A Lesson in Idlib Geography, And How to Properly Play Victim

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The Erdogan government is crying foul that its forces in Idlib became a victim of agressive actions by the deceitful Assad regime.

On February 10th, 5 Turkish troops were killed, and 5 more were wounded in a strike by the Syrian Arab Army in Idlib, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

“As a result of the intense artillery shooting by the Regime on 10 February 2020, 5 Turkish soldier heroes were martyred and 5 soldiers were wounded by the shelling on the troops sent to the region in order to prevent conflicts, to ensure our border security, to prevent migration and human drama.

The targets determined in the region were immediately intensely fired upon with our fire support vehicles, the necessary response was given, the targets were destroyed and the blood of our martyrs was not left on the ground. The developments are closely monitored and necessary measures are taken.

In this incident that overwhelmed us with deep pain and sadness, we would like to express our condolences and patience to our cherished martyrs, our troubled families, the Turkish Armed Forces and our noble nation, and the immediate healing of our injured personnel.”

The official statement does not say the specific location of the shelling, but several sources give the same location: an observation post near Taftanaz Military Airbase.

Below is a map, the positions of all 12 Turkish Observation posts around the Idlib province, as well as the Taftanaz Military Airbase, circled in yellow (one of Turkish military posts).

A Lesson in Idlib Geography, And How to Properly Play Victim

Click to see the full-size image

It can plainly be seen, that none of the observation posts are so close to the Taftanaz Military Airbase for the shelling to be able to strike it and also an observation post.

A caveat should be placed here noting that it is also possible, but incredibly unlikely that the Syrian Arab Army was attempting to shell al-Eis, which it recently captured, or Tal Toqan, which can be seen on the map to the east of Taftanaz, and missed by a margin of approximately 20 kilometers and still struck Turkish troops by accident.

Furthermore, Taftanaz is closer to Idlib city, than to the observation posts and other locations with Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham positions.

It is also highly likely that Turkey is lying when it said that its observation post was shelled, as it becomes apparent from the map showing that none of its posts are located there. Regardless, Turkish troops were there. According to local sources, this particular area hosts Turkish artillery pieces and rocket launchers recently used to attack the Syrian Army.

So, Turkish troops, as a sort of occupation force, were there to protect the “moderate” Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters for democracy, after their defenses against the Syrian Arab Army collapsed.

It could be that they were simply out there sightseeing, or for a lovely picnic and the “evil regime’s forces” ruined everything.

The more likely scenario becomes apparent quickly. It is substantiated by reports of pro-militant sources. For example, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkey was establishing a military post at the Taftanaz Military Airbase.

A new Turkish military column of nearly 50 military vehicles, including armored vehicles, tanks, heavy gears and logistical supplies, was seen crossing into the Syrian territory. Between February 3rd and 6th, the number of trucks and military vehicles that entered the Syrian territory had risen to more than 400.

Regardless, HTS are deemed as a “radical group” by the UN, both Turkey and Russia agreed to exclude them from the demilitarized zone agreement from September 2018.

The specific text from the memorandum itself is this:

“5. All radical terrorist groups will be removed from the demilitarised zone by October 15.

6.All tanks, MLRS, artillery and mortars belonging to conflicting parties will be withdrawn from the demilitarised zone by October 10, 2018.”

Neither of these two points have been even partially fulfilled. So, the Syrian Army was forced to launch a military operation to push terrorists back from its positions.

A Lesson in Idlib Geography, And How to Properly Play Victim

The situation in the province of Idlib as of 9 September 2018

It should also be added that “moderate” groups such as the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation, had to separate from ‘terrorists’ in the framework of the all de-escalation agreements reached in during Astana and Sochi talks. That also has not happened.

The Turkish Defense Ministy claims the following: In response to the shelling that killed 5 Turkish troops and injured 5 more, Ankara forces immediately pinpointed where the enemy was located, responded, the adversary was destroyed. According to the statement, after the enemies were successfully struck, the Turkish troops returned to “closely monitoring” and only taking actions when it was necessary.

There are various sources directly debunking that claim, since Turkish shelling appears to be successively happening since the morning of February 10th . Therefore, it was the Turkish side that started strikes on the Syrian Army.

Turkey also claims that all of its actions are in response to the aggression by the Syrian Arab Army, but fails to mention that it deployed its troops to the frontline, supported al-Qaeda “moderate rebels” by providing them equipment and weapons, and even attacked the forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

If one ignores all the aforementioned facts, Turkey could be painted as a victim in the incident. These claims argue that Ankara has done nothing but attempt and assist the fighters for democracy in Idlib, while the Syrian Arab Army is disallowing any constructive dialogue and the establishment of rule of law.

However, the reality is different. Turkey has been in continuous breach of the demilitarized zone agreement, for a while. And now, it is reaping the ‘benefits’ of its own approach.

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