HTS is going to de-escalate in Idlib?


"So far, three zones of de-escalation have been established: in the south along the border with Jordan, in Eastern Ghouta and to the north of Homs. Consultations on the fourth and most problematic de-escalation zone in the Idlib province are ongoing.
The idea of de-escalation zones took shape in May at the fourth Astana-format meeting, where guarantors signed a memorandum on this issue.

In July, Russia, Turkey and Iran, with help of Jordan and the United States as observers, tried to coordinate a whole range of specifics on the establishment of the four safe zones, but could not agree on all the details and sign the package of documents as a whole.

Since July, three out of four zones were coordinated and announced outside of the Astana framework.

Key attendees of the sixth international meeting on Syria in Astana will be the same as in previous gatherings. The Russian delegation will be headed by special presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and include Director of Middle East and North Africa Department in the Foreign Ministry Sergey Vershinin and Gen. Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov."  AMN


Peaceable kingdom

"The plan calls for the cessation of hostilities between rebel groups and forces fighting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad's government in four so-called de-escalation zones in mainly opposition-held areas of the country, with Russia, Turkey and Iran to act as guarantors. 

The deal covers four general areas:

Zone 1: Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda-linked alliance.

Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Zone 3: Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that was participating in the Astana talks, it is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.

Zone 4: The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.

The deal laid out the areas where rebels and government forces should halt hostilities, including air strikes, for six months. More than 2.5 million people are believed to live in the zones." Al-Jazeera


 Among the many things I "don't get" is the whole de-escalation thing.   If the de-escalation agreements were face saving ways for the rebels to surrender to the Syrian Government I could easily understand that, but that doesn't seem to be the case. 

And now in this "process," we come to Idlib Province.  Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has succeeded in dominating the province.  Dare I say that I insisted the province should be liberated in the weeks following the liberation of Aleppo City?  Ah,well …   HTS is al-Qa'ida in Syria.  Do the Russians, Syrians, Turks, Jordanians and Americans (on the sidelines) really believe that HTS is going to make an agreement that it will keep?  pl

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38 Responses to HTS is going to de-escalate in Idlib?

  1. Jack says:

    Are the De-escalation zones temporary ceasefire so that the R+6 can focus their forces on other parts of the country?

  2. Will.2718 says:

    The de-escalation gambit freed up troops to try to seize the eastern oil fields before the US proxies beat the government to the punch. The hydrocarbon wealth is key to rebuilding Syria. With the return of the refugees, the SAA is swelling with recruits. After they are trained, there will be plenty of time to deal with the weaponized Wahhabis.
    It’s the classic tactic of “defeat in detail.”
    Meanwhile, the medieval Kingdom of Saudi Barbaria has announced billions for the building of mosques and madrassas in Bangladesh. Thereby, spreading their pernicious Wahhabi faith which has poisoned Islam, setting back the faith hundreds of years, sabotaging modernity, and hoping to recruit fresh fodder for its war against the Kafir and modernity.

  3. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Will.2718
    That particular story has been one of Bangladeshis announcing that the Saudis had offered a grant of *one* billion for building new mosques and madrassahs. Not billions as you allege. Furthermore every time the subject is raised by the Bangladeshis there’s a flurry of denials from the Saudis that they ever agreed to pay a penny.
    The Saudis are the purveyors of a particularly vicious death cult but there’s no point, indeed it’s counter-productive, to make them out to be more effective than they are.

  4. turcopolier says:

    OK. If the de-escalation agreements are a stategem that ends with R+6 going in and killing the jihadis that is fine with me. pl

  5. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Hard to see a permanent Al Qaeda-stan in Idlib with the Turks re-aligning with Russia – the jihadis lose their strategic depth. I suspect Turkey will issue an ultimatum – head home before we close the border or martyr yourself.
    A recent news story suggested that the Pentagon has accelerated weapons transfers to Syria. I presume to try and support a long-term guerilla war/instability. Not sure how that can work given that the jihadi’s are largely not local. I suspect bureaucratic inertia.

