Air blitz on Idlib raises fears of fears of imminent assault

A general view taken with a drone shows part of the rebel-held Idlib city

Despite dire USA warnings and fears of a humanitarian disaster, the Trump administration has little leverage to stop Russia, Iran and Syria pressing ahead with a massive military assault against Syria's northwest Idlib province. Sources said he cautioned that he didn't want to hear in October that the military hadn't been able to fully defeat ISIS and needed to stay. Russian Federation and Iran, as countries with influence over the regime, must stop this catastrophe.

Although Putin demanded the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria" and Rouhani urged "cleansing the Idlib region of terrorists" - by which the two authoritarian leaders mean all forces opposed to Assad - they acknowledged the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and did not completely rule out the possibility of ceasefire negotiations.

James Jeffrey, who was named "representative for Syria engagement" by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said American troops will now be tasked with ensuring the exit of all Iranian military personnel and helping to build (as the Post puts it) "a stable, nonthreatnening government acceptable to all Syrians and the global community".

In a statement Thursday on the eve of a meeting in Tehran of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which supports Syria's opposition, the eight nations warned that a full-scale military offensive in Idlib would have "potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians".

Russian bombers this week started to target Idlib ahead of an expected ground operation. He said: "Millions will be coming to Turkey's borders because they have nowhere to go".

"If it's a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry". The level of mutual trust between Turkey and Russian Federation is "very low", relations remain "fragile" and Idlib will "present new challenges" to them. He spoke during a summit with the leaders of Russian Federation and Iran in Tehran.

Ankara and Moscow back opposing sides in the northwest province of Idlib - the former the armed opposition, and the latter the government troops poised for an offensive to retake the province.

But Hassan Hassan, a Syria expert and a fellow at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said he is doubtful an offensive is imminent, pointing to Turkey getting USA backing in opposing a major offensive.

"Idlib's fate should be decided by its people". Putin said in Tehran on Friday that an offensive would be launched imminently if jihadist groups failed to leave.

On Monday, Trump tweeted: "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province". Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group.

None of Turkey's options look good, adds Aydıntaşbaş, as it faces both a humanitarian "catastrophe" and a result that could "forever alter the dynamics of the Syrian war - in favor of the regime". More broadly, Has observed, "Disagreement over Idlib makes it unlikely that Russian Federation and Turkey can agree on an extended presence of Turkish forces in Afrin, Jarablus and Azaz". Turkish tanks are also being deployed on the enclave's border, ostensibly to deal with a refugee exodus. In July, Boltonhad foreshadowed the shift of the administration's Syria policy when he stated during an interview on ABC's Next Week with George Stephanopoulos that the USA troops would remain in Syria indefinitely "as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East".

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