Did Trump just greenlight a Syrian army offensive on Idlib if it is quick and clean?
Trump has warned off Syria against "recklessly attacking" jhadis in control of its Idlib province on Twitter yesterday, and Russians and Iranians from taking part. There are two ways to interpret his tweet.
One explanation is that the US has taken over from Turkey as the main protector of Idlib jihadis and is now the biggest obstacle to a Russian-Syrian offensive to defeat them. The other is that Trump is not warning the Syrians off at all, but signaling acceptance of the offensive, if it can be conducted quickly and cleanly, and setting up the situation to claim credit if it is.
Let's analyze everything Trump says:
1. This is a potential human tragedy.
2. Russians and Iranians would do well to stay out of it.
3. Hundreds of thousands could be killed!
4. Assad must not recklessly attack.
So "animal Assad" now upgraded to "President Assad" should not recklessly attack, but what does that mean? Does it mean he should not attack period, or that he should not attack if he is going to do it recklessly?
Trump says this is a potential human tragedy in which hundreds of thousands could be killed (presumably by Assad or in the crossfire), but then "potential" and "could" also signify this is not set in stone. It's unclear, but Trump's tweet seems to allow for an attack which is not "reckless" and does not result in "hundreds of thousands killed".
In fact, judging by the relative ease the other three (admittedly smaller) main rebel-held enclaves were defeated, it is almost a certainty that recapturing NW Syria for Damascus would not cost anywhere near that level of civilian deaths.
By alluding to such an impossible level of death Trump almost looks to be setting the ground to claim credit for when it doesn't happen. As in after Idlib has fallen without a major loss of life or false flag gas attacks he will then claim that was the result of his warning.
Even calling on Russians and Iranians to stay out of the offensive can be interpreted as a conciliatory gesture in his mind -- if he feels the need to launch another salvo of cruise missiles in the case that CNN bigs up another false sarin attack it is obviously better if the Russians and Iranians are not there so the escalation risks are smaller.