  6. Shaun Blacker says:

    It’s all ahbout buying time – a stragety of divide, negotiate and utlimately conquer. The SAA grows more powerful as its enemes are dstoyed and weakens. Idlib will be the last terrorist dominated area the SAA will capture and the terrorists destoyed if they do not flee back to Turkey and onwards to their Saudi masters. It is a very – so far – successfuil R+6 tactic. Without it the SAA would not have been able to muster so many forces to take back their country.

  7. DH says:

    I recall reading Wahhabism is the fastest growing religion in the world. I guess it is natural the poor would flock to it.

  8. JJackson says:

    pl I had been working on the assumption that the aim was to keep peeling off the areas that HTS did not have full control over until there was only a hard core hub, that could never be reintegrated into society, and would have to be killed or driven into Turkey for Ergodan to deal with. HTS seems to have been preparing for this by assimilating as many of the groups as possible so they did not have the option of laying down arms. Not how you saw it?

  9. Bandolero says:

    Deescalation as understood in Astana doesn’t mean a ceasefire with Al Qaeda, but just the opposite. It better should be understood as a process that will lead to less violence.
    Included in this process is the annihilation of all terrorist forces and all forces that continue to fight the Syrian army or any of the Astana guarantee powers. For an armed group to qualify for a ceasefire in the deescalation process, it must actively fight against all terrorists and against all forces not taking part in the deescalation process. While fighting against terrorists the armed groups which qualified for deescalation will get help from the Syrian army and the Astana powers.
    I can well imagine that the pure declaration of the Astana powers about the deescalation zone and the accompanying annihilation of the Nusra Front will splinter the HTS coalition. Anticipating a victory of the Astana powers significant parts of the current HTS coalition may beg the Astana powers to be allowed to take part in the battle with the victorious side instead of being at the receiving end and annihilated with Nusra.

  10. Medicine Man says:

    I don’t see how the combatants, particularly the ones native to the region (SAG, Hezbollah, Iran), could entertain an end to the war that leaves Jihadi groups intact inside Syria. Reconciliation with the Syrian rebels is possible, but any agreement with the people who came to practice medieval warfare practices on the locals is going to be predictably temporary.

  11. turcopolier says:

    IMO captured jihadis should be tried by field court-martial and disposed of if they have molested the populations they ruled as occupiers. They are “irredeemably deplorable.” Those who make themselves useful for intelligence purposes can be given a second look. pl

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Not the “poor”, rather the feeble-minded.

  13. Thomas says:

    “… would have to be killed or driven into Turkey for Ergodan to deal with.”
    Or if you are the Sultan you agree with the the other Powers at Astana on deescalation so they will literally put a bullet in the brain of the “irreconcilables” that you are figuratively turning against. Saves you on time, effort, and, most impotantly, the danger of losing to them.
    As Recep has shown over the years, he will do what is necessary to keep his Dream alive.

  14. Muzaffar Ali says:

    “Feeble minded”…..the best description I have ever heard.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Only the weak minded and sentimental would favor treating captured jihadis as soldiers under the international law of war. Thanks for the compliment. pl

  16. turcopolier says:

    The archive here is filled with material on this subject. pl

  17. turcopolier says:

    Does it occur to you that in something as large as DoD it is not easy to turn off the flow? pl

  18. Tel says:

    Having al-Qaeda controlling Zone 1 and Zone 2 probably works out OK for Assad. Here’s my reasoning:
    * Al-Qaeda have become international, they are thinking strategically and tend to show discipline and patience. Thus they are likely to keep their side of the agreement because it gives them something they want… at least they will keep the agreement for the time being, maybe not forever.
    * I’m guessing that right now, al-Qaeda’s main adversary would be the USA. Assad very likely blames the USA for trying to overthrow him, and anyway Assad is now committed to an alliance with Iran and Russia so he will never be able to call the USA a friend. It’s unlikely that al-Qaeda would become an American proxy any time soon, so in a way this makes Assad more secure, not less.
    * There’s not a whole lot mutual trust between al-Qaeda and Turkey, so even though they both might individually be happy to see the end of Assad, they are unlikely to ever work together.
    * Potentially gains from trade could be made in the following way: Russia has superior intelligence gathering capability but because of international balance of power Russia is prevented from taking action… while al-Qaeda operates an international network of “cells” quite unconstrained in their actions, but they lack specific intelligence. Now Russia is in regular contact with the Syrian government which in turn must surely have regular negotiations with the leaders of Idlib … well if I can see where this is going then I’m sure Putin has at least given it a passing thought.
    * Suppose the ceasefire remains stable for 6 months, which side has greater potential for recovery and consolidation in that time? What about 12 months? What about 2 years? I argue that all of these point the advantage towards the Syrian government.

