An additional Analysis: What are the Assadist and Russian Plans behind the Sochi Deal? What has been the Reaction until now of the Rebel Leaders to the Sochi Deal?
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.09.2018 (19.30 UTC Time), www.thecommunists.net
Note of the Editorial Board: The following article is an addendum to another article which the RCIT published earlier today (“Syria/Idlib: Down with the Sochi Surrender Deal!”). (1)
Given the importance of the Sochi Deal between Putin and Erdoğan as well as given several up-to-date information, we publish here some additional comments and conclusions which should be read in conjunction with our previous article on this issue.
First, in the last 12 hours it has become more and more clear that the Sochi Deal, as we warned from the beginning, is a surrender and sell-out of the Syrian Revolution. We do not intend at this point to repeat our analysis which we already outlined in our first article. Here are just some additional information.
There should be no doubt that the main goal of Sochi deal is to expel or to liquidate all liberation forces which are determined to continue the struggle against the Assad tyranny and its Russian and Iranian masters. Of course, the Turkish government, the frogs and Astana whisperers all deny it. They claim that Idlib will remain liberated. We already pointed out that one of the official goals of the Sochi Deal to bring the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama highways under their control by the end of 2018. This can only be done by bringing the whole southern and eastern half of Idlib under their control which means nothing else but the expulsion the liberation fighters at least from these parts of the region.
As several new sources confirm, the real purpose of Sochi Deal is to bring the whole region back under regime and Russian control. This has been made unambiguously clear both by regime as well as Russian sources.
The regime newspaper al-Watan “quoted Russian diplomatic sources as saying that the Russian-Turkish agreement on Idlib will be implemented in three stages, adding that the first stage will go into effect by mid October to create a 15 sq/km weapons-free zone near Idlib city. Also, in the second stage monitored by Moscow and Ankara, the heavy weapons will be collected from the region until November 10 and the terrorists will leave the civilian areas, they said, adding that in the third stage which lasts to the end of this year, state bodies will resume operation in Idlib. The sources said that if the terrorist groups do not accept this agreement, they will be considered as enemy of the Turkish army and will be fought.” (2)
This announcement of the real intention of the Sochi Deal by the Assadist regime is not an isolated case. In fact, it has been confirmed by Russian media itself. Russia Today, the official international organ of the Putin government, published an article which makes the interpretation of the Sochi deal by Russian imperialism pretty clear.
“Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu supported the buffer zone deal, saying it will help to create “a new security structure” in the existing Idlib de-escalation zone. The deal implies that Russia and Turkey will join forces to clear Idlib of “radical” and terrorist groups, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front). Moscow says that terrorists are using Idlib as a base for launching attacks against the Syrian and Russian troops, as well as civilians.” (3)
Hence, as the article states explicitly, the goal of the Sochi Deal is to expel or kill the determined liberation forces not only from the 15-20km demilitarized zone but from the whole region of Idlib!
This interpretation is repeated in another article published by Russia Today. This article summarizes the analysis of Huseyin Bagci, a Turkish professor who teaches international relations at the Ankara-based Middle East Technical University. He is quoted as saying “The demilitarized zone in Syria’s embattled Idlib Province will help Russia and Turkey to clear out radical militants, as both sides will be patrolling the area, a professor of international relations told RT. The deal to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib is “best military and diplomatic solution today” for Russia and Turkey, since they can remove the radicals from the province and avert mass civilian casualties. (...) Bagci (...) emphasizes that the agreed DMZ is not an “everlasting” solution, but a temporary measure. “In the coming weeks, we will see how the radical groups will find the opportunity to leave the area, and the government forces will later fill in and control it with Russian help.” The scholar believes the new framework will make it easier for Turkey and Russia to control Idlib Province. It, likewise, will be easier for Moscow to clear the area of radicals because there will be room for better cooperation with the Turkish army. “The Turkish and Russian military will be patrolling together, like the Turkish and American troops do it in Manbij.” Bagci also hopes that, once the radicals are gone, the deal will motivate the local moderate pro-Turkish opposition to seek renewed negotiations with the Syrian government.” (4)
In summary, the Assadist and Russian media are very clear about the real goals of the Sochi Deal. They are confident that it will serve to utilize the Turkish army in order to crush the liberation fighters and to sell the last citadel of the Syrian Revolution to the Assad regime. It is impossible to believe that this would have been not discussed, agreed and coordinated with the Erdoğan government in Sochi!
