There are about 10,000 terrorists linked with al-Qaeda on the territory of the Syrian province of Idlib. This statement was unexpectedly widely quoted in the Western media, contrary to the established tradition of representing members of illegal armed groups as "rebels" and "fighters for freedom". Perhaps the reason for the change in rhetoric was the fact that it came from the mouth of the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
As the statement of the special envoy was made against the background of preparation of Syrian army′s offensive to Idlib, it caused panic among leaders of the armed opposition located in the territory of the province. They accused de Mistura of "betrayal, "cooperation with the Russians" and incompetence.
Mustafa Naji, representative of the National Liberation Front (one of the most influential opposition groups operating in Idlib) very clearly formulated his dissatisfaction with the words of the diplomat. According to Naji, with his statement, the special envoy lent legitimacy to the offensive of the Syrian Army.
Unfortunately, there is practically no alternative to the military operation in Idlib. Terrorists located in the territory of the province intensified their attack on positions of the Syrian Army, using car bombs, drones, homemade projectiles and other explosive devices. Terrorists cynically hide behind the status of the de-escalation zone and deliberately provoke Damascus to violate those ceasefire agreements. In addition, internal conflicts between armed groups in the region continue, and civilians are often victimised.
The command of the US-led international coalition does not deny that Idlib is controlled by terrorists. Despite numerous statements of concern about a possible humanitarian disaster, after the first strikes by Syrian government forces on targets in the province, the Americans limited themselves to calling on Russian and Syrian Air Forces "to be more precise" on their strikes.
Armed opposition in Idlib should also not hope on Turkey's protection. Ankara has repeatedly stated aggravating the situation in Idlib is not an option. At the same time, the units of the Free Syrian Army under Ankara′s auspices have already been evacuated from the territory of the province. Therefore the Turkish leadership considers the remaining armed groups in the troubled Syrian province as terrorist.
No one really expects that Washington or Ankara will support or approve the military operation in Idlib. It is most likely that the actions of the Syrian Army will be used to obtain political dividends, discredit Damascus, Moscow and Tehran and accuse President Assad of unleashing a "massacre". In order to achieve these goals, both Turkey and the US seem ready to sacrifice the remnants of the so-called armed opposition.