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February 7, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8545

'Is It Our Job To Protect Jihadi Terrorists?' – Turkish Journalist Criticizes Turkish Presence In Syria

February 7, 2020
Syria, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8545

In a February 4, 2020 column titled "Is It Our Job To Protect Jihadi Terrorists?" following an exchange of fire on February 3 between Syrian and Turkish forces in Idlib that resulted in the deaths of at least eight Turkish citizens, Turkish writer Mehmet Yılmaz criticized Turkey's policy of stationing soldiers in Idlib. Yılmaz wrote: "Idlib, for whose defense we sent our soldiers, is the last refuge of armed jihadi terrorists... To drive our soldiers into the line of fire in order to protect them is much more than a mistake!"[1] On February 7, following the exchange, a Turkish political monitoring website reported that five of Turkey's 12 military observation points in Idlib were under siege by the Syrian military, including the observation point in the city of Saraqib.[2]


Mehmet Yılmaz writes for the prominent opposition news website T24.com.tr.

It has been reported that the Turkish military opposed the placement of these observation points in Idlib, saying that surveillance drones could accomplish the same task, but that retired general Adnan Tanrıverdi, then chief advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, convinced Erdoğan to establish these observation points against the judgement of the military.[3] Tanrıverdi has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower, which is reflected in Erdoğan's foreign policy, through conferences and documents published by his organizations.[4]


Tanrıverdi reportedly convinced Erdoğan to establish 12 military observation points, of which five are reportedly under siege, in Idlib (source: Aa.com.tr).

Yılmaz's article came after Turkey's Defense Ministry published four press releases on February 3 describing an exchange of fire that day between Syrian government forces and Turkish forces in Idlib. The statements reported that seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian as well as 76 Syrian government "soldiers and personnel" were killed in the exchange. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the same day that "30-35 regime elements had been neutralized" and that "of course there will be consequences for the [Syrian] regime."[5]

Following is a translation of excerpts from Yılmaz's article:

"Idlib, For Whose Defense We Sent Our Soldiers, Is The Last Refuge Of Armed Jihadi Terrorists"

"In Idlib, eight Turkish citizens, of whom five were soldiers and three were civilians, died as a result of strikes by the Syrian regime army... President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: 'about 30-35 regime elements were neutralized.'...

"This is not a game. We are not in a situation in which we can keep score by saying: 'This many of our soldiers were martyred, and we killed that many soldiers from the other side.' The situation does not change if we 'neutralize' not 30-35 but 350 'elements' from the other side. Eight of our citizens, five of whom were soldiers and three were civil servants, lost their lives! Those on the other side are not 'elements,' they are people!...

"Somehow it has not been possible to turn back from the mistake that was made in the first days when the civil war in Syria was inflamed. The first button on the shirt was buttoned wrong, so the other buttons could not get into the right buttonhole. That's why!

"Idlib, for whose defense we sent our soldiers, is the last refuge of armed jihadi terrorists. It was a mistake anyway to turn a blind eye to that many armed men setting up a base in a region into which civilians fleeing the massacres of the regime have been squeezed."

"To Drive Our Soldiers Into The Line Of Fire In Order To Protect [Jihadi Terrorists] Is Much More Than A Mistake!"

"Now, to drive our soldiers into the line of fire in order to protect them is much more than a mistake! Turkey's official policy is the protection of Syria's territorial integrity. How will that be? The Assad regime now has control over the regions aside from Idlib and the Turkish border... One of the reasons for Erdoğan being one of the figures who turned Syria into a hell was his calculation in the first days of the internal strife in Syria that the Assad regime would be overthrown in a short time. This calculation was wrong. Now he thinks that if the groups in Idlib can cling on there, they will have a say in the future of Syria.

"They did not listen to our warnings at the beginning of the war. And I will warn at the end also: Look for and find a reconciliation with the Assad regime such that you have a chance to save the lives of the civilians in Idlib waiting together fearing for their lives. Achieve an end to the war in Syria such that one section of the four million people taking refuge in our country are able to return to their own country."

 

[1] T24.com.tr/yazarlar/mehmet-y-yilmaz/cihatci-teroristleri-korumak-bizim-isimiz-mi,25448, February 4, 2020.

[2] Stratejikortak.com/2020/02/idlib-harita-son-haberler.html, February 7, 2020.

[3] Cumhuriyet.com.tr/koseyazisi/1718821/amerikan-cengeli-wolters-akar-gorusmesi-ve-sadat.html, February 6, 2020.

[5] Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/son-dakika-haberleri-cumhurbaskani-erdogandan-idlib-aciklamasi-mutabakatin-ihlalidir-bunun-sonuclari-olacaktir-41438726, February 4, 2020; Msb.gov.tr/SlaytHaber/322020-31328, February 3, 2020; Msb.gov.tr/SlaytHaber/322020-64745, February 3, 2020; Msb.gov.tr/SlaytHaber/322020-82058, February 3, 2020; Msb.gov.tr/SlaytHaber/322020-81617, February 3, 2020; Detaykibris.com/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-30-35-rejim-unsuru-etkisiz-hale-getirildi-207706h.htm, February 3, 2020.

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