organized Syrian fighters are backed by U.S. warriors on the ground and planes in the sky. In this game, halfway is not the place to be.

Take your pick: Syrian al-Qaeda (HTS) or Syrian Taliban (Ahrar al-Sham)? As the jihadists of Idlib continue kill each other off the weeping and gnashing of teeth in Washington is sure to intensify.


HowdyDoody One of We Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:44 Permalink

Meanwhile officers of the US regime illegally enter Syria to coordinate with their Kurdish proxy troops.

In the Kurdish minority city of Raqqa, the US is trying to create a city civil council dominated by Kurds. Israel tried the same scam in the Golan Heights. It was rejected there by the Druze who stated they were Syrian. It was also tried by the Nazis to put tame Jews in charge of cities under their control. The US real interest is the major military airbase at Tagba 40 km to the west on the western side of the Euphrates.


In reply to by One of We

sheikurbootie Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:29 Permalink

Turkey wants a cut of the pie.  It's not going to happen.The Tomb of Sulayman Shah, on the left bank of the Euphrates in Aleppo Governorate, is Turkey's only exclave, with full Turkish sovereignty.

Herodotus Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:53 Permalink

Turkey needs to re-establish it's control over Syria, Lebanon, Palestine (including Israel and Jordan), Iraq, Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Libya, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania,  Macedonia,  Greece, and Cyprus.  Turkey needs to rule over these area with a heavy hand and bring peace to these troubled lands.  They need to supress the forces of nationalism in these areas so that diverse peoples can live together as they once did in the past.  The Sultan's rule must be fair, but firm.  They will be permitted to practice their various religions.

MrBoompi Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:37 Permalink

There never has been an honest statement from the US government why we must remove Assad or partition Syria.  In fact, they just went ahead and did whatever they wanted with no permission or authorization, explanation, or anything.  I suppose if your reasons involve greed or money, you need to keep them secret as this would only highlight the gross illegality and immorality of it.  

Hamm Jamm Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:37 Permalink

Ottomans invading again ?     LOLOL that can't happendon't worry a conventional army has a good chance of winning against the well funded religious terrorists

Conscious Reviver ToSoft4Truth Sat, 07/22/2017 - 08:01 Permalink

Turkey is on Team Qatar. Turkish troops are in Qatar. There wil be no KSA invasion of Qatar as a result.AlQueda jihadi /terrorists are KSA jihadi /terrorists.  In Idlib, they are now fighting with Qatari supported jihadi / terrorists.  Both Turkey and Qatar support the Muslim Brotherhood. Gulf royals hate the Muslim Brotherhood because it is Islam w/o the need for royals. Finally,  while KSA is on Team ZinoAmerica, Turkey, Qatar, Iran and China are now all on Team Russia.

In reply to by ToSoft4Truth

Vegetius Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:38 Permalink

What a total clusterfuck of plan. If this is the best that the CIA, Israeli operatives, Deep State and the Neo-Progressives can achieve it is risible. How much money, time and planning has gone into this mess. It is safe to say that all of the above groups are in for some serious blowback.The CIA will have to explain how its"Freedom Fighters" attacked US and European citizens sooner or later. The Israeli's have helped both the Syrian and Hezbollah  forces to become battle tested and armed with new weapons to use with new battle tactics, the next Israeli adventure in Lebanon or Syria will likely be a Disaster.As for the Deep State, officials and the Neo-Progressives such as the Clintons and the Bushes, they have destroyed the USA's reputation as a strong power who will follow things through. Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.- Bismarck

hoytmonger Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:39 Permalink

The US caves to Israeli interests concerning the cease-fire in southern Syria... surprise, surprise.https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/us-caves-israeli-interests-syrian-… settler murders palesinian teen in Jerusalem...https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-israeli-settler-murders-p… Palistinian teen killed at Mosque...https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-second-palestinian-teenag… forces storm Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem...https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-israeli-settler-murders-p… Christian father kills daughter in "honor killing"...http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/father-murders-israeli-christian-dau… 

aliens is here Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:46 Permalink

Instead of investigate the nothing burger Russian-Trump collusion congress should appoint a special counsel to investigate Clinton/Obama war crimes in Syria. How many people died because those two huh. Anyway, poor Syria everyone wants to invade them.

Gravatomic Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:57 Permalink

This was never in doubt, Turkey wants, needs, that buffer zone. Now, Turkey is going with Sud Stream II and buying those advanced Russian S-400s you can rightly say, Putin has flipped Erdogan. So, bit of new geo-politicking here which puts the US on their back foot again.

moorewasthebestbond (not verified) Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:03 Permalink

Will someobody please give me some evidence that Turkey isn't the asshole of humanity? Crickets?

chosen (not verified) Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:23 Permalink

Turkey wants its cut of Syria.  Turkey got the northern half of Cyprus the same way, by invading and occupying.  Turkey has been occupying northern Cyprus for over 40 years.

Conscious Reviver chosen (not verified) Sat, 07/22/2017 - 08:32 Permalink

You are right about Cyprus, but Vlad won't allow any carve ups of Syria beyond the existing Israeli chunk. The Turks will settle for no Kurd controlled entity on their southern border. Turkey gets other prizes. Like a return to the Persian Gulf, safe guarding Qatar, a prestigious and lucrative opportunity. Turkey has a big role to play in the New Silk Road.

In reply to by chosen (not verified)

abgary1 Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:58 Permalink

Total cluster fuck!The Russian backed Syrian government is about to secure it's hold on the country.The West is going to have to find another way of weining Europe off of Russia's natural gas.Putin will win again in Syria by doing very little.