Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), the Turkistan Islamic Party (al-Qaeda-linked group), Horas al-Din (another al-Qaeda-linked group), the National Front for Liberation (a group of Turkish proxies friendly to al-Qaeda) and other ‘democratic rebels’ are planning to create a new coalition in the Syrian region of Idlib.
The idea is to make a rebranding and in order to hide the terrorist nature of these organizations. So, Turkey would be able to claim that it fulfils with the de-escalation and de-militarization agreements reached with Russia and Iran, and continue declaring that there are no ‘terrorists’ in Idlib.
Earlier, several Idlib al-Qaeda-linked groups employed similar measures in an attempt to allow mainstream media propagandists and foreign countries to continue a public support to them. For example, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham previously was known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra. All these attempts failed becuase terrorists, even if they change their flag and create a new logo, remain terrorists
These efforts signal that Anakra fully udnerstands what ‘moderate groups’ it supports in Idlib and are fiercely trying to do something with this problem ahead of the implementation of the creation of the demilitarized zone along the M4 highway. Joint Russian-Turkish patrols are set to start in the area on March 15 and it’s hard to imagine how Russian troops could safely apepar near such stronghold of al-Qaeda as Jisr al-Shughur.
On the other hand, Turkey is not planning to drop its agressive actions against Syria. On March 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu once again threatened the Damascus government with a military action (probably he forgot how the previous attempt ended) and confirmed that the joint patrols with the Russians will soon be launched. According to Cavusoglu, the first patrol will becarried from the settlement of Trumba – 2 km west of Saraqib – to the settlement of Ain al-Havr.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined Turkish state media and other propaganda organizations in their fierce battle against the real outcome of Operation Spring Shield. On March 10, President Erdogan said that Turkey had destroyed 8 Russian-made air defense systems in Syria during the operation.
“In Idlib, we destroyed eight Pantsir with the help of our combat drones. These are very expensive and important air defense systems,” NTV television quoted the President as saying. Erdogan added that Pantsir systems are also “deployed in Libya.” (comment: they are used by the Libyan National Army)
According to Turkish Defense Ministry reports, as of March 6, Turkish forces destroyed 8 air defense systems belonging to the Syrian Air Defense Forces. Then, this number included not only Pantsir systems, but also some Buk air defense systems and hardware of other type. Should we discard claims about the destroyed non-Patnsirs or the number of destroyed equipment just grew after the start of the ceasefire?
On the same day, President Erdogan claimed that he once proposed Russian leader Vladimir Putin to share the Deir Ezzor oil fields that are now controlled by “terrorists”. According to him, Putin promised to consider the proposal, but provided no answer. Erdogan added that he may soon propose US President Trump a similar deal soon.