The Turks have begun to fight seriously. Is this just the beginning?

There were too many events in the war in Syria last weekend to list them in detail, especially since most of our readers are following relevant thematic channels and blogs in real time. So let’s focus on the most important developments.

With some delay, but after the killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers by the Assad and Russian air forces, Turkey has finally started to fight seriously against the Assad regime. The results of this war in just a few days are truly impressive — according to some estimates hundreds, according to others thousands of military personnel of the regime and its foreign allies have been destroyed, as well as dozens to hundreds of destroyed combat and transport vehicles. In addition, three high-ranking regime generals, two aircraft and several air defense systems were destroyed.

The Turks have avenged their fallen soldiers, but more importantly, they have fundamentally changed the course of the conflict and taken the initiative. All this has been achieved without direct confrontation with the Russian air force, primarily through asymmetric means — through the effective use of modern Turkish drones and medium-range missiles. For the first time in the years of the war, the regime’s army lost its air superiority, which allowed it to mercilessly and methodically bombard large concentrations of regime forces, thus thwarting their advances. The result was not long in coming — the rebel forces managed to go on the offensive and recapture several dozen towns that Assad’s forces had taken during their «Dawn of Idlib» operation. In response, Turkey has launched its own operation called «Spring Shield».

Against the backdrop of these events, a rebellion has erupted in the previously «pacified» Daraa, challenging the Assad regime’s control even over areas it had managed to conquer several years ago.

Turkey, however, has not confined itself to military action. The Turkish authorities have done what they have been warning about for a long time — they have opened their sea and land borders with EU countries to Syrian refugees, removed the obstacles and even helped them to reach these borders. Tens of thousands of Syrians, mostly young men, reached these borders within a few days, many of them managed to break through the barriers. As a result, Greece, which recently voted against providing Turkey with additional air defense support during the NATO meeting, has announced its willingness to change its position. French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Vladimir Putin to stop the operation in Syria, and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has called on Europe and the U.S. to increase pressure on the Kremlin and the Assad regime to «put an end to the terrible war in Syria.»

On a sweet note, Turkish law enforcement officials raided the office of the Turkish branch of the Russian propaganda company «Sputnik» in response to its vigorous anti-Turkish propaganda campaign. However, after interviewing its chief editor, he was released without finding any drugs, weapons or banned literature, as would surely have happened in Putin’s Russia.

Despite the positivity of these developments, it is important not to get carried away with euphoria. A serious war is obviously just beginning, and each side will try to adapt to its opponent’s actions. The Assad regime is currently trying to improve the effectiveness of its air defenses and learn to counter Turkish drones, one of which was shot down yesterday as it tried to counterattack despite its losses. However, the Turks cannot afford to return to their previous PR-driven simulation of war — the conflict is now fully underway and will end in either victory or defeat for one side or the other.

There is a theoretical alternative to this scenario — its termination after the meeting between Erdogan and Putin scheduled for March 5. Only recently, the latter stated that he did not see the need for such a meeting, but after the turning point in the Syrian conflict, he quickly changed his mind.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the chances of achieving a reliable and satisfactory peace for Turkey will be higher if its successes in the war become more evident. The slogan «If you want peace, prepare for war» is no longer relevant in this situation. The only option left for Ankara by Moscow and Damascus is: «If you want peace, win the war.»

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