Will Friday’s Tabriz Tripartite Summit Resolve the Idlib Imbroglio?
The next Tripartite Summit between Russia, Turkey, and Iran is scheduled to take place in Tabriz this Friday.
The three countries’ presidents will gather in the Mideast city to discuss the most important points of convergence and divergence between them, with the first-mentioned being the increasing multisided pressure that they’re all coming under from the US while the latter is the fate of Syria’s Idlib Province. Turkey would like to keep the state of affairs in this ostensible “de-escalation zone” frozen while Iran seemingly supports Damascus’ desire to liberate it. Russia, meanwhile, is compelled to “balance” between its two Astana allies in a bid to prevent their game-changing Great Power partnership from fracturing along this long-foreseen fault line.
The future status of this region will probably have a direct impact on the outcome of the UNSC-mandated constitutional reform process in Syria. Retaining the status quo like Turkey wants would likely result in so-called “judicial autonomy” being granted to Idlib as part of a nationwide decentralization process to legitimize sharia there, while liberating it like Iran tacitly envisions would enable its reintegration into the central fold and presumably allow for only the Kurdish-controlled northeast to ever experience any meaningful post-conflict autonomy.
Turkish and Iranian diplomats are expected to explore whether a deal can be made for calling off the Idlib operation if Ankara promises to provide vital support to Tehran during its expected period of economic difficulties following the reimposition of more American sanctions in November. Russia, for its part, would predictably assist in brokering any possible arrangement and maybe even chipping in on its own, but these three Great Powers’ efforts could be for naught if Syria loses patience and commences its campaign ahead of Friday’s event or if a US false flag chemical weapons attack in Idlib manages to radically change the strategic equation.