Navar Saban, expert in military situation at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul talking with Enab Baladi about the recent military developments in southern Idlib and mainly near the M4 and the possible scenario for the M4 agreement.
Established in 2013 in Turkey with presence in Syria, and an office in Washington, DC.
Publishes in-depth studies, analytical maps, and policy recommendations on Syrian and regional security, politics, economics, and local governance.
Hosts conferences, workshops, and seminars, bringing together scholars from around the world.
Through continuous engagement with public opinion and decision makers, providing a range of solutions and policies that drive political change and stability.
- Reaching approximately 500,000 people interested in Syrian affairs on social media platforms.
- Interacting with 50 local, regional and international media outlets to inform the public on Syrian affairs.
- 30 institutions have republished Omran’s work as a major source of information.
Engagement with Decision Makers
- 35 meetings with representatives of local, regional and international states, and political ﬁgures.
- 11 research meetings with a number of think tanks institutions.
- 19 events with local activists (civil society organizations, lawyers, military personnel, and academics).
- Training 9 undergraduate and graduate students to improve their skills and research tools.
- 12 published research articles in collaboration with Arab and international media and intellectual institutions.
- 5 workshops in cooperation with research centers inside and outside Turkey.
- 19 academic lectures and training workshops directed to the youth.
- 25 consultations for researchers working on studies related to the Syrian issue.
Navar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said an imminent operation is unlikely, due to the increasing cost of a military move.
“Logistically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to launch another operation in an area that has this many complexities, including a Russian presence, Daesh cells and Syrian regime operations. Even if they win, it will bear significant costs for troops on the ground because of security problems in northwestern Afrin and northwestern Idlib provinces,” he told Arab News.
However, Saban also said the visit is unlikely to be random.
“It is for coordination on the ground to manage clashes with different actors. But it wouldn’t trigger a new operation in the short term,” he said.
Omran Center for Strategic Studies organized a public webinar panel entitled “Syrian Civil Society Organizations in an Unstable Environment” on 24 June 2020.
The session discussed challenges and possible opportunities of Syrian Civil Society Organizations, including the following themes:
1. Questions of civil society independence.
2. The administratively divided reality of CSOs, geographical locations, and the shared ideas.
3. Syria’s civil society, accountability and the political transition.
4. CSOs. differences and Common political visions.
The dialogue was moderated by the Executive Director of Omran, Dr. Ammar Kahf, with the participation of a number of local experts and representatives of international organizations; 1) Erik Mohns, Manager of programs at GIZ. 2) Noha Alkamcha, Managing Partner, MGAL. 3) Assaad Al Achi, Executive Director, Baytna Syria. 4) Francesca Pavarini, EU Delegation to Syria.
Attendees contributed through their participation and their interventions to support the visions and enrich the discussions, and provide answers to the questions raised in a way that reflects positively on the outcomes of the session.
Dr. Ammar Kahf, Executive director of the Omran Center for Strategic Studies participated as a guest on Inside Story at Aljazeera English to discuss the latest Caesar Act and its impact on the Syrian regime. He highlighted that the root cause of torture, death, destruction and hunger has always been the regime of Bashar Assad. This is yet another tool that requires additional diplomatic and political mechanisms to put pressure on its sponsors and supporters to make their lives more difficult and think twice before normalizing or investing in reconstruction.
Other guests on the program included Joshua Landis and Alexey Khlebnikov. Sami Zeidan was the host of the program.
Dr. Ammar Kahf, Executive Director of the Omran Center for Strategic Studies gave his perspective on unpacks the new US sanctions on the Syrian regime on TRT WORLD channel.
Omran for Strategic Studies held a webinar entitled "Dissecting the Syrian Deadlock" On 03 June 2020. The session attempted to shed light on the ongoing efforts to solve "the Syrian deadlock," and how the international community could end the current political stalemate.
Ambassador Dr. Aleksandr Aksenenok (Valdai Club, RIAC), and Dr. Konstantin Truevtsev (Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences) shared their analysis and perceptions of the latest events in Syria, including the de-escalation deal in Idlib, the SDF - regime relations, the COVID-19 outbreak, the economic and political difficulties faced by al-Assad.
