Ford joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Monday to discuss Turkey’s shelling of Syrian forces, which reportedly killed dozens of Syrian Arab Army soldiers, in response to a previous attack by Damascus’ troops that reportedly claimed six lives of Turkish service members.
“Idlib, the last remaining rebel bastion, has now reached a final climax,” Ford told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou, arguing that he believes that the Turks feel they have to make a stand, as Syrian government forces appear to be taking control of key sections of two major highways: the M5, which links Damascus and Aleppo, and the M4, which runs from Latakia to Saaraqib.
He added that it seems as if Syrian forces, with the backing of Russia, will not let up following Turkey’s retaliation, arguing that Turkish forces may not be as well-trained as their Syrian counterparts.
“The Turkish Army is not battle-hardened, unlike the Syrian Army after it’s had, after all, eight years of practice,” Ford said, referring to the ongoing civil war within Syria, which began in 2011. “The Turks haven’t fought anybody except the few Kurdish rebels [in] minor skirmishes compared to the Syrian conflict.”
Additionally, he pointed out, there is “no love lost” between the Turkish president and the country’s army, parts of which tried to overthrow him in 2016, and additional tension may mount if Erdogan’s “adventurism” sends Turkish forces on “mission: impossible.”
"If Russia is unable to control the Assad regime from targeting us, we will not hesitate to take actions against any threat, just as we did today in Idlib,” Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s director of communications, said in a Monday Twitter thread aimed against Russia, NATO allies and Europe.
Turkey’s presence in northern Syria is the only barrier against yet another humanitarian crisis. We are hosting close to 4 million Syrians in our country while protecting them against Assad inside Syria. Our NATO allies and the Europeans have not done enough in supporting us.— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) February 3, 2020
However, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Reconciliation Center for Syria argued that Turkish military personnel were met by Syrian government forces’ fire because Turkish forces failed to notify Russia of their movements. The ministry told TASS that Syrian forces were targeting terrorists retreating from Saaraqib when Turkish service members got caught in the crossfire.
“I want to especially tell the Russian authorities that our interlocutor here is not you but the [Syrian] regime, and do not stand in our way,” Erdogan told reporters on Monday regarding Ankara’s response to Damascus, reported Al Arabiya English.
Ford asserted that it would be unwise for Erdogan to tout or hint at the use of F-16 jets in Idlib, as the airspace is maintained by Russia, in support of the Syrian government.