Turkey ups the pressure and forces Russia into swift action

Due to Turkey’s involvement with Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya, and Syria this year, Russia has begun targeting strikes in the Idlib region of Syria. The most recent was October twenty-sixth this year, when a the group of extremists under Faylaw Al Sham, struck by Russia. This strike occurred mere miles from the Turkish-Syrian border.

This was the first major strike that occurred since the Russian-Turkish ceasefire that began in March 2020. More than a 100 dead and more were injured from the strike. This also caused retaliation from another group of extremists, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham.

Russia clearly is taking a stand against Turkish leadership with this strike, aiming to deter further involvement in regional conflicts. Tensions have already begun to rise higher than during attacks orchestrated by President Bashard Al Assad in August of 2019. 

Faylaw Al Sham (FaS) has been in blatant opposition to Assad since 2014, but has also grown to become a major organizer of the region. Proxies from Nagorno-Karabakh Libya have been drafted in mass by FaS. This combined with the strike lead to a call between the Turkish Leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The two discussed a ceasefire that specifies the removal of Syrian proxies immediately, as well as the developments in Syria that lead to the strike.

Though an agreement was made in September between Russian and Turkish forces, the addition of Turkish troops sent to the Idlib governorate has spurred tensions with Russia. This combined with Turkey’s interference in Kurdish forces in Manbig and Tall Rifaat and targeting of Syrian Democratic troops forced Russia to revoke the agreement entirely.

The US Special Operations Command has focused heavily on the removal or neutralization of Syria’s Al Qaeda group, Hurras Al Din in the IdLib region. The USSOCOM has been following members of the group nearly a year after the death of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, a former Islamic State leader of the region. The USSOCOM targeted a drone strike that neutralized Abu Youssef Al Maghrebi and Abu Al Misri on the sixteenth of Octorber—both leaders in Hurras Al Din. The twenty-second of the same month saw another strike, killing seventeen combatants of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham who left to join Hurras Al Din.

Rumors of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HaT) members working with USSOCOM through Turkey via MIT—the Turkish intelligence service. HaT has been working to remove and suppress extremist rival factions in the area since 2017, which is further evidence to validate the rumors.