Dr. Ammar Kahf, the executive director of Omran Center for Strategic Studies, gave a comment on the latest developments regarding the economic challenges are facing Assad`s regime, to "THE MEDIA LINE" website.
to read the full report please follow the Link: "Upheaval in Syria’s First Family No Surprise"
Both Turkey and Russia agreed to a ceasefire in Idlib starting at midnight on March 5th,2020. At the time, both sides saw this agreement as representing the least worst case scenario to preserve its interests on the ground and prevent further escalation between different actors. On one side, the Russians and regime forces heavily escalated systematic attacks on civilians and basic infrastructures driving over 1.1 million civilians towards the Turkish borders, hence putting pressure on Turkey and indirectly on Europe. The regime aided by the Russian airforce regained control over vacated villages in the Idlib province and was advancing on more heavily populated areas. On the other hand, after several attacks by the regime against Turkish military forces, the Turkish army heavily escalated its presence and equipment in southern Idlib and broke away with previously agreed “rules of engagement” by attacking regime and Iranian backed forces to stop its advance and prevent further displacement of the civilian population. The agreement hence, was a temporary freeze of operations by all sides. It included the following core elements:
• A ceasefire from the morning of March 6, 2020 along the frontline.
Regime artillery continued to target several locations in the vicinity of the new buffer zone north of the M4, Sources confirmed that 56 violations done by the Regime March 6 to March 31 of the same month.
• Establishing a security corridor six kilometers north and six kilometers south of the main international highway in Idlib "M4," which links the cities controlled by the Syrian Regime in Aleppo and Lattakia, and open an internal crossing between the Regime and Opposition held areas.
Because of the new Corona (COVID19) and the fear of an outbreak of the disease, the interm government in Idlib decided to close all the internal and external borders in Idlib and western Aleppo, but in April 17, 2020 HTS announced its intention to open a commercial crossing with the regime that links both Saraqib and Sarmin, which met with widespread disapproval among civilians and demonstrated near Sarmin objecting to the matter.
• Joint Russian-Turkish patrols to be deployed along the M4 road, starting March 15.
As of April 18, 2020, no full joint patrols were conducted for the entire route for security and logistical reasons. A group of civilians built tents along parts of the road, refusing the passage of Russian patrols, while some military factions took advantage of the situation and worked to further destabilize the security situation. Sources of the Information Unit at Omran Center confirmed that these factions are affiliated with HTS. HTS has been taking steps to indirectly create problems and then present itself as part of the solution in an attempt to legitimize its presence in any future security architecture.
Updated Control map of Control in Idlib by Information Unit in Omran Centre – 18 April 2020
A. Turkey’s four current goals
1. Preventing the threat of Corona (COVID19) especially in IDP camps. This can be observed through the strict measures at border crossings, reducing to the maximum interactions with locals, pushing IHH organization to improve its plans, as well as high engagement by AFAD.
2. Increasing Turkish Military posts defense and sending more vehicles and soldiers in the past weeks to establish new posts in Jabal al-Zawyie and al-Ghab Plain.
3. Opposition factions: restructuring National Liberation Front (NLF) by arresting and demoting corrupt commanders, requesting from each faction to call fighters to training camps to compare numbers of fighters and ending any possible connection between groups and other countries in order to ensure order and containment.
4. The M4 agreement with Russia: Turkey is pushing hard for the joint patrols on M4, which has been facing obstacles through sit-in demonstrations by some local actors with direct threats from HTS sub-entities. Turkey is carefully trying to end this situation without using force and by negotiating with the locals. Resolving this situation is a top priority before May in order to prevent any Russian military acts.
B. Positions of local and international actors in Idlib
1. The joint patrols along the M4 highway is Russia’s main priority. There were little if any statements by Russia calling upon Turkey to implement the agreement during February-April, unlike early January. Russia is focusing on dealing with the Corona pandemic and countering increased ISIS threats in eastern Homs, Daraa, and Deir Ezzor.
2. Several news sources indicated that the UAE is pushing the regime to launch a new attack on Idlib and giving promises to fund such an operation. Russia asked the regime not to launch any attack after regime unilaterally and without consulting the Russians sent reinforcements to Idlib.
3. The presence of Iranian-backed militias in Idlib is less than other areas in Syria. However, for Iran to establish a foothold it needs to send more fighters and to launch a limited attack. IRGC-affiliated militias are present in Kafrnabel but are not the main attacking force. Once again, Iran is using its old methods: initial expansion in new areas followed by provision of basic services for local communities.
4. The recent Turkish/Russian agreement put further pressure on HTS