The picture painted in Idlib conjures up the words spoken by Russian playwright Chekhov to emphasise the connection of the stage set: “If in the first act there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off at the end of the play.”
Each day fresh news of conflict and death comes in step with the build-up that has been going on for weeks in Idlib and the increased number of tanks, howitzers, armed vehicles, thousands of soldiers and tons of ammunition being sent in 100-200 vehicle convoys.
The picture painted in Idlib conjures up the words spoken by Russian playwright and poet Anton Chekhov to emphasise the connection of the stage set, narrative and play with reality: “If in the first act there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off at the end of the play.” It has become a veritable “maxim” in the political debate of recent years in the political and military arena as talk turns from “must go off” to “goes off.”
Taking stock of events in Idlib, we see the laconic remark drawing its inspiration from Chekhov seemingly operating as a “rule of war.”
WORDS TURNING INTO GUNS
So much so that, as the end of the scene nighs, the barrels of the rifles alleged to have been stacked up “for peace” and “to save people’s lives” turn to the people said to be “enemies!” This is accompanied by such clichés as “We may come suddenly one night,” “The blood of our fallen will not be shed in vain,” “We’ll match like with like” and “We’ll strike the enemy everywhere.” In short, even the heroics aimed at domestic politics are turning on the ground into guns ready to go off.
With the situation on the ground becoming so sensitive that conflict may erupt at any moment and becoming conducive to jihadist-terrorist groups’ provocations, Idlib is becoming and has become catalytic for every kind of nightmare scenario for Turkey.
This is because ten of the twelve observation zones Turkey set up under the Sochi Agreement have become stuck in the area under the Syrian army’s control in the past fortnight. This boils down to a lack of anything out there remaining to be observed and, moreover, the observation zones having become surrounded by the Syrian army.
Indeed, it emerged the day before yesterday that members of the “moderate opposition” said to be under Turkey’s supervision attacked the town of Nayrab under Syrian military control in a rural part of Idlib and the Turkish armed forces provided artillery support for the attack.
The attack on Nayrab was repelled with Russian warplane support.
ERDOĞAN REMAINS TRAPPED BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE USA
The President and government spokespersons say at every opportunity, “We have no intention or goal of clashing with Russia.” Delegations come and go between Ankara and Moscow and there is blunt talk of no result ensuing from the talks held. If there are those who say, “Only Putin and Erdoğan talking can halt the process that is sliding towards conflict,” Putin evidently is not talking since the environment for doing so has yet to emerge.
Russia’s wishes of Turkey are that it:
Does not forget that Idlib is Syrian territory,Refrains from exaggerated comments that inflame the ground situation, andCeases arming and supporting terrorist groups.
And the US intervention in the Idlib crisis has started to assume a degree of shape.
It is beyond debate that Western imperialists such as the US, UK, France and Germany, whose wish of Turkey is that it houses the jihadists-terrorists in Idlib, want Idlib to be a “protected area” for terrorists as it is today.
The US and Western imperialists want Russia and Turkey to come into confrontation in Idlib, to give unconditional allegiance to Western imperialism and for Russo-Turkish relations to implode under the given circumstances. In fact, Merkel and Macron spoke to Putin yesterday and asked for the making of a ceasefire in Idlib.
With the Erdoğan administration having taken a position that questioned US support in the form of giving a “blank cheque” for Turkey’s Idlib policy, it has put this questioning to one side in recent days as things get stickier for it in Idlib. Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu showed that objections and concerns have been put to one side in saying, “We will be in cooperation in all forms with the USA.” Indeed, announcement has been made by both Turkey and the US that Turkey has asked the US for Patriot missile systems to cleave out the corridor they will open for its warplanes in Idlib air space.
IF TURKEY PERSISTS THE CONFLICT WILL HARSHEN FURTHER
Looked at in the light of developments in Idlib, there remains on the ground no counterpart of the Astana and Sochi agreements which portray Turkey’s presence in Idlib as “legitimate:”
The Turkish armed forces observation points are now in locations where they come into confrontation with the Syrian army.Russia and Iran stand behind Syria and both countries are Turkey’s partners in both the Astana and Sochi processes. This is a contradiction but has become a contradiction that can be resolved by Turkey withdrawing from Idlib.Russia has given a negative reply to Turkey’s request for the opening of Syrian air space to its warplanes. Turkey has asked for Patriot missile systems for use against Russia and Iran. However, an affirmative response has yet to come from the US.
The way things stack up is that if Turkey entertains any other option apart from withdrawing from Idlib, which is Syrian territory in military terms, it will get into a far greater mess militarily. However, despite this reality, Erdoğan wants the Syrian army to withdraw to behind Turkey’s observation points by the end of February. It thus appears that in the coming days the contradictions between Russia-Syria-Iran-Turkey over Idlib are set to sharpen and the conflict to harshen.
In Idlib, the rifles “on stage” have started to go off!
We will shortly see more clearly if they go off to the extent of leading to war with the Syrian army.
Article by Ihsan Çaralan
Translated by Tim Drayton