Despite the new challenges posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak, Turkey is pressing ahead with military deployments in Syria’s Idlib and maintaining its tight grip east of the Euphrates River.
Ankara has transferred a number of military vehicles and munitions to Idlib, bringing its number of military posts in the last rebel bastion to 53 as of April 8. Turkey’s increasing military activity in Idlib is no surprise, given possible looming operations in and around the enclave to reopen the M4 highway and to create a security corridor on both sides of the strategic road, as called for in a deal between Turkey and Russia. The deal, sealed in Moscow March 5, called for the cessation of hostilities, provided that the fight to eradicate terrorist groups continued. But there has been escalation on another front. Turkey-backed forces deployed east of the Euphrates to an area that came under the Turkish control in Operation Peace Spring are mounting attacks on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government troops.