The Bashar Assad regime, which has lost sovereignty over at least two-thirds of Syria and is holed-up in Damascus, continues to attack the Turkish military protecting civilians in Idlib.
Last week, regime forces attacked Turkey's checkpoint, killing eight Turks – seven soldiers and one civilian personnel. Earlier in the week, Assad's troops took action again, killing five more Turkish soldiers.
Ankara has exercised its right to legitimately retaliate against the attacks. However, the area under fire by Assad's forces goes beyond the observation posts established by the Turkish military in agreement with Russia, covering an area inhabited by more than 3 million civilians.
Therefore, even if the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) leave the area where they have settled to stop terrorist attacks and a possible further influx of migrants – thereby exercising the rights stemming from international agreements – the crisis will not go away and will even risk further deepening.
In fact, the withdrawal of Turkish troops from checkpoints protecting millions of civilians in Idlib from regime forces and Iran's sectarian terrorists would lead to a major disaster.
This is not a political or strategic prediction. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in recent attacks by regime forces and terrorists in Idlib. Assad has been clear about his aim to clear out the 3 million civilians in Idlib, whom he refers to as "terrorists" because of their opposition to the regime, to create an ethnically and religiously homogeneous population in northern Syria.
Turkey's withdrawal from the checkpoints would lead to an additional 1 million Syrians moving toward Europe in the first phase, followed by potentially 3 million more.
Well, how much longer can Turkey, which protects NATO's most dangerous southeastern border, shoulder this burden on its own in the name of the democratic world, despite Damascus, Tehran and Moscow?
Without a doubt, Turkey must maintain the de facto situation created by the Sochi and Astana agreements to ensure its internal security and keep the refugee influx inside Syria, despite a lack of support from the West. In the wake of Assad's attacks, Ankara is showing its resolve on the ground as it has expressed this stance at the highest level.
For now, statements by NATO condemning the regime's aggression, appear simply cynical. The European Union is content to simply murmur, as though it has forgotten that Turkey is holding 4 million Syrian refugees back like a dam on its eastern border and is now at full capacity.
I hope they are not too late to take on responsibility for a safe zone on the Turkish border that would stop the current wave of migration in northern Syria and even encourage repatriations. As for the U.S., the other quarterback in Syria, they have made the clearest statement from the moment the crisis broke out, declaring their support for Turkey as a NATO ally.
It is important that the U.S., which has preferred its trusted ally over terrorist organizations over the past decade, has finally taken a rational stance.
Turkey could once again gain ground with Russia in Syria despite incidents such as the downing of a Russian fighter jet and the assassination of the country's Ambassador Andrei Karlov. However, the Idlib crisis may be the last chance for the U.S. to normalize its relations again with Turkey, which it has pushed toward Russia. That would mean Washington seriously losing its influence and claim not only in Syria but the Eastern Mediterranean in general.