Turkey intervenes in Syria: What you need to know

(Kremlin.ru/Creative Commons)

What do the Astana nations want?

For Turkey, the Astana process represents a least-bad option. Russia’s September 2015 entrance into the long Syrian war on the side of al-Assad changed the rules of the game. It became clear to Erdogan that the Syrian president would remain in power, at least in some fashion, and Turkey would now have to strike deals with Russia to protect its interests.

Turkey wants to keep Kurdish troops in Syria far from its border (Andrea DiCenzo/IRIN)

The Tahrir al-Sham problem

There remains a slight problem, however: Idlib is full of rebels, not to mention civilians who have been displaced, often forcibly, from elsewhere in the country.

Turkey’s mismatched allies

Since the Tahrir al-Sham takeover of Idlib, Turkey has supported plans to form a new rebel leadership, hoping to shift the balance back in favour of non-jihadi, Turkey-friendly Free Syrian Army factions.

Preparing for mass displacement

If the Turkish intervention triggers large-scale fighting with Tahrir al-Sham, or some faction of the group, it could have severe consequences for civilians and for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Idlib, says OCHA’s Tom, noting that the border area hosts a large number of vulnerable IDP settlements.

Snow last December at an IDP camp in rural Idlib (Omar Alwani/UNICEF)

How will Tahrir al-Sham react?

The Turkish government has made no secret of the fact it hopes to avoid fighting in this intervention altogether, presenting its entrance as a way to support the Astana ceasefire rather than as an attack on the jihadis.

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