On Dec. 19, Syrian regime forces began a new offensive targeting Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold in the country, moving north toward Maaret al-Numan. Within four days, the forces drove the extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Turkey-backed opposition National Liberation Front out of 40 settlements. The new power balance is threatening the 12 army observation posts Turkey had set up around Idlib.
The operation proved a major defeat for Syrian opposition forces. But Turkey’s plan to send troops to Libya on a separate mission has already diverted the public’s attention to the eastern Mediterranean, enabling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cover up the failures in Syria.
Ankara reacted to the Idlib offensive with unusual restraint, opting to negotiate with Moscow, which backs the Syrian regime. Turkey seems to be avoiding another escalation with Russia over Idlib, especially as the Libya dossier has already created a rift.