Sept 8: Assad drops barrel bombs on Khan Sheikhun, South Idlib Province, where he previously used chemical weapons
As Russia, Turkey and Iran sit down to discuss the future of Idlib today, there are a few facts to keep in mind which I have reiterated over and over.
Assad is an unreconstructed bloodthirsty and vengeful tyrant. He uses chemical weapons. The Russians rely on his régime to keep their military bases in Syria open. They spin and lie (convincingly) through their media outlets (RT) about his use of chemical weapons.
Russia has in its sights thousands of Chechen, Dagestani, and Tatar jihadis of Russian origin who fight with HTS, who are hiding amongst the civilians population, and will not surrender. Russia is the prime mover in the prospective fight in Idlib.
Russia has already conducted airstrikes to pressure Turkey ahead of the summit, and Turkey has responded by blacklisting HTS to indicate its willingness to cooperate in rooting these elements out, and to differentiate them from the Free Syria Army (FSA) elements organised by the Turks under the umbrella Jabhat al-Wataniyya lil-Tahrir (National Liberation Front/NLF).
Only the considerable diplomatic pressure by the Turks, given the important economic relationship it has with Russia, has so far kept the lid on the advance on Idlib. It is also clear that the only relatively free and prosperous areas in Syria today are those in the north under Turkish control.
There is no sense among Syrians that Turkey, whatever its national interests, will ever let up on its efforts to counter the destruction meted out by Assad on his own people. Only Turkey, it seems, is looking out for the future of Syria’s children.