The Assad regime and its allies are preparing for a bloody final act in Idlib
After capturing the rural Damascus and Daraa region in the south, the Assad regime and its allies now go after Idlib. While Russia and the regime have already started carrying out air attacks to the region whose population is now close to 3 million with refugees from areas under the control of the opposition, major land operations are still in preparation. Turkish Army keeps its presence in Idlib, the designated “de-escalation zone” of the Astana process, through 12 observation points as well.
The Idlib operation is the last ring of the “sweeping operation” carried out by Assad and his allies. At the end of 2015, the Assad regime launched its counter-attacks supported by Russian air forces as well as Hezbollah and Iran-handled militias and has begun capturing one by one regions controlled by the opposition. The regime forces first captured Aleppo then rural Damascus, and then headed for the Daraa region where an insurrection had started. Armed groups and civilians living in these captured regions had been relocated to Idlib as a result of deals made with the regime forces. If we set aside the region under the control of the PYD, Idlib had remained the only region outside of the control of the regime, and its population doubled, nearing 3 million. This background reveals the simple and clear plan of the regime and its allies: first squeezing the opposition to Idlib by taking the rest of the country under control, and then carrying out an ultimate attack at Idlib allowing to step into the “transition period” with a strong arm in order to guarantee the future of the regime.
If the regime forces were to capture the province of Idlib completely through air and land operations, this would be the bloodiest act of the Syrian war in which hundreds of thousands of people had already lost their lives. A military operation carried in this region with the densest presence of civilians would bring about new massacres as well as causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, leading to a new wave of exodus. At present, about 2 million residents in Idlib survive on humanitarian aids coming via Turkey. A new attack would only make this precarious situation worse.
The imperialist collaboration
While the US, the EU and Turkey declared themselves in opposition to an operation against Idlib due to humanitarian reasons, they nonetheless remain as implicit collaborators of the Assad regime given their approval of its previous military operations and victories. The priority of the US that have never really stood against the Assad regime beyond mere discourse, is to sustain its control in the eastern part of the country provided by way of YPG and to ensure the recognition of the region’s population. As long as there are no attacks against this region, the US have no quarrels with Assad or Russia over the current circumstances or future of Syria.
The EU countries whose primary concern is to avoid a new wave of refugees entrusted such prevention to Erdogan with hopes that Turkey would do justice to its role as “buffer zone” in case of a new wave of refugees. In the aftermath of the failure of its racist and sectarian policies, the Erdogan regime has used the Astana process to shift its political attitude towards one that is based on recognizing the existence of the Assad regime and negotiating with Russia and Iran in order to preserve its influence in Syria. In negotiations with Russia, Turkey consented to the capturing of opposition-controlled regions by the Assad regime in exchange for receiving permission to carry out the Afrin Operation and the Operation Euphrates Shield. While the Erdogan regime now seems to be in opposition to operations against Idlib that have long been visible in the horizon, Erdogan will eventually consent to the Idlib operation if new negotiations with Russia and Iran involving compromises benefiting Turkey against PYD-YPG materialized. The current priority of the Ankara government is to keep the new immigration wave at the border of Syria and fulfilling its duty as the “border patrol” of the EU as best and effectively as possible.
The people of Idlib repressed from all corners
The people of Idlib are not only subject to the attacks carried out by the Assad regime and its allies; but they are also trying to survive faced with repression from radical Islamist groups who has military dominance in the region. The biggest military force in the region is Tahrir al-Sham whose core is composed of the al-Nusra front with connections to al-Qaeda. In addition to Tahrir al-Sham, Syrian Liberation Front, the military coalition of various Salafist groups, controls certain zones in Idlib. These Islamist groups implement repressive practices against local populations, and against women especially while at the same time making a systematic effort towards wiping out local councils and civilian activists.
The Assad regime and its allies present the existence of armed Islamist groups that they characterize as terrorist as justification for a military operation in the region. In reality, the Assad regime considers anyone or any sector of the Syrian population that is against its rule as terrorist, hence their annihilation, justified. It is because of these attacks against all regime-opponents with no discrimination that hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, half of the country’s population has been displaced and more than 5 million Syrians had to leave their homeland. These facts reveal what is really meant “clearing the region off of terrorism.” At the same time, people of Idlib had already carried through various protests and mobilizations against the repressive measures of the radical Islamist groups and against fights amongst the latter under the leadership of the local councils and civilian activists. Now the same people of Idlib are trying to make their voices heard globally via protests and actions against the military operations of the Assad regime in their region.
As revolutionary socialists, we firmly reject the military operations of the Assad regime and its allies against Idlib. Such military intervention in Idlib would bring nothing but a new wave of massacres, displacement and immigration. At the same time, we condemn and reject the collaborative and disingenuous politics of the US, the EU and Turkey towards and in Syria. We consider jihadist groups to serve as the “fifth column” of the regime, proving themselves as enemies of Syrian people and as reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces at every occasion. Under these current conditions, all external powers — whether they are direct supporters of the Assad regime like Russia, Iran or Hezbollah, or indirect ones like Turkey or the US — should withdraw from the region, and that the Syrian people should be able to self-determine their future, free from the attacks of the regime and repression of the Islamists. Revolutionary socialists will continue fighting towards these goals and standing with Syrian people.