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Turkey Secretly Undermining Russia and Iran in Syria

Newsweek logo Newsweek 9/12/2018 Cristina Maza

HATAY, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 12: A kid greets Turkish military convoy as Military vehicles belonging to Turkish Armed Forces' are being dispatched to support the units at border in Reyhanli district of Hatay, Turkey on September 12, 2018. (Photo by Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) © 2018 Anadolu Agency HATAY, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 12: A kid greets Turkish military convoy as Military vehicles belonging to Turkish Armed Forces' are being dispatched to support the units at border in Reyhanli district of Hatay, Turkey on September 12, 2018. (Photo by Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) As Russia and Iran prepare to support the Syrian government’s planned offensive against the rebel-held province of Idlib, Turkey is allegedly working behind the scenes to undermine them by providing arms to the rebels, according to reports.

Rebel sources in Idlib told Reuters that Turkey has been giving large supplies of weapons, including rockets, to rebels in Idlib after leadership in Ankara failed to convince Russia and Iran to call off the offensive. Leaders from Iran, Russia, and Turkey met last Friday to discuss Syria’s future, but only Turkey opposed the attack. Russia has already started supporting the Syrian offensive with some preliminary air strikes in the area.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opposes the offensive against Idlib because it is expected to cause a humanitarian catastrophe that could send around 1 million new refugees from the province into Turkey. There are nearly 3 million people living in Idlib, most of whom are civilians.

Turkey is currently suffering from a severe economic crisis, which has worsened following an ongoing diplomatic dispute with the U.S., and Ankara’s leadership fears the country could struggle to support the additional refugees.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Turkey military convoy © Provided by IBT Media Turkey military convoy The U.S. too has been lobbying against the attack on Idlib. President Donald Trump has warned that the planned offensive will cause a humanitarian disaster and U.S. intelligence forces have said they believe Syria plans to use chemical weapons against civilians. During a speech in Washington on Monday, national security adviser John Bolton warned that the U.S., France and the U.K. would launch strikes against the country if chemical weapons are used.

“We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton said. “I can say we’ve been in consultations with the British and the French, who have joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response,” he added. The U.S. currently has around 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, and the State Department recently signaled that the U.S. is planning to keep a permanent military presence in the country in order to push Iranian-linked forces out.

Reports had suggested that the U.S. and Israel had been attempting to broker a deal with Russia that would see Iran sidelined in the region, but so far Moscow has continued to work closely with Tehran.

Officials in Russia responded to Bolton’s comments on chemical weapons, adding that the U.S. was attempting to blackmail and threaten Russia. Russia claims that the offensive is necessary in order to root out terrorists in the region.

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