In other words, these new information strongly confirm our analysis of the Sochi Deal as surrender. They also confirms our analysis of the Erdoğan regime which serves its own capitalist interests and which has no interest in honestly supporting the Syrian Revolution
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We have also received several information about the interpretation of the Sochi Deal by pro-Turkish FSA/NLF commanders. It is very unfortunate that they praise both the deal as well as the Erdoğan government (which, coincidentally, pays their salary).
Syria Direct reports: “On the ground in Idlib province, rebel commanders speaking to Syria Direct on Tuesday reacted with optimism that a confrontation with pro-government forces appeared to have been averted—while acknowledging that they were unsure of what the agreement could actually mean in practice. “Within the general framework of this agreement, we see a success for Turkish diplomacy and our Turkish brothers,” said Captain Naji, a spokesperson for the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front, a constellation of 11 different factions formed with heavy guidance and funding my Ankara in May of this year.
Another rebel commander from a Turkish-backed faction in northern Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press, said Monday night’s agreement would avoid bloodshed without fundamentally threatening rebel control in northwestern Syria. “We won’t give up defending ourselves,” the commander told Syria Direct on Tuesday. “Weapons won’t be taken from any particular faction...although factions will have to commit to the provisions in the agreement, which means keeping weapons out of [the buffer zone].”” (5)
Another source also reports about the optimism among FSA leaders. “A Syrian rebel official said Tuesday a deal between Russia and Turkey to create a buffer zone in Idlib had ended Syrian President Bashar Assad's hopes of regaining full control of his country."The Idlib deal preserves lives of civilians and their direct targeting by the regime. It buries Assad's dreams of imposing his full control over Syria," Mustafa Sejari, a Free Syria Army (FSA) official, told Reuters. Sejari said the deal reached in Sochi on Monday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin led to de facto control by the opposition of a "geographic area" that would be a springboard for a political transition that ends Assad's "authoritarian" rule. "This area will remain in the hands of the Free Syrian Army and will force the regime and its supporters to start a serious political process that leads to a real transition that ends Assad's rule," Sejari said.” (6)
What a tragic combination of frog mentality and idiotic naivety! (7) The Russian imperialists, with the help of Turkey, are implementing what has been called salami tactics. Step by step are they pushing back and disarming the liberation fighters. This has been the whole purpose of the Astana deal as the RCIT has pointed out so many times! One enclave after the other was declared to be a de-escalation zone so that the rebels stop any offensive actions. Meanwhile the Assadist forces assembled their troops and attacked one enclave after the other. In the end, all “de-escalation zones” became “de-revolutionized zones”, i.e. they were conquered by the Assad regime and the resistance was smashed, killed or expelled.
Now they are doing the same in Idlib. As we quoted above, the Assadist and Russian media are openly bragging with these plans. And these idiotic FSA leaders still claim that Sochi is a victory! How tragic, how ridiculous!
No, Sochi serves to disarm the determined sections of the liberation fighters with the help of the Turkish army. Once, they will have succeeded in this, they will take over the Idlib province step by step. How much will the FSA than be capable to offer resistance? Look to Daraa a few months ago and you have the answer!
However, there are also different, positive examples. Mohamed Hamadeen, who has been the official spokesman of the FSA National Army, resigned from his position. Albeit he did not go into detail, he indicated that this has been a protest against the Sochi Deal since he justified his resignation by saying that he “will stay loyal to the principles of the revolution” (8)
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However, there have been also a number of encouraging reactions from the most determined sectors of the liberation fighters which, unfortunately for us as revolutionary socialists, fight under the banner of petty-bourgeois Islamism.
In a statement published on its Ebaa News Agency, HTS strongly denounced the Sochi Deal and compared it with Srebrenica. As it is well known, Sebrenica has been a Muslim town where the defenders where convinced resp. pressurized to lay down their weapons and to rely on the protection of Dutch UN forces. Weeks after they did so, the Serbian chauvinist militias stormed the enclave and massacred about 8.000 men! The UN soldiers didn’t lift a finger in defense of the Muslims but drank champagne with the mass murderers! (9) In this context, HTS is absolutely right to say that “as Turkey positions itself for its own interests, what residents of [Syria’s] liberated north fear most is that [Turkey] will play the role of the UN in the Srebrenica case.” (10)
Abu al-Yaqadhan al-Masri, a leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has sharply denounced the Sochi Deal. He wrote on his Telegram post: “Sham the Revealer. For the continuation of the jihad and the rule of shari’ah, the way forward is striking necks. Whoever asks you to surrender your weapons, he deserves most to be fought, ahead of others. Whoever retreats from his slogans of ‘continuing the fight until the regime is toppled’ and surrenders his weapon, he is a hypocrite #frog. Whoever manufactures problems to eliminate the mujahid factions to advance the Sochi agreement, he is a traitor [intelligence] agent. The coming days are pregnant with surprises, so prepare for epic battles.” (11)
Another HTS leader, al-Zubeir al-Ghazi also warned against a demilitarized zone in Idlib as this will mean that the rebel areas are ill-defended and vulnerable to attack. He also referred to the tragic events in Srebrenica. (12) In summary, all HTS leaders, who made a public comment until now, have strongly rejected the Sochi deal.
