Idlib/Ankara: After the pounding air raids launched by the Russian fighter jets last week, Turkey retreated from the Shir Maghar military base. A few days ago, Turkey had even backed out from Morek, its largest military base in Syria’s Idlib. In the past few years, Turkey had begun extensive interference in issues involving Libya, Greece, Cyprus, Palestine and the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute. Turkish President Recep Erdogan even started threatening Russia and the US over Syria. Given Turkey’s stand so far, the initiation of a retreat from the region is quite remarkable.
As the country expanded its activities in Syria, in 2018, Turkey built 12 military bases and outposts in Idlib and nearby areas. Around 10 to 15 thousand soldiers were mobilised to these bases. Also, the bases were being used for providing training and refuge to pro-Turkish militants. However, at the start of the year, Russian-backed Syrian troops stormed into areas near Idlib and seized control of several significant locations. Not only did it come as a shock to the pro-Turkish groups but also the Turkish military. A ceasefire agreement was then reached between Russia and Turkey for the area.
Despite the deal, the Syrian government had claimed Turkey and its affiliated terrorist groups were continuing with their activities in the region. A large military base of terrorist outfit Faylaq al-Sham is located in the area near the Turkish border which is used for recruiting terrorists as well. In the past few years, Turkey had used militants from the Faylaq al-Sham group in large numbers in its conflict against the Assad regime. Furthermore, militants from the group were sent to fight in the Libya war. Turkey is said to have also deployed militants to fight on behalf of Azerbaijan in its battle with Armenia, which broke out a few weeks ago. Use of militants in Libya as well as Armenia-Azerbaijan war and its aggressive stance, has been a subject drawing Russian resentment.
Russia delivered a blow to Turkey by launching fierce attacks in Syria’s Idlib to retaliate to its activities. Although Turkey threatened Russia over the move, it is not capable of delivering on it. Currently, Turkey is maintaining an adamant stand on Libya, Greece and Azerbaijan fronts, but its economy is reeling under a crisis.
Given the circumstances, instead of opening a new front in Syria, where it has already received blows, Turkey appears to have opted for a retreat as seen from its withdrawal in Morek and Shir Maghar. Sources say that while the Syrian forces have taken control of the bases, they may force Turkish troops out of a few more. The withdrawal that began from Syria is believed a massive blow to Erdogan’s ambitions.