Thursday’s clash between Turkish/Rebel troops and Regime/Russian forces in #Idlib taught us many things:
1) A small unit of Turkish troops made quick work of the SAA, basically taking control of Nayrab in 60-90 minutes. Turkey lost 2 soldiers while over 150 SAA were neutralized.
2) Escalation is incremental. If Russia needed to deploy an airstrike in Nayrab – it was a last resort. Turkey has now seen how weak the SAA is and the extent Russia will support Assad.
3) Russia’s hoping the airstrike will be a message/deterrence, create negative Turkish public sentiment and trigger opposition to Turkey’s upcoming operation. The Kremlin knows this isn’t sustainable action as it will severe ties with Ankara and garner int’l support for Turkey.
4) Turkey planned a major operation to Idlib dedicating a now estimated 15k troops and 2k tanks/vehicles. This operation was obviously planned taking airstrikes into account and going forward without NATO support. If western support materializes it would be a big unplanned bonus.
5) What we,ve seen so far in Idlib are skirmishes, please don’t confuse this with a full blown Turkish offensive. Both the SAA and Moscow realize this and the situation on the ground is probably making them nervous. Turkey can escalate the situation at a moments notice.
6) While Turkey’s air defense is its weak point it does have instruments to create a high risk environment for hostile aircraft.
7) This engagement is not taking place in Russia, or its neighbor. Its taking place 50-100km from the Turkish border. Big geographic advantage.
8) Turkey doesn’t need to win the “war”, it only needs to raise the cost to a point where the Regime and Russia will find it more sensible to reach a diplomatic solution.
9) A Turkish operation brings uncertainty to Moscow’s Syria calculations. Its impact on Idlib, Assad’s future, the conflict, the Opposition, re-internationalization and TR-RU relations is an unknown. Russia won’t risk its gains for what it can’t foresee.
10) If Turkey is decisive with its planned operation and is willing to absorb collateral damage, neither the SAA, Iran-backed militia or Russia (with the current resources it has allocated to Syria) can not stop it.
If you placed a February 2020 map of Syria in front of Putin in 2015, I’m assuming he would be very pleased with the way the conflict unfolded in 5 years. He would also be pleased with the relationship he developed with Turkey and the discord in NATO over than time period. I just don’t see Russia risking its gains in Syria, ruining its relationship with Turkey (yes its still salvagable) and escalating to a point in Idlib where it could bring NATO members together all for the sake of helping Assad take Idlib province. There is no logic to it. I still stand by my prediction that there will be a Putin-Erdogan agreement before February end. Gonna extend that to March 5th if Putin agrees to a Quartet meeting with Erdogan, Merkel and Macron.