Powerful countries with autocratic rulers with military forces competing in small weak countries takes us back to the classic age of imperialism. But that is what is happening in Syria, where three former empires, Russia, Turkey and Iran are competing for influence and control. The situation has come to the point where soldiers on both sides are being killed, in other words, blood has been shed and warnings issued. Six Turkish soldiers were killed and 20 Syrian Army soldiers.
The clashes are taking place in Syria’s north-western Idlib province that is the last region still in rebel hands, not “liberated” by the Syrian Army of the Assad regime, supported by his two allies Russia and Iran. While Russia largely plays the role of air support, Iran uses its ground troops, the IRGC and Hezbollah, to support the military push. But, Idlib abuts the Turkish border and this is where the Turkish Army has invaded and taken control of a swath of land along the border, to both expel the Kurdish forces that have been in control there for several years and also to establish a settlement area for the millions of Syrian refugees that are already in Turkey. Pres. Erdogan has warned the Syrian and Russian forces not to enter his occupied area, and Pres. Putin has warned Erdogan not to interfere with the legitimate forces of the Syrian Government. This spells a potential disaster with direct clashed between Turkish and Russia forces!
Iran is playing a secondary role in this situation in Idlib. But, many other countries and organizations are concerned, since there are supposed to be about another 1.5 million refugees displaced in Idlib, being mainly internally displaced refugees from other parts of the Syrian civil war who fled there. Turkey will not allow the refugees to cross over its border. But, in the south of Syria Iran is heavily involved in setting up facilities and weapons from which it hopes to attack Israel. But, Israeli PM Netanyahu made an agreement with Putin that Israel will scrupulously avoid Russian forces, while hitting Iranian forces and facilities to prevent them establishing a foothold from which to attack Israel. This is apparently acceptable to Putin since it keeps Iran under control while he doesn’t have to do anything.