Syria: On the Turkish-Russian Confrontation in Idlib


Continue supporting the heroic Syrian resistance! Kick out the Russian-Iranian-Assadist occupiers! But don’t trust Ankara’s political games! Open Europe’s borders for Syrian refugees!


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 29 February 2020,




1.             The dramatic events in Idlib have taken a new turn in recent days and weeks. Relentless carpet bombing by Putin’s warplanes and a scorched-earth policy of the barbarous Russian-Iranian-Assadist killer gangs have resulted in important setbacks for the liberation fighters in the last free enclave in Idlib. This has provoked another gigantic wave of refugees. Nearly one million Syrians have been displaced since early December, desperately fleeing the murderous forces of the regime. Many of these refugees want to cross the border to Turkey – a country which already hosts 3.66 million registered Syrian refugees. In response, Turkey has now sent troops to Idlib in order to stop the Russian-Iranian-Assadist aggressors.


2.             This has led to a situation where Turkish troops support the rebel fighters in defending their homeland against the Russian-Iranian-Assadist occupiers. Consequently, there have been a number of confrontations between rebels and allied Turkish troops against Russian-Iranian-Assadist forces. As a result, 52 Turkish soldiers have died in Idlib since the start of February. On 27 February alone 33 Turkish troops were killed by Russian air strikes. Russia has also sent two warships – the Admiral Makarov and the Admiral Grigorovich armed with cruise missiles to waters off the Syrian coast.


3.             The background of these developments are the fundamental contradictions of the treacherous Astana-Sochi policy in which Russian imperialism and the Turkish and Iranian regimes agreed on a pacification of the Syrian Revolution. At the same time, the Assad regime – with the support of Putin and Rouhani – is determined to wipe out every kind of popular resistance. However, since the Syrian people don’t want to live any longer under the tyranny of the Assad regime – half of the whole population are refugees, many of them are living abroad (!) – the fall of Idlib could only mean new waves of refugees for Turkey. This is something which the Erdoğan government wants to avoid at any costs. As a result, Turkey and Russia, which have established a strategic alliance in past years, are now close to stumble, against their initial wishes, into a military confrontation in Idlib. Both, Erdoğan and Putin, hope for a compromise (in their respective favor) and both are gambling that the other side blinks first. As the events in recent days demonstrated, this is a gamble which can easily get out of control and provoke a serious military confrontation which initially neither Ankara nor Moscow intended.


4.             The EU is determined to avoid letting a new wave of Syrian refugees into Europe. It wants to keep the poor people out of the imperialist fortress. While the US Administration expressed some “concerns” about Russia’s scorched-earth policy in Idlib, it made clear repeatedly that is has no intention to become involved in this conflict. Erdoğan’s policy of playing the Western imperialist powers against their Eastern rivals seems not to come to fruition – at least until now.


5.             In light of these developments, the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) repeats its call for international solidarity with the Syrian people and the heroic liberation fighters. In this difficult hour, Idlib – the last free bastion of the revolutionary uprising which began on 15 March 2011 – must be defended by any means necessary! All material aid in order to bolster the resistance struggle against an overwhelming enemy is welcome. It is a shame that Ankara preferred to strike deals with Russian imperialism for years instead of giving desperately needed MANPADS, ATGM’s and other modern weaponry to the liberation fighters!


6.             The RCIT has always opposed the Astana-Sochi policy of the Erdoğan government. Hence, it is to be welcomed if the course of events forces Ankara, against its wishes, to enter into a confrontation with Russian imperialism and its local allies. In such a conflict, revolutionaries welcome any defeat for the Eastern Great Power and its proxies.


