Saving Idlib from Destruction

TitleSaving Idlib from Destruction
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2018
Subtitle / Series TitleCrisis Group Middle East Briefing N°63
InstitutionInternational Crisis Group

The Syrian regime and its allies seem poised to launch an offensive in the country’s north-western governorate of Idlib, citing as reason the contingents of jihadist militants present in this last major redoubt of Syria’s armed rebellion. But the area also is home to nearly three million people, mostly civilians. An all-out attack would likely have devastating human consequences and must be averted. Turkey and Europe must impress on Russia the political cost of such an offensive, and Turkey, Russia and Iran should return to the negotiating table to reach a compromise. This deal could entail ending rebel drone attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base, reopening key highways to regular commercial traffic and suspending a regime offensive in Idlib to give Turkey a further chance to find a solution to the province’s jihadist challenge. Western countries should make clear to Moscow that a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib will mean that they cannot work with Russia toward a political resolution or re-engage Damascus. They should further insist they will not rebuild Syria over the bodies of Idlib’s civilian population.