  19. Kooshy says:

    Colonel Lang, IMO or better in my hope, I don’t think these de-escalation pockets/zones (for R+6) means the AQ terrorists, AKA rebels, are granted their own mini Emirate for ever. I hope to R+6 it means, you bastards can choose to fight and die now, or you can have a few months of holiday and die later, while we are dealing with your (more) SOB bastard brothers on the other end.

  20. different clue says:

    If the counter-jihadi forces and governments are indeed working to slowly drain all the jihadis into a few well-defined and hard-bordered sumps – most especially the Idlib sump – one hopes the final goal is to kill them all in place rather than to allow Erdogan to rescue them for redeployment in new jihads elsewhere at some future point.

  21. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to DH 14 September 2017 at 01:04 PM
    That Islam is the fastest growing religion seems indisputable. Whether the wahabi cult is the fastest growing cult within Islam is another matter entirely. I thnk that in the West that Salafism in general is probably growing amongst the younger people partly because it acts as a common denominator for people from different ethnic backgrounds in western countries.
    But I don’t think that situation will always apply. Islam is an inherently fissiparous religion and sooner or later these fundamentalist movements will have bitter internal feuds over which religious decree that is the most “true” or “Islamic”. Like all fundamentalist movements, Salafists don’t really accept alternative interpretations. So we can expect to have hundreds, maybe thousands, of different Salafi sects all of whom hate each other.
    Outside of the West Wikipedia cites the World Christian Encyclopedia as saying that the Ahmadiyya movement is the fastest growing sect within Islam as of the early 21st century. (See here: ). BUT unsurprisingly given its history that growth is mostly confined to Pakistan.

  22. mike says:

    JJackson and Bandolero are both correct IMHO. Although HTS made many gains in Idlib over the summer, there have been a few small defections in the last two weeks. That may grow. They are being peeled off as JJackson says. They probably have been surreptitiously reminded of what will happen to them if they remain with HTS.
    The groups that do not disavow HTS, and HTS itself will NOT be part of the Astana Peace nor part of the de-escalation process.
    No reconciliation for HTS except in a few isolated special circumstances.

  23. LeaNder says:

    I find the reports from Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) interesting.
    No doubt curious when details on official documents disappear.
    But yes, no expert, what this juxtaposition prove? We are basically only given four documents and one anonymous weapons trader (Pentagon contractor)
    BIRN: But Patrick Wilcken, an arms researcher at Amnesty International, described these end-user certificate as “very misleading” adding: “An end user certificate that did not contain this information [final destination] would be self-defeating and highly unusual.”
    Has he judged on all available or leaked documents?
    Also, in the process, they apparently violated German law
    What I didn’t understand in the articles from the above mentioned people/groups to start with: Why would the US want to bring weapons from Bulgaria via Ramstein zu Syria?

  24. turcopolier says:

    In a presidentially approved covert action sanctioned by a “finding” the end user certificates would be “adjusted” as necessary. The route? Ramstein AFB is probably the most secure node for organizing the air traffic involved. pl

  25. JJackson says:

    different clue – I think we may have different views on Ergodan’s relationship with with any HTS jihadis that escape over the boarder during ‘the draining of the swamp’. I think they will be as welcome as the pkk and at least as much trouble. Turkman groups who were fighting Assad, and can not stomach going back to Assad rule may well be welcomed, but I can not see Ergodan having any control over HTS and, as he now needs Russian support, the HTS will merely find they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The growth of all these Sunni sects and their offshoots – say Ahmadhis – if real – only indicates that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are yet to come to grips with the world-as-it-is.

  27. different clue says:

    Your view of Erdogan’s developing relationship with Russia and its attendant forced-modification of Erdogan’s view on the jihadists and what to do with them certainly makes sense. I hope your view is correct, and that Erdogan can keep his inner self and inner urges contained with regard to the jihadis.

  28. different clue says:

    Habit and inertial mass flow on the part of the weapons-senders.

  29. LeaNder says:

    Habit and inertial mass flow on the part of the weapons-senders.
    Explain? Not sure what you are referring to.
    I more randomly referred to this: “from Bulgaria via Ramstein to Syria?”. Trying to cut matters short. Obviously the story/narrative seems more about generally procuring Russian arms all over the former “Eastern Bloc” that still owe or store them. Sarcastic–leaving out the Syrian context–opening up new market places only by cleaning/emptying the US weapon stores?
    Thus, what was on YOUR mind? Mine usually responds uncontrollably chaotic on the basis of too many questions left not answered.
    Strictly, when I wrote that, I wondered if the allusion to the “German military bases” wasn’t used randomly. Meaning: could, outside the US army bases, German ones have been used for transfers? Why would they use it that way? The could have written US military bases in Germany.
    I understand that zerohedge following FP concentrates on the “criminal networks” angle. But is that how it works?
    If I follow the hints over here to our parliamentarian context, the two people mentioned no doubt are people I respect. Two names, named only.
    Looked only cursorily into the German context: that means. None of them surfaced there.
    Ok, let’s reduce matters on the “weapons-procurers”
    The Pentagon contractor, who asked to remain anonymous, said that this had created an “environment where greed is the motivating factor among most … contractors involved”.
    Only the others are greedy and want to make money? Or is there more below? Like …. he got the offer but distrusted it? Or what else? Or didn’t get the contract?

  30. LeaNder says:

    In a presidentially approved covert action sanctioned by a “finding” the end user certificates would be “adjusted” as necessary
    Leaving no traces?

  31. turcopolier says:

    It is a question of skill. you either have it or you don’t. pl

  32. LeaNder says:

    Pat, to the extend I understand your response, I didn’t people expert in trying to leave no traces impressive. To the extend I encountered the phenomenon in my life. Yes, there were always people involved in the ‘missing paper trail’. …
    I didn’t call myself a nitwit for nothing: Meaning, I never pretended to ‘have it’. But then, I seem to be also disinterested in power or returning to experience their games.

  33. turcopolier says:

    All the major US and other intelligence services have people whose job it is to work the grey and black arms markets in pursuit of their government’s foreign policy. They seldom leave traces in the paperwork. pl

  34. LeaNder says:

    Excuse the badly proofread sentence.
    I didn’t people expert in trying to leave no traces impressive.
    Correction: I didn’t find people that tried to be experts in leaving no traces impressive. … More on my own personal, human experience layer.
    Ok, yes, I forgot. Fronts and all …

  35. LeaNder says:

    opening up new market places only by cleaning/emptying the US weapon stores?
    emptying the space of former Russian weapons. Was among my first impulsive (mentally meandering) interior question responses, admittedly.
    But it seems it may have been about outsourcing production to these areas too.

  36. turcopolier says:

    We would much prefer for the US government to buy US made equipment for foreign “partner” forces as OIF calls them, but Warsaw Pact weapons have been pervasive for a very long time in parts of the 3rd World and it has been found to be very difficult to train these forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria with US made equipment and the WP equipment is often more sturdy and wears well. It is really difficult to break WP equipment. An AK-47 or a T-72 tank are nearly soldier-proof and indestructible. American equipment is often made of more fragile stuff and require more sophisticated maintenance. That being the case the US does not want to advertise its use of WP equipment in equipping foreign armies or non-state actors. US law requires export of US made equipment if possible and we would be glad to do it. pl

  37. LeaNder says:

    Thanks Pat, helpful. Concerning the start/incipit, obviously.

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