Similarly, Bilal Khreisat Abu Khadija al Urduni, a high scholar figure in Tanzim Hurras al Din, published an article condemning the Sochi Deal. (13)
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We finish this article by repeating the RCIT’s warning. We appeal to our brothers and sisters in Idlib: Reject the deal between Putin and Erdoğan! Do not hand over weapons! Turkey’s Army is not your ally! Do Not trust the Frogs and Astana Whisperers! The Sochi Deal prepares for the capitulation of Idlib! Continue the struggle against the Regime and Russia!
We also call the workers and popular mass organizations around the world to rally in support of the Syrian people! We must not let our brothers and sisters alone!
(1) Michael Pröbsting: Syria/Idlib: Down with the Sochi Surrender Deal! Brothers and Sisters in Idlib: Reject the Deal between Putin and Erdoğan! Do not Hand over Weapons! Turkey’s Army is not your Ally! Continue the Struggle against the Regime and Russia! 18.09.2018 (6.30 UTC Time), https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/sochi-deal-on-idlib-is-surrender/
(2) Syrian Media: Damascus to enter Idlib in third phase of Sochi agreement, September 18, 2018 https://theiranproject.com/blog/2018/09/18/syrian-media-damascus-to-enter-idlib-in-third-phase-of-sochi-agreement/; see also Reuters: Pro-Assad newspaper: Syrian state will return to Idlib under Turkish-Russian deal, September 18, 2018 / https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-idlib-report/pro-assad-newspaper-syrian-state-will-return-to-idlib-under-turkish-russian-deal-idUKKCN1LY0Z4
(3) Turkish drones & extra troops to patrol Idlib after deal with Moscow – FM, 18 Sep, 2018 https://www.rt.com/news/438724-turkey-patrol-idlib-drones/
(4) Idlib buffer zone will help Russia & Turkey clear area of radicals – analyst to RT, RT, 18 Sep, 2018 https://www.rt.com/news/438717-idlib-dmz-deal-analysts/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=aplication_chrome&utm_campaign=chrome
(5) Russian-Turkish agreement stalls anticipated Idlib offensive ‘for the time being,' civilians, rebel commanders say, Sep. 18, 2018 https://syriadirect.org/news/russian-turkish-agreement-stalls-anticipated-idlib-offensive-%E2%80%98for-the-time-being-civilians-rebel-commanders-say/
(6) Idlib deal ends Assad's hope of regaining full control: Syrian rebel, Sep. 18, 2018 | http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2018/Sep-18/463758-idlib-deal-ends-assads-hope-of-regaining-full-control-syrian-rebel.ashx
(7) „Frogs“ (difda’) is a term used by the Syrian liberation fighters for those rebels who are ready to reconcile with the regime. It derives from Kafrbatna (East Ghouta) sheikh Bassam al-Difda’, a particularly well-publicized recent example of such a traitor.
(9) The RCIT and its predecessor organization always stood on the side of the Bosnian people against the Serbian chauvinists and the Great Powers. See e.g. Almedina Gunić: Bosnia: Never forget Srebrenica - learn the lessons for today! https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/bosnia-war/; Michael Pröbsting: Are the Bosnian Muslims a Nation? March 1994, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/bosnian-muslim-nation/; Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice (Chapter III), December 2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/rcit-party-building/
(11) Sam Heller: Tahrir al-Sham’s Abu al-Yaqadhan al-Masri: “The coming days are pregnant with surprises.”, September 18, 2018, https://abujamajem.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/tahrir-al-shams-abu-al-yaqadhan-al-masri-the-coming-days-are-pregnant-with-surprises/; see also Smmsyria: HTS Rejects Russian-Turkish Agreement on Idlib, 2018-09-18 https://smmsyria.com/2018/09/18/hts-rejects-russian-turkish-agreement-on-idlib/