Reasons for US fear of Operation Idlib

Charlene Craig
September 6, 2018

Russia, Assad's main military backer, has warned rebels may stage a chemical weapons attack and blame it on the regime in order to provoke a Western intervention.

The area, which has been controlled by rebels since 2015, has been targeted by government and Russian Federation air and artillery strikes for months, devastating infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

Turkey fears a humanitarian crisis on its borders.

Zarif met Assad, Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who asked for Iran to continue its support, according to Iran's Fars News.

Al-Moallem said the preparations for an attack by the U.S., Britain, and France on Syria is not new as the three powers had struck Syria in April over the same allegations of chemical weapons use in the formerly rebel-held Douma district in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus.

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An offensive is likely to first strike southwest Idlib and al-Ghab plains, which overlook the coastal area where Russian Federation has its military and naval bases.

Idlib is adjacent to Latakia province, the coastal heartland of Assad's Alawite minority and home to the Russian military airport of Hmeimim. "The 3 million Syrians who have already been forced out of their homes and are now in Idlib will suffer from this aggression", he wrote in a Twitter post on Friday.

"The US sees this as an escalation of an already risky conflict", Pompeo said in a post on Twitter in which he also blasted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for "defending (the) Syrian and Russian assault". "If the Russians and the Syrian government attack Idlib, the door to Hell will open in the region because of all the Syrian dissident terrorists gathered in Idlib and its suburbs", said one of Syrian.

Despite these worldwide pleas, Syrian and Russian officials over the weekend were openly preparing to oust the formidable rebel forces in the province. It has been argued that Turkey may be involved in convincing Tahrir al-Sham (called also Jabhat al-Nusra) to merge with other armed groups.

A total of 391 civilians, including 66 children, were killed in war-torn Syria last month, according to a Syrian NGO on Saturday. The province contains an array of militant groups, including the ultra-radical Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), which is also known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the strikes were carried out in violation of the norms and principles of worldwide law.

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The minister, who was on a two-day visit to Moscow, said liberating Idlib will be either through reconciliation "which is what we are doing" or through a military action.

United Nations officials say fighting could displace upward of 800,000 civilians from Idlib, yet there is no arrangement to allow safe passage to those who want to escape the fighting.

While he quickly backed away from talk of an immediate withdrawal, his underlying determination to leave Syria's seven-year war as soon as possible seems unchanged.

They are to be deployed along with Russian police forces once the government begins occupying Idlib, he said.

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