- The Turkish government has publicly blamed Syrian forces for the offensive, but experts see this as a sham to avoid holding the Russians accountable.
- Pompeo has announced sanctions against Syria’s Defense Minister Ali Ayoub.
- Russia and Turkish military units are carrying out joint patrols in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Russia for the death of 34 Turkish soldiers following an airstrike that took out Turkey’s military positions in Idlib last month. He made the following statement about the incident on Tuesday during a news conference with reporters.
“We believe Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel in the course of their military operations, and we stand with our NATO ally Turkey and we continue to consider additional measures to support Turkey and to end the violence in Idlib and in Syria more broadly.”
The attack threatened to break down a ceasefire agreement between Ankara and Moscow. The Turkish government has publicly blamed Syrian forces for the offensive, but experts see this as a sham to avoid holding the Russians accountable. Military technology pundits have questioned Syria’s capacity to launch well-orchestrated attacks against Turkey, such as those witnessed during the most recent escalation.
Turkey mounted a fierce offensive after the incident, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers. At the same time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Moscow to work out a deal with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. The two heads of state drew up an accord that would see a decline in hostilities in Idlib. As a result, Russian and Turkish military units now carry out joint patrols along the M4 highway at the border between Syria and Turkey.
Despite the progress, Pompeo has announced sanctions against Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub “for his deliberate actions since December 2019 to prevent a ceasefire from taking hold in northern Syria.” The statement added that “this obstruction resulted in almost a million people being displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid in the midst of a cold winter in Idlib.”
Russia and Turkey are both major players in a multiplex problem that afflicts the region. Turkey backs rebels opposing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Assad is, on the other hand, backed by Russia and sees these groups as adversaries that should be wiped out.
Pompeo has pledged to support the Turkish military in a confrontation with Russia through NATO, notwithstanding the fact that the country’s relationship with the organization is not exactly cordial. Turkey’s decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defense systems last year was in contravention of the group’s policies. Subsequently, the United States barred it from its F-35 program. According to the Pentagon, the S-400 was incompatible with NATO systems and could be used to unmask F-35 vulnerabilities.
Ankara bought $2 billion worth of the equipment. The deal cemented its relationship with Russia, which has a major military presence in the region. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, has echoed Pompeo’s remarks about putting up a united front against Russia. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, he underlined that instability in the region had impacted Turkey in many ways. Turkey has lost a significant number of soldiers to war in the region and currently hosts over 4 million refugees.