Idlib residents urge Turkey to stave off regime attack

United States Ambassador Nikki Haley addresses a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet in Tehran to discuss the war in Syria, with all eyes on a possible military offensive to retake the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed for a ceasefire during the summit but Russian President Vladimir Putin said a truce would be pointless because it would not involve Islamist militant groups Assad and his allies deem as terrorists.

Idlib's fall to the Assad regime would effectively signal the end of a civil war that has already killed almost half a million people, devastated the country, and forced half its population to flee their homes. That also includes an estimated 10,000 hard-core fighters, including Al Qaeda-linked militants.

Furthermore, just a year ago, Brett McGurk - the USA government's Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Daesh, ISIS) - called Syria's Idlib province "the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of Al Qaeda]".

The Trump administration issued a series of new sanctions on the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ahead of what USA officials believe is an "imminent attack" by the regime with help from Russian Federation and Iran, according to an announcement by the Treasury Department. Idlib is the last major area held by rebels in Syria. The Assad regime "must pause" its offensive. "That would be absurd", she told the council.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of a looming "catastrophe" as Syrian troops prepare for the last major battle of a seven-year civil war and the Damascus regime's backer Iran insisted the fight against terrorism will continue until the end.

Al-Ais crossing, the gateway for trade between government-held southern Aleppo province and opposition-held territory bordering Idlib, remained open as of Friday morning, locals said.

"Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed".

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"It's certainly disappointing but perhaps not (surprising) that the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians weren't able to come up with a solution yesterday", he said.

There was periodic cooperation between the United States and Russian Federation against the same jihadist groups operating in Idlib until mid-2017. Russian Federation and Iran insisted that...

Syrian civil defense members search near a burned vehicle in Hass after an airstrike southern Idlib province on September 8, 2018.

"Idlib's fate should be decided by its people".

The visit to the Greek capital suggests the United States looks to Greece as a potential partner should it need to use U.S. forces to operate in Syria, reported Newsweek. "This can not be the way to resolve the Syrian conflict", the presidential aide said. It insists it is the rebels who are planning a chemical attack. As Syrian forces prepare for the assault on Idlib, US and United Nations officials again see signs that those internationally prescribed weapons are being readied for the battlefield.

"The Trump administration is really at a Hail Mary moment", said Nicholas Heras, a Syria analyst and fellow at the Center for New American Security.

However, Trump has yet to make a public statement regarding this new policy shift and it is unclear whether Trump has actually thrown his weight behind it, given that the Post quoted Jeffrey as saying only, "I am confident the president is on board with this".

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