After suffering 33 KIA in Idlib last night, in what was likely a Russian airstrike (albeit Russia and Turkey are both calling it Syrian) Turkey released footage from its own laser-guided artillery strikes on the Syrian army over the past weeks.
The footage is not pretty. It shows perhaps 80 Syrian tracked vehicles had been destroyed or heavily damaged (and that’s not even counting the two dozen the rebels got with their newly replenished TOW missiles), and hundreds of Syrian troops wounded or killed by Turkish arms.
So it wasn’t merely the case that Turkey and its jihadi allies had recently managed to recapture Saraqiband sever the Damascus-Aleppo highway, but that over the weeks they had been inflicting unsustainable losses on the Syrian army, in particular in equipment.
Actually, it is a small wonder that government forces were able to continue to advance in the face of such attrition.
With that in mind, it becomes clear the Russians and the Syrians were faced with two options:: either allow Turkey to continue to bleed the Syrian army and eventually see the gains of their successful offensive vs al-Qaeda reversed, or else send Turkey a message to knock it off.
The message has been delivered, now let’s see what Erdogan decides.
So far he is — at least rhetorically — doubling down:
Russia isn’t backing down either:
Gone are the days, such as during the loss of the Il-20 surveillance plane during an Israeli strike on Syria, when the Russian military delivered one message, and Putin delivered a much softer one. Now Putin’s spokesman echoes what the Ministry of Defense said down to a T:
In other words: ‘you were intermingled with terrorists, you have nothing to complain about’.
Nonetheless, now that a message had been delivered Kremlin conceded a meeting between the two could be fruitful:
They agreed to step up the corresponding interagency consultations and to examine the possibility of soon holding a meeting at the highest level.
But it certainly won’t be the Turkey-Russia-Berlin-France format Erdogan had in mind.
Turks are even more bullish on such a meeting, where the Russians are merely “examining the possibility”, for the Turks an agreement to meet already exists in principle:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in their phone conversation agreed to meet face to face soon, Turkey’s communications director said on Friday.
By Marko Marjanović