Not quite. One can safely assume that Moscow dictates the, call it “new order” or the “new status quo” in Idlib. And at that, effectively getting in between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA). No more, no less and temporarily. Compared to a potential full-blown Turco-Syrian war, encouraged first and foremost by the U.S., it is no small feat either. 

It took almost three hours for Erdoğan and Putin and then another three for the respective Turkish and Russian delegations in Moscow to reach an agreement of a mere three points which would not take more than six minutes compared to six hours of talks to put with black ink on white paper. All that, under the inquisitive gaze of Tsarina Catherine “The Great”. 

I will dare to say that Putin dictated his will to his Turkish counterparts. Just the fact that the meeting that led to the signing of this new protocol took place in Moscow is a clear sign to that. The said document shaves almost half of (as can be seen on the added CRS map herebelow) what came to be known as the Idlib Pocket. Military operations ceases, counterterrorism operations will continue. 

That in turn means for the TAF no more positioning intertwined neither intentionally with the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA) elements nor unintentionally with the Heyet Tahrir Sham (HTS) “terrorists.” In other words, militarily supporting paramilitary offenses will no longer be tolerated –by the Russian Air Forces (RuAF). Or, deprived from the TAF support, no more pushing forward for the armed resistance but more extending its sovereignty for the SyAA as reflected in the killing of 15 members of the (Uyghurs’) Turkestan Islamic Army since the protocol came into effect.

As per the division of land between the warring parties, Moscow drew again the line to prove that muscle power has its limits. Otherwise, it was clear that the TAF had the capacity to sweep away the SyAA. A subdued Assad preferred to strike a conciliatory tone apparently understanding full well the meaning of Arabic not being one of the three languages the protocol is prepared in. 

Ankara had asked as usual for a safe zone covering the old Idlib pocket in its entire Sochi borders. Instead Erdoğan got a security corridor along a portion of the Aleppo-Latakia road. A security corridor only in name and only for Assad that is. For, those who happened to be at this given moment to the south of that corridor will need to make a bolt to the north and to the relative safety of the TAF’s now smaller new Idlib pocket. Furthermore the protocol also entails that Russia can now go after the radicals holed up in mountaineous hide-outs like Jisr al Shoghour in all legitimacy as these fall into that so-called security corridor too. 

Well then could the Turkish side be so fully and entirely duped even to the extent to accept the quite cheeky condolonces message by none other but Putin himself? Remember, just a few days ago the Turkish Permanent Delegate to the UN had made the unquestionable case of Russian involvement of slaying at least 33 troops in Idlib. My gut feeling and the way this new map looks lead me to think otherwise. I am led to believe that Moscow and Ankara are cozying up to a grand bargain over the head of Assad to which Assad himself will not much object. 

As for today, there is always another day to die. Any ugly or temporary peace is better than war. For those like your humble servant here, the bigger question is not how Turkish military technology made a grand show in Idlib or how poorly Ankara’s diplomatic performance –if there were any- is rated in Moscow. Whichever way this story turns, it is the democratic republic which stands to loose. And that remains the most vital issue full and square.