And action begins in earnest at last in Idlib. The Turkish Minister of Defence Akar announced today that the freshly baptised “Operation Spring Shield” has begun. Or rather, he announced that the operation had already begun as of the 27th of February night. “Spring”, as in bringing sunny weather to Syria after a long harsh winter and “shield” as in defence not attack: Turkey is only defending itself by moving forward into the Syrian territory, the naming suggests.

As for the developments on the ground, notwithstanding the killing of 36 Turkish troops in a Russian Air Force (RuAF) organized and delivered strike, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) appears to have a field day in Idlib dealing lethal blow after blow with its armed drones, howitzers and MANPADS. It also so appears that Russia does not intend to sweat its shirt much to come to the rescue of its Syrian partner.

All the more so, at the emergency UNSC meeting New York, the Turkish permanent delegate made a very convincing case of active RuAF involvement in slaying Turkish troops based on technical military data. Yet, Erdoğan taking the Sicilian style condolences call from the perpetrator of the attack himself, did not appear to have the urge to turn the tables on him. Diplomacy walks in mysterious ways, shall we rather be inclined to believe.

Hence, the assumption of those who predicted a sudden death to Erdoğan-Putin bromance is proven to be only wishful thinking. The two leaders, as shared with the public by Kremlin’s spokesperson Peskov are slated to meet in Moscow either on the 5th or the 6th of March. How many more Syrian Air Force Soviet made attack jets will be downed by then is anybody’s guess. The tally stands at three at present time.

While the House of Assad burns down presently, will that bear-riding statue of manhood will watch it hands on his hips? And at that, just to see his entire investment since 2015, his essential foreign policy success story to disappear in the flames of a rather irrelevant Idlib province? Or alternately, are we the hapless witnesses the greatest con game of all time from the peanut gallery?

If the first is true, then till the 5th or the 6th of March when the two main protagonists of this tragedy will size each other up face to face, there won’t remain much of a Syrian armed force to mention. If the second is valid, then having allowed the Turkish public opinion to let go of its steam, a magnanimous Erdoğan will sit down to negotiate mano-a-mano a ceasefire agreement albeit a temporary one.

As for Bashar al Assad, he seems to have resigned to the fact that whatever Erdoğan and Putin will decide over his head, he will have to abide by it. As for your loyal servant here, as things stand Sunday night, I must admit I was fairly off the mark claiming that the monopoly of escalation laid solely in the hands of Moscow.

If we dare to walk into that territory, what form will the Russian counter-escalation may take? Russian military police can simply walk away from around the already besieged TAF monitoring posts leaving them to the mercy of SyAA. Kalibr cruise missiles fired from Russian frigates sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean can accidentally cause enormous collateral damage to TAF while allegedly being aimed at HTS targets. Electronic warfare and air defence systems can blind the TuAF armed drones. A multitude of Kornets and Iglas can suddenly find their way into the hands of SyAA elements. So on and so forth.

On the diplomatic front too, the Russian Atlas seems to have shrugged –his shoulders. SVR chief Naryshkin’s recent visit to UAE, LNA’s Hafter’s rushing a delegation to Damascus, outgoing KSA Ambassador in Moscow’s decoration by Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov are telling signs. The Iranian call to have a bilateral meeting with meeting with Turkey following TAF’s hit on Hezbollah targets near Aleppo is another one.

More concretely, it is quite difficult to fathom how Assad will relinquish the control over the Aleppo-Damascus highway back to the armed resistance. To sum up, audacity can carry the day for Erdoğan in Idlib, as recklessness can achieve his entire Syrian gambit. Either way, it appears almost certain that the democratic republic will bear the most of the brunt. What looks as a swift victory today in Idlib, I am afraid can in midterm turn out to be the worst whirlpool of recent history for Turkey.