Russian and Syrian jets pound Idlib province in Syria after summit

Leroy Wright
September 9, 2018

A handout picture taken and released on September 7, 2018 by the Turkish Presidential Press service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) joining hands during a trilateral summit in Tehran.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia November 22, 2017.

For his part, Rouhani demanded an immediate withdrawal by American forces in the country, which the other leaders agreed with.

"Any assault, whatever the reason for it, will inevitably lead to a catastrophe, killings and a major human tragedy", Erdogan said before the glare of TV cameras.

The United Nations Security Council met to discuss Idlib on Friday at the request of the United States, and UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said there were "all the ingredients for a flawless storm". "A possible attack on these military posts (in Idlib) or provocation by the Damascus administration or the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and other organizations that act in cooperation with the regime will be met with an extremely harsh reaction from Turkey - just as it should be", wrote Karagolin the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper. "Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience". "We don't want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath", he said.

The province is home to some 3 million people, almost half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran convened Friday in Tehran for a high-stakes summit that could shape one of the final battles of Syria's civil war. "And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by America's long uncertainty about what it wants in the conflict". Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday: "Idlib is a ticking bomb". It insists it is the rebels who are planning a chemical attack.

Responding to Erdogan's proposal for a cease-fire in Idlib, Putin said "a cease-fire would be good" but indicated that Moscow does not believe it will hold.

"We are firmly under the impression our Western partners are stoking hysteria around Idlib, and in any way are attempting to prevent the fall of the last major terrorist stronghold in Syria", said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. "We hope that the representatives of these terrorist organizations have enough common sense to surrender their weapons", he told reporters after the talks.

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Idlib, with a population of 3 million civilians, is largely controlled by the two Islamist militant groups.

Mr. Hof says the only way to counter the "thoroughly unintended consequences" of such public messaging would be to warn Russian Federation privately that "Assad's business as usual - state terror - could draw a kinetic American response irrespective of the murder weapons".

"Idlib is about a lot of worldwide power play and everyone is looking after their interests", al-Mustafa said.

"We need a quick solution or our town will burn", the official said.

"We can turn it off and start a new process in Syria if the global community gets serious about the Syrian war and shows that they do care about the Syrian people", he added.

US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the Iran nuclear deal in May, and re-imposed the first batch of anti-Iran sanctions later in August.

Elsewhere, Russia has warned that it will attack At Tanf, a key US stronghold near the border of Syria, Jordan and Iraq, to root out militant troops in the area.

The UN fears a large-scale offensive in Idlib will lead to a humanitarian disaster. Now the goal is getting Iranian forces to go, even if that sets us up for direct conflict with not just Iran but Russian Federation.

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