Title is from a song by Sheffield band Pulp’s well known 1995 debut album: “Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh…” With a sleight of hand replace “biscuits” with “promises” and there you have it, a concise executive summary of Erdoğan’s Syria and Libya policies.
Friday evening President Erdoğan called his Russian counterpart Putin and demanded again that the Syrian government forces to be “restrained” in Idlib. Prior to that call during the same day answering a question by the press he had also clarified that what is going on in Idlib can now be described as “war”.
Following that same call Kremlin held its ground and cited President Putin as repeating (over the phone) to Mr.Erdoğan that Russia is seriously concerned “over extremists’ aggressive actions” and that both presidents had “stressed the necessity of unconditional commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In the meantime, French President Macron together with German Chancellor Merkel took th floor demanding “an instant end of the fighting and the possibility of humanitarian aid for the people.” On its behalf U.S., while keeping on cheerleading Turkey to hold its ground in Idlib, through the OIR Spokesperson Col.Caggins underlined that Idlib is now a "magnet for terrorist groups who are a nuisance, a menace and a threat to the hundreds of thousands of civilians in Syria.”
If we dwell into the ungrateful task of breaking down the above, we can now assume that Mr.Erdoğan no longer insists on SAA voluntarily pulling out of Idleb until the end of February (“or else”). Instead, he presently bets on the hope that Putin will pull Assad’s strings giving in to Ankara’s wishes. There, the problem is that Turkey has nothing left to offer “Mother Russia”, having already sold out family’s jewels in the form of S-400’s (seemingly to be unpacked in March), Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (complete with its Russian Mediterranean port), TurkStream etc.
On the other hand, Russia and U.S. while fighting over Syria appears to be in full agreement that Idlib should be the end of the road for “jihadi terror” groups. Incidentally, HTS leader Jolani on his side https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/jihadist-factor-syrias-idlib-conversation-abu-muhammad-al-jolani feels a sudden urge to emphasize that his umbrella group only -and repeat only- targets the regime in Damascus, echoing the remarks of a certain talented Mr. Jeffrey.
There is a hole in this picture, who is it? You guessed it right, it’s Mr. Assad in the room. His army is taking right handed hook cutting the Idlib pocket into half from East to West seeking to control Ghab Plains. That push will in turn uproot additional tens of thousands of civilians towards the border. At the other, western extremity of the pocket, the motley crew of international fighters around Jisr-al-Shoghur appears to be the second priority for the SAA.
As if mirroring Mr.Assad, Mr.Erdoğan again reiterated his will to dig in his heels though and made it clear there will never be any evacuation of TAF military posts. At the end of the day Mr.Erdoğan has now his officially undeclared war. The bar remains still where it was set ten years ago: Toppling Assad. That moving target in turn provides the political ground for Mr. Erdoğan: “As long as Assad is there, I will be here.”
Furthermore, “mission creep” is understood to be an outcome to be avoided at all costs in strategic planning. However, somewhat interestingly “mission creep” and “fait accompli” are the two pillars of Turkey’s established military thinking. Today, what we see in Idlib or in Syria in general, is then the happy marriage of the Islamist strongman with the establishment. That consortium does not leave an inch on the political ground, effectively locking the entire system.
Hereabove mentioned Pulp’s song goes on like this: “Oh, we don't look the same as you / And we don't do the things you do / But we live 'round here too, oh really.” Yes, really but we happen to have no say. Eventually. War, mobilization, emergency cycle siphons off the air thus rendering any brand of opposition utterly obsolete.