On March 1, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar officially announced Operation Spring Shield in Syria’s province of Idlib.
“Operation Spring Shield, which was launched following the heinous attack [on Turkish troops] on Feb. 27 is successfully being carried out,” Akar claimed adding that he was commanding the military effort from Turkey’s southern Hatay province, bordering Syria.
The comments by Akar demonstrate that Ankara will try to paint its military agression against Syria as a self-defense measure. The defense minister forgot to mention that Turkish troops killed in Idlib were illegally in Syria and were supporting al-Qaeda terrorists there.
Earlier, Turkish Sultan-in-Chief Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Turkish forces had entered Syria under the request of the ‘Syrian people’ and will leave Syria only if the ‘Syrian people’ request this. Taking into account that these ‘people’ mentioned by Erdogan are al-Qaeda members defeated by the Syrian Army and surviving only thanks to the Turkish support, it’s unlikely that such a request will come. So, the Turkish side is not even hiding its attempt to annex northwestern Syria.
On March 1, Defense Minister Akar also provided some details on the Turkish version of the Syrian Army casualties in the region. According to him, since the start of operation Turkish forces have destroyed a drone, 8 helicopters, 103 tanks, 19 armored personnel carriers, 72 cannons/howitzers/multiple rocket launchers, three air-defense systems, 15 anti-tank weapns and mortars, 56 armored vehicles, nine ammunition depots, and neutralized 2,200 Syrian soldiers.
After the Akar claims, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that its forces had downed 2 Syrian warplanes and destroyed 3 air defense systems.
Akar noted that Ankara expects Russia to facilitate its power to end ‘Assad regime aggression’ and the withdrawal of Syrian forces to the borders outlined in the Sochi deal.
According to the Turkish side, its forces are aiming to push the Syrian Army back from all the areas that it had liberated from terrorists since October 2018, when the so-called Sochi agreement was reached. Under this agreement, Ankara and Moscow agreed to set up a terrorists and weapon-free buffer zone in Greater Idlib. However, the agreement was sabotaged by Turkish-backed al-Qaeda-linked groups. So, the military option was employed by Damascus to put an end to the terrorist threat.
Another, and more likely, goal declared by Ankara is to create a 30km-deep ‘security zone’ in Idlib. It’s expected that the Turkish and Russian leaders will meet to discuss the situation in Idlib on March 5. Turkey is likely aiming to achieve as much as possible before this meeting.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Turkish-led Forces Shot Down 2 Syrian Warplanes Over Idlib: Syrian State Media
- Turkey Accidentally Shot Down Its Own Drone Over Idlib. Syria Also Takes Credit (Videos)