Some Thoughts on Idlib Dawn
Tuesday March 3, 2020
The seesaw events of the last few days can be examined from the political dancing and posturing of the major players and from the combatants’ maneuvers on the battlefield. Obviously there is a lot of interplay between the two, but I think it is the soldiers who are driving this train rather than the politicians. I'm also way more comfortable at the grazing fire level than wallowing among the political class.
The SAA still is composed of a few well trained, well led and well equipped combined arms units capable of sustained heavy combat. They are constantly moved to where they are needed most. Most of the SAA positions are manned by lightly armed National Defense Forces (NDF) and local militias. These forces essentially man a picket line against the jihadis. They can defend against light probes, but cannot withstand a major jihadi assault especially when those jihadis are supported by Turkish artillery and armor. That is what happened at Saraqib when the 25th Division and Liwa al Quds were withdrawn to attack the al Zawhiya Mountains and the M4 from the south. It happened again when the 25th and Liwa Al Quds pulled out of that offensive to deal with Saraqib for the second time. Fortunately, the NDF and militias were able to withdraw rather than being overrun and destroyed.
In the face of the SAA success in Operation Idlib Dawn, Erdogan slowly ratcheted up the use of the Turkish Army to bolster his jihadi allies on the battlefield. The SAA adjusted. However, bombing of the convoy resulting in the death of thirty plus Turkish soldiers drove Erdogan to find a way to assuage his embarrassment. I think his retaliation with MLRS, artillery and drone strikes surprised the SAA and the Russians as well. Perhaps the Russians first thought the Turkish strikes were a face saving measure and would stop after the initial strikes. Erdogan thought this Russian pause was a sign of weakness and did not stop his attacks. Another blunder.