Turkey's Idlib operation essential to offsetting Nusra influence in region, SETA report suggests

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 22.10.2017 21:24

A recent report reveals that Turkey's Idlib operation has struck a blow at the Nusra Front, amid aims to clean out Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), affiliated with the Nusra Front.

The Foundation of Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) issued a report suggesting that Turkey's Idlib operation will prevent Nusra Front-affiliated Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham from increasing its influence in the region. Stating that the Nusra Front formed the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham to attain its political goals, the report said that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is comprised of 10,000 fighters taken from among 15,000 from the Nusra Front, adding that the latter largely shapes the political and military objectives of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.

According to the report prepared by think-tank experts on the Middle East Can Acun, Bünyamin Keskin and Bilal Salaymeh, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham has the potential to "absorb" all opposition groups if no intervention is made, stressing that Turkey's Idlib operation will hinder expansion of the group. The report indicates: "Turkey's increasing influence in Idlib will prevent Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham from absorbing other opposition groups."

The report also states that the Nusra Front, a self-proclaimed representative of "global jihad," formed Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham by linking several groups to its structure. The report asserted that the Nusra Front - affiliated with al-Qaida - has renewed itself under the name of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, adding that the latter aims to capitalize on its experiences with al-Qaeda to achieve its political goals.

The report stresses that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham aims to gain "social legitimacy" by supporting groups that oppose Syria's Assad regime, saying that the former's objective is to become the major military component for the opposition against the Syrian regime. The report also indicates, "The Nusra Front endeavors to become an indispensable partner of the opposition, particularly in military terms," stressing that the Nusra Front established Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham to gain political and diplomatic ground. "With [the Nusra Front's] move to establish Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, [they] are forcing other opposition groups to join the Nusa Front amid aims to gain political, diplomatic and social ground," suggesting that Turkey's Idlib operation has the potential to prevent the strengthening of the Nusra Front.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) issued a written statement on Oct. 9, declaring that Turkish forces had crossed into Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 8 to reconnoiter as part of efforts to bring peace to the area.

Control of the Idlib region is divided between moderate opposition groups and the al-Qaeda-linked coalition of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is excluded from the Astana talks and rejects the Astana process. The operation aims to clear HTS from the region to maintain the ceasefire agreement.

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