The Syrian city of Aleppo is only 45 kilometers away from the Bab al-Hawa crossing along the Turkish border. Thousands of Iranian soldiers and fighters, preparing for the biggest military battle of the Syrian revolution since it began in 2011, are marching toward Aleppo, Syria’s most populated city.
The Iranians mobilized this army a week after their top commander Hossein Hamedani was killed during fighting in Aleppo, which the Syrian regime lost control of despite Iranian support. The regime has also lost a number of towns north of the city. Defeat explains Iran’s intention to send more troops to fight there under Russian aerial cover.
Unlike Turkey, which borders Syria and is particularly close to Aleppo, Iran - which wants to impose itself as a regional power - has come to Syria from afar with all its might. Ankara has had many justifications to defend its interests and security in northern Syria, such as the regime’s violation of Turkish airspace, cross-border mortar fire, or the downing of a Turkish jet at the start of the war. This is of course in addition to Turkey’s right to protect its borders.
The results of Aleppo’s awaited battle between Iranian forces and Syrian rebels are all negative for Turkey.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Perhaps military intervention has become harder for Turkey today, considering the presence of thousands of Russian, Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese fighters near its borders, and the escalation of the struggle to a higher level between Washington and Moscow.
The terrorist attack in the Turkish capital, which killed around 100 people, is a repercussion of the Syrian crisis, and may be a message from one of the warring parties such as Iran, Russia, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The results of Aleppo’s awaited battle between Iranian forces and Syrian rebels are all negative for Turkey. If the Iranians win, this will mean the defeat of Ankara’s allies, and Turkey will thus be a target for militias that are agents of Iran and the Syrian regime.
If the Iranians fail to occupy Aleppo, they will blame the Turks and accuse them of funding armed groups. If the fighting continues for long, it may not stop at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, as Aleppo is less than half an hour drive to Turkey.
At least half of Aleppo’s 2 million inhabitants have stayed despite the horrific destruction caused by the regime over two years. It has used barrel bombs to displace the population and destroy the city in a manner we have not seen in the history of the region.
After previous failed attempts, the regime’s allies are preparing to raid the city again, but this time depending on massive Iranian ground forces and advanced Russian air power. Unfortunately, we will witness a worse tragedy because Iranian mortars and Russian shelling will target civilian areas, so many will be displaced and will mostly head toward Turkey.
Russian and Iranian invaders think they are capable of retaking Aleppo. They also plan to head to Hama governorate. This is a stupid project aimed at restoring regime governance, and it will ultimately fail.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.