Will the jihadis of Idlib move to Turkey?
Turkey may face an influx of hard-core jihadists if there are moves by the Syrian government to take back Idlib, according to a report by Sam Heller, a fellow at the Century Foundation.
“A military assault by the regime and its allies on Syria’s northwest, it seems clear, would be catastrophic in human terms,” he said.
The Northwest is full of people – Idlibis, self-selected irreconcilables from elsewhere in the country, and jihadist foreign fighters – who cannot plausibly rejoin Assad’s Syria. The roughly one million displaced people in Idlib all, individually, have reasons for refusing to live under the regime. There is nowhere left to bus them to. The regime will have to arrest, kill, or drive huge numbers of these people across the border into Turkey, or else risk recapturing a province-sized Qaryatein that is impossible to control and periodically erupts into wild violence.
In Qaryatein in East Homs, a fifth column of Islamic State loyalists helped the group recapture the town after it was captured from the regime.
Turkey could either take over Idlib, making it “a jihadist-filled Turkish protectorate”, Heller said, or it could “give up on Idlib and allow a large proportion of its residents to seek refuge in Turkey when Assad and his allies sweep in”.