Fate of Syria's Idlib in balance at Tehran summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said the terrorist fighters that have taken shelter in that region haven't been part of peace talks.

To justify keeping American troops in Syria for an "indefinite" period of time, the Trump administration's new strategy redefines USA "objectives" in the country from "defeating ISIS" to ejecting all Iranian military forces and proxies from the country-despite the fact that Iran's presence in Syria, unlike America's, is at the invitation of the Syrian government.

Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute summed up the situation nicely: "In short, the Trump admin appears poised to commit us to a costly, unnecessary years-long commitment in Syria".

The Turkish leader said he feared a massacre and Turkey could not accommodate any more refugees flooding over its border.

Just hours later, the UN Security Council will also meet at Washington's request, also to discuss Idlib.

Earlier this year, a senior adviser to Erdogan warned against any attack on Idlib, describing it as a "red line".

"We never want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath", Erdogan told a Tehran summit in Damascus with his Iranian and Russian counterpar that is expected to determine the province's fate.

The northwestern province is home to about three million people, including at least a million displaced from other areas, and is controlled by rebel and extremist groups.

Russia, which has been building up forces in the region, said it's only targeting al-Qaeda fighters, and accused the US of preparing to fake a chemical attack to justify new intervention.

But the government and Russian raids targeted a wide swath of rebel-held area in the southern edge of the rebel-held enclave that includes most of Idlib province and northern Hama province.

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Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday: "Idlib is a ticking bomb".

The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond "swiftly and vigorously" if government forces used chemical weapons in Idlib. "We have irrefutable evidence that militants are preparing such operations, such provocations".

The dilemma facing the rebels and Sunni jihadist militants is that there are few places left to flee to should the Assad regime attack.

"The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table".

There was periodic cooperation between the United States and Russian Federation against the same jihadist groups operating in Idlib until mid-2017. "The problem is that the Assad regime will eradicate all the civilians who will attempt to go through humanitarian corridors; if they're not murdered they'll be sent to jail".

"Idlib is about a lot of global power play and everyone is looking after their interests", al-Mustafa said.

Almost 60 Russian air raids hit the south and southeast of Idlib province in less than three hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The rare show of force in Syria comes months after USA aircraft -including AC-130 gunships, jets and bombers - killed roughly 300 Russian mercenaries near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria after American special operations forces came under attack.

"We consider any assault on Idlib to be a unsafe escalation of the conflict in Syria", said USA ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley Friday in NY.

Ankara's cooperation with Moscow on Syria has been the basis of a broader deepening of bilateral ties, at the same time as U.S.