7.             However, we warn once more that Ankara’s current flexing of muscles could be a prelude to strike a new deal with Moscow with the aim of pacifying the Syrian Revolution and disarming the militant factions. For these reasons, liberation fighters in Idlib must avoid any political subordination to Ankara and its foreign policy goals. As long as Ankara is forced to side with the rebels and to fight against the Russian-Iranian-Assadist occupiers, military-tactical coordination with Turkish troops is legitimate in order to expel the enemy. However, the liberation fighters must not rely on political support by Ankara or any other foreign government. The goal must be to fight for a broad front of the popular masses in Syria irrespective of their confessions and ethnic affiliations and to link the struggle for freedom with the popular struggles of the Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Iranian peoples.


8.             At the same time, the workers movement in Europe must pressurize their government to open the borders for Syrian refugees. We denounce the reactionary policy of the European Union to stop refugees from the Middle East or from Africa entering the continent. We say: Open the borders for refugees! The RCIT also denounces the reactionary policy of the Greek governments (first by the post-Stalinist SYRIZA, now by the conservative ND) to isolate the refugees in camps on islands. In fact, these are nothing but prison camps! We fully support any protests organized by the refugees and their supporters against the inhuman incarceration in such camps and for all improvements of the material living conditions there. Shamefully, right-wing forces have repeatedly attacked refugee camps in many countries in order to threaten, injure or even kill our unprotected brother and sisters. Therefore we need to organize self-defense units of refugees and progressive supporters to fight back against any threat or attack by such reactionary forces respectively by the repression apparatus of the state!


9.             The RCIT also denounces the Stalinists, Bolivarians and other so-called “leftists” who refuse to support the Syrian liberation struggle. Shamefully, the two “Communist” Parties in Syria are even part of Assad’s ruling bloc! Likewise, the Turkish Stalinist TKP agrees with the bourgeois opposition parties in Turkey (CHP, İYİ, etc.) in calling for realignment with the butcher regime in Damascus. Many “leftist” parties around the world refuse to side with the Syrian Revolution because of their pro-Russian social-imperialist position and/or because of their Islamophobe stance and their uncritical praise of the YPG. While we fully support the right for national self-determination of the Kurdish people and their struggle against oppression by the Turkish regime, we oppose any characterization of Turkey as the “biggest enemy” in each and every situation – as it is done by many so-called “left-wing” organizations. In case of the defense of Idlib and the protection of the Syrian Revolution in this very moment, Turkish troops play a positive role in aiding the exhausted rebels on military terms. Authentic revolutionaries understand the necessity of military collaboration in order to defend the revolution without giving any political support to the temporary practical ally.


10.          We reject the Stalinists’ claims that Turkey’s current policy primarily represents the interests of NATO or Western imperialism in this conflict. The Western Great Powers have refused for years to lend any serious support to the Syrian rebels and there are no signs that this has changed now. Quite the opposite, they have watched a gigantic massacre – up to one millions Syrian have been killed by the butcher trio Assad, Putin and Rouhani – without lifting a finger! The background of the current confrontation between Russia and Turkey lies in their temporary conflicting interests in the Syrian civil war, not in the global Great Power rivalry. Likewise, to give an analogy, we reject the notion that the conflict between Iran (which is allied with Russia and China) and U.S. imperialism resp. Israel would be primarily a reflection of Great Power rivalry (which is why we side with former against the later).


11.          We appeal once more to all authentic socialists, consistent democrats and all righteous Muslim and non-Muslim people to stand by the Syrian people in this difficult time! We reiterate our call from June 2019 and urge those forces to unite in organizing a global solidarity campaign in defense of the Syrian Revolution. Such a campaign should include all that is needed: medication, clothes, weapons, volunteers, etc. Brothers and sisters, do not to abandon the Syrian people in this most difficult hour! Rally now under the slogan: Defend Idlib - Defeat Assad and the Russian-Iranian Occupiers! Don’t Let Idlib Die!




International Secretariat of the RCIT




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The RCIT has published a number of booklets, statements, and articles on the Syrian Revolution that can be accessed on a special sub-section of this website: Our call “Save the Syrian Revolution!” has been published in six languages and can be read here in English: