03/10/2020

The U.S. should reprimand Moscow for the latest round of bombings targeting civilians in Idlib province.

So far, the forces have captured two towns on a strategic road linking Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo. Whats still unclear is whether they intend to overrun the rest of the province, which is one of the last areas under Syrian rebel control. If they do, the State Department says they could drive 3 million refugees across the border into Turkey, including thousands of militants from a group linked to al-Qaeda.
Apart from the extremists, the only substantial opposition to the offensive is coming from Turkey, which has deployed its own troops in Idlib and is backing some Syrian fighters. That led to a clash between Turkish and Syrian government forces this week, with fatalities on both sides. Tensions, meanwhile, are rising between Turkey and Russia, imperiling what has been a growing entente between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian ruler Vladi­mir Putin.
Washington might take some perverse satisfaction in the predicament of Mr. Erdogan, who has badly strained relations by buying Russian weapons and displacing U.S. and Kurdish forces from another strip of northern Syria. The Turkish ruler now finds himself facing the same Russian perfidy that for years confounded the Obama administration: Moscow promises to restrain President Bashar al-Assads regime, then goes right on enabling its offensives by deliberately bombing hospitals, schools and food markets.
The United States nevertheless cannot afford a disaster in Idlib. A new flood of refugees into Turkey could easily lead to another destabilizing exodus to Europe. International terrorists now bottled up in the province, including from the Islamic State, could disperse, too. Thats not to speak of the horrific humanitarian crisis the new offensive may trigger.
So the Trump administration has been trying to support the Turks though so far only with rhetoric. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Jan. 27 condemning the unjustifiable attacks against the people of northwest Syria and declaring that the United States is prepared to take the strongest diplomatic and economic actions against the Assad regime and any state or individual that aids its brutal agenda. In a briefing for reporters Wednesday, the State Departments special envoy for Syria, James F. Jeffrey, placed blame for the new offensive squarely on Moscow.
That would seem to suggest that new U.S. sanctions against Russia are in order. Yet Mr. Jeffrey indicated otherwise, saying, We tend to focus the pressure primarily in Syria on the Syrian government. That will accomplish little: The Syrian economy is already in ruins. If the Trump administration actually wants to stem the latest bloodbath, it will need to focus its pressure not on Damascus but on Moscow.
Read more:
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