Turkey sending its soldiers to death - retired Turkish admiral

Sending Turkish troops to northwestern Syrian province of Idlib means sending them to their death as Turkey has no control over Syrian airspace, retired Turkish admiral Türker Ertürk told Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Air support is crucial for deploying troops in a certain location, Ertürk said. “Otherwise, it means sending our soldiers to their death.”

The Turkish government might be aiming to garner public support by risking death for troops sent to Idlib under the current circumstances, Ertürk said. 

“A soldier can of course die if necessary, but he dies for the country’s security and interests,” he said.

Turkey has been reinforcing its military presence in Idlib for the last couple of weeks by sending armoured vehicles, tanks and additional troops to Syria’s last major rebel-held enclave where 15 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the beginning of February.

Turkey threatens to launch a military operation in Idlib and backs Syrian rebels who have launched a counter offensive against Russian-backed Syrian government forces that have been advancing toward Idlib city.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in the province, built according to a 2018 deal made with Russia that aimed at establishing a demilitarised zone in the province. 

Turkey asks Russia to ensure the withdrawal of Syrian forces from positions beyond Turkish observation posts.

Turkey will not be able to get the support of NATO for an operation in Idlib if it asks the alliance to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all, Ertürk said. 

“There are many NATO member countries who do not want a confrontation with Russia, one cannot expect such a decision to be approved,” Ertürk said, noting that the invocation of Article 5 requires an unanimous decision.