Since 2011 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used Syrian ‘rebels’ and Islamist Jihadis as proxy forces against the Syrian government. These forces are now mostly confined to Idlιb governorate next to the Turkish border. The Syrian army has recently made progress against the Jihadis. Turkey has not come to their help. That their resistance is futile has begun to dawn on them. The ‘rebels’ fear that their punishment is coming and they now want to flee to Turkey. Unfortunately, for them, Turkey does not want them.
About a thousand ‘rebels’ tried to cross through the Al-Bab border station into Turkey. Videos show a long line of cars of fleeing people. At the front several hundred men managed to enter Turkish territory. They were pushed back by Turkish army forces with water cannon trucks, tear gas and finally with gunfire. At least two ‘rebels’ were killed.
People shouted “Traitor traitor traitor, Turkish army is traitor”. They burned pictures of Erdogan while screaming takbir and allahu akbar.
Since the beginning of the war on Syria the ‘rebels’ had hoped that the Turkish army would come to their help or at least protect them. Last week’s meeting between Erdogan and President Putin, seems to have finally convinced them that this will never be the case. Since Russia entered the war on the Syrian side Putin has managed to “tame”, erstwhile enemy Erdogan. Erdogan was in Moscow to check out aircraft that Russia wants to sell him and Putin bought him an ice cream cone.
After much resistance Erdogan has finally given up on Idlib. While Russia had agreed to a ceasefire in Idlib, Erdogan failed to deliver his part of the deal. The Jihadis in Idlib, supplied by Erdogan, continued to attack Russian forces and Syrian civilians. The Syrian and Russian forces responded with an intense and well-targeted bombing campaign and by retaking more and more land. Some days ago Turkey made a last attempt to stop the Syrian army by sending a convoy of troops to prevent the recapture of Khan Shaykhun. The convoy was bombed and Khan Shaykhun fell.
That was the moment Erdogan gave up. Five of his generals, two responsible for the Turkish observation posts in Idlib, were sacked. Erdogan traveled to Moscow and made some deal. Syria will regain Idlib and Erdogan got an ice cream cone
The pressure of people who want to leave Idlib after their years of fighting against the Syrian state will not end. Turkey’s economy is in a downturn. The Turkish people have become wary of refugees. There is nothing to win for Erdogan by letting more people in.
The Syrian army campaign continues. The next bigger target will be Maarrat al-Numan with a pre-war population of 80,000 people. Most of them have no reason to fear the Syrian government. But many will want to flee the fighting. Each assault will push more people to leave.
There will be more incidents at the border and within Turkey. The ‘rebels’ and Jihadis will want to take revenge on the Turkish traitors who pushed them to fight the Syrian government only to leave them behind when they failed to win. The soldiers in the Turkish observation posts in Idleb are now hostages of the Jihadis. They may need the help of Russian bombers to fight their way out or will have to sit still until the Syrian army liberates the region around them.