Feb 17, 2020
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops killed a dozen Turkish soldiers near Idlib in northwestern Syria. The Turkish army threatens to respond with open war at any time.
The Syrian regime has been trying to reconquer Idlib since December. Idlib has been controlled since 2011 by various militias, including the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham. These militias are supported and armed by Turkey, which staffs a number of guard posts. Assad is backed by Putin’s Russia, which dominates Syria’s airspace.
Like the regime’s terrible but successful siege of Aleppo in 2016, the reconquest of Idlib makes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people hell. Entire towns near Idlib have emptied since December. 700,000 people fled the fighting. They join millions of refugees in increasingly unlivable camps, drenched with stormwater but ill-supplied with food and heating oil.
The war in Syria since 2011 has already claimed more victims than the number of French people who were killed during World War II. Syrian people are martyred because the country has become the scene of an endless confrontation between regional and international powers vying for influence over the Middle East.
Trump’s brutal abandonment of the Syrian Kurds in October let Erdogan’s Turkey strengthen its presence in Syria. In addition to loyal militias in Idlib and Afrin, Erdogan deployed troops in Syrian Kurdistan, plus lawless mercenaries.
The Turkish offensive paradoxically has strengthened Assad. The besieged Kurdish militias turn to him. With the tacit agreement of Russia and the imperialist powers, he now controls more than 70% of Syria’s territory. An agreement signed in 2018 in Sochi between Russia and Turkey was supposed to guarantee a cease-fire. This never-honored deal died again when Trump flipped. Assad has no reason to stop fighting to take back the rest of the country.
Meanwhile Erdogan is losing authority in Turkey and is trying to use war in Syria and Libya to pump himself up. Under these conditions, the rivalry between Russia and Turkey could become an open regional war.
What is happening these days in Idlib, and what has happened for years in Syria and in Iraq, shows the price people pay for this system.