Turkish military intervention in Syria’s Idlib province hinges on a murky relationship with Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) terror group, argues the Century Foundation fellow Sam Heller.
As Heller points out, this strange partnership would be considered beyond the pale in any other circumstances. Turkey is co-ordinating with a terror group which is the successor to Al-Qaeda in Syria to promote its interests in Idlib province and around the Kurdish-dominated Afrin region.
However, this policy allows Ankara to prevent eruption of a large-scale conflict in Syria’s northwest and avoid another influx of refugees. In the same time, the Turkish authorities might seek to deepen the rift between the current leadership of HTS and Al-Qaeda loyalists within its ranks.
To defend its bid Ankara also has to ensure that the key international players, most importantly Iran and Russia, take favorable approach towards HTS dominance over Idlib.
By implementing this policies, Turkey enters a gray zone, and it is not clear, whether these efforts will be successful. However, no other options allowing to avoid large-scale violence seem to exist, concludes Heller.