Astana deal only offers de-escalation to rebels distinct from al-Qaeda but Erdogan is now cutting deals with and shielding them all
The first Turkish attempt to set up a military base in Syria’s Islamist-held Idlib failed. January a large Turkish military convoy crossed the border on the way to a strategic town of al-Eis. Two days later it withdrew back into Turkey never having reached its destination and suffering 1 dead and 2 wounded to a car bomb.
Earlier this week the Turks tried again and were successful. They are now constructing a large military outpost on a hill on the outskirts of al-Eis, Syria.
Turkey claims its presence is justified by the Astana de-escalation deal for Idlib. What Syria thinks about that can be gleaned from Turkish reports — arriving at their destination the Turks say they were shelled from territory under control of the Syrian army and suffered 1 dead and 6 wounded. This was Tuesday.
Undeterred the Turks fired back, and more importantly, today sent yet another military convoy under rebel escort to a Syrian village called Tell Touqan. Reportedly there, 20 kilometers to the south of al-Eis, they’re now constructing their second outpost on rebel-government lines in Idlib.
What is more Tell Touqan is just next to Abu Duhur which was recently taken in a wildly successful Syrian army offensive, and from where it was expected the second stage of offensive towards the besieged Shia enclave of Foua and Kafraya would be launched soon.
A situation where a Turkish military base finds itself as an island in Damascus-controlled territory is out of the question so the Turkish outpost must instead be seen as a security guarantee to the al-Qaeda-led rebels.
There is apparently a situation now where a neighboring state is not permitting Damascus to put down rebels in its own country, just like the US is not permitting it to retake its east from secessionist Kurds.
If this Turkish presence was indeed blessed by Moscow it is difficult to see why. The deal reached in Astana offered de-escalation only to rebels not in league with al-Qaeda. Instead Erdogan is now cutting deals with it.