Alt-Media has gotten in the habit of getting their audience’s hopes up about the supposedly “imminent” liberation of Idlib by playing to their political fantasies (and even in some cases, Turkophobia) and grossly misportraying the Syrian Arab Army’s anti-terrorist incursions in the “de-escalation zone” as something that they aren’t, though one of the biggest peddlers of this narrative has finally come clean and is surprisingly backtracking on their hyperbolic rhetoric over the past year for reasons that can only be speculated upon but are nevertheless praiseworthy in principle.
Flipping The Script
Alt-Media is practically obsessed with the idea that the liberation of Idlib is “imminent” and this narrative always goes viral whenever the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launches anti-terrorist incursions in the “de-escalation zone”, but the fact of the matter is that this will probably never happen, or at least not in the manner that many are expecting. Alt-Media outlets play to their audience’s political fantasies (and even in some cases, Turkosphobia) in order to get more attention, generate additional advertising revenue through the increased clicks that they’re bound to receive, and sometimes “boost morale”, but misportraying the SAA’s actions is a very risk strategy because it holds with it the very likely possibility that people’s unrealistically high and ultimately false hopes will be eventually weaponized by hostile third-party forces. One of the biggest peddlers of the “imminent liberation” narrative, Al-Masdar News (AMN), might have finally realized this after it came clean and surprisingly backtracked on its hyperbolic rhetoric over the past year for reasons that can only be speculated upon but are nevertheless praiseworthy in principle.
Now That’s Some Chutzpah!
The outlet had the chutzpah to publish a piece headlined “Syrian Army’s offensive has little to do with Idlib, rumors amplify drama” despite being one of the main sources of those aforesaid drama-causing rumors, suggesting that one of their oft-quoted “military sources” (and potential patrons) might have ordered them to reverse course after realizing how strategically risky it is to play loose with the truth and once again misportray the SAA’s actions there for self-interested reasons. To their credit, the “News Desk” convincingly articulated the reasons why all those rumors are untrue, remarking how such an operation is impossible to pull off with the limited manpower on that front and also unable to happen without Moscow’s permission, which it would have to obtain from Ankara in the first place. These are solid arguments that would have regrettably been dismissed as “demoralizing propaganda” by the Alt-Media Community had it been anyone other than AMN making them, but nevertheless, it’s a positive step in the right direction that the audience at large is finally being exposed to the truth about Idlib even if more facts need to be shared in order to shatter the illusion once and for all.
The “De-Escalation” Deal
Turkey is occupying the region per Russia’s agreement that Damascus claims was approved by it beforehand in setting up the so-called “de-escalation zone” in that strategic region back in spring 2017. The prevailing narrative being pushed at the time by Alt-Media is that this was a brilliant “5D chess move” by President Putin to get his Turkish counterpart to take responsibility for the many terrorists there prior to preparing for a full-fledged liberation operation alongside his Syrian “allies” once Ankara was proven to be unable to control the region. This “wishful thinking” notion played to the Turkophobia that runs rampant among many in the Alt-Media Community by strongly implying that Russia was prepared to “backstab” Turkey “at the right time”, but in reality, nothing of the sort will ever happen because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the two Great Powers cut a deal with one another in order to carve out their respective spheres of influence in the country. The naked truth is that Russia simply has too much to lose if it betrays Turkey so it’s very unlikely to ever do so.
Russia’s Rationale: Turkey > Syria
The TurkStream gas pipeline will generate billions of dollars in much-needed yearly revenue for Russia, and the proposed sale of S-400s and possibly even Sukohi fighter jets could accomplish the long-sought strategic goal of getting Turkey to de-facto withdraw from NATO. In exchange, Russia just has to tacitly recognize Turkey’s sphere of influence in Idlib and elsewhere in northern Syria, which it’s already doing despite occasional rhetoric to the contrary pontificating about “international law”, Syria’s right to reclaim control over the entire country, and the need for all foreign military forces to withdraw from the Arab Republic. These high-sounding words boost the morale of the average Syrian and Alt-Media commentator by making it seem like there really is a “cunning plan” in place to militarily liberate all of Idlib from the same radical militants that Damascus itself bussed out to that region as part of the so-called “reconciliation deals” struck all across the country over the years after serious fighting elsewhere. There was indeed a “cunning plan” at play, albeit not the one that most people expected.
The claim that corralling all radical militants to Idlib would make it easier for the SAA to crush every single one of them at an undetermined time in the future is a weak attempt at the “5D chess” tactic because the fact of the matter is that those fighters could have been dealt with then and there instead of being safely removed to that northwestern region. Damascus more than likely wanted to destroy them, but Moscow realized that saving them would go a long way to building trust with Ankara and showing that it can be counted on to negotiate other more important deals like the S-400s in good faith. It doesn’t seem like Russia ever had any intention of supporting the SAA’s liberation of Idlib but rather expected that the region’s reincorporation into the rest of Syria would eventually come about through political means as part of a Moscow-mediated “compromise” between all parties such as the one that it also hopes will one day take place in the Kurdish-controlled northeast too. This explanation, however, is “politically incorrect” because it contradicts Alt-Media’s “5D anti-Turkish chess” “wishful thinking” narrative.
It’s Time To Expose The Other Illusions Too
Returning back to the lead-in news item that inspired this analysis, AMN should be applauded for responsibly backtracking on the rumors that it propagated over the past year about the supposedly “imminent” liberation of Idlib. It can only be speculated why the outlet finally decided to do this, but whatever the reason may be, it will help counteract the weaponization of their domestic and international audience’s unrealistically high hopes once they realize that they’ve been deceived once again. There’s always the faint chance that the grand strategic calculations may change and that Russia will unexpectedly approve the SAA’s request to begin the full-fledged military liberation of the region, but it’s much more likely that their over-hyped anti-terrorist activities will remain limited in scope and that that dramatic scenario won’t ever come to pass. In any case, the Idlib illusion is finally being dispelled by none other than one of its very own creators, raising hopes that AMN might one day begin dismantling the other false narrative that it helped to spread about the S-300s and possibly even begin finally reporting the facts about “Putinyahu’s Rusrael“, though they’ll probably come under vicious attacks by their same “Putinist” base if they ever “dare” to do so.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Eurasia Future