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What to expect from the Idlib crisis

by Salaam Foundation

Salaam Foundation | 04 September 2018

The greatest losers in the Syrian quagmire has been the millions of innocent civilians.  The bulk have had to exchange their homes for refugee camps and hundreds of thousands who have eternally taken up residence in mangled rubble, unmarked graves and cold Mediterranean waters.

As Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces fix their cross-hairs on targets in Idlib, in what is expected to be the final battle, another 3 million people will be entering into a deeper cesspool of humanitarian strife.

What are the possible scenarios?

With negotiations underway between Turkey and the three nations on the other side of the fence, the primary aim would be the protection of innocent civilian life. However both the Russian and Syrians have vowed to wipe out armed groups inside of Idlib  that they consider as terrorists while the rebel factions have vowed to fight to the death despite their inferior military armaments.

Syrian refugees along the border with Turkey. File Image

Scenario 1 could see a massive military incursion including ground, air and sea forces with from the Syrians and their allies backed by various militias including fighters from places like Afghanistan and Iraq. The rebels forces will not be able to sustain defense lines and will be unprotected from aerial attack. There will be massive infrastructure destruction and the loss of life will be horrendous. It will be a bloodbath of unprecedented extremes. Refugees will flood towards the the Turkish border and although the gates are closed now, Turkey will have no choice but to open the border in order to minimise the loss of life as much as possible. This will put a tremendous strain on the already stretched humanitarian capacity.

The second scenario could possibly see a limited strike by Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces with the blessings of Turkey. This will drive most of the civilian population to move towards the Turkish border with Idlib. The frontline will be concentrated around Idlib city where rebels will fight for all they are worth. A safe zone will be established along the Turkish border and the death toll from the fighting will be high but lower than the first scenario.

The likelihood of civilians choosing to stay and live under Assad rule is highly unlikely with many believing they will be targeted, arrested and possibly killed for rejecting the regime in earlier days.

Whatever the outcome, the reality is that there will be a massive increase in humanitarian needs. With winter on the horizon, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to become repeat refugees.

Syrian refugees along the border with Turkey. File Image

Salaam Foundation has started preparing for this. Already 2 million people living in Idlib are dependent on humanitarian aid and their situation seems to be only getting worst.

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