The Impending Syrian Regime Offensive in Idlib, the Last Rebel Province

(War on the Rocks) Charles Lister - Idlib province is the last remaining bastion of opposition control in Syria. Some 2.5 to 3.3 million people - at least 1.2 million of whom are internally displaced - are currently crammed into this region. Before 2011 there were 750,000. The province became a dumping ground for defeated opposition fighters and their families from elsewhere in the country. At least 70,000 armed men are currently in Idlib and its surrounding areas, according to one estimate, a sizable minority of whom are linked to al-Qaeda. Having already taken in more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011, Turkey has firmly shut its border with Idlib and its military has established control over a 150-km-wide band of territory in inside Syria, in addition to setting up 12 "observation posts" ringing opposition territory. Ankara opposes an Assad offensive and has insisted Idlib is a red line, but exactly how red remains to be seen. The writer is a senior fellow and Director of Countering Terrorism and Extremism at the Middle East Institute.

2018-08-07 00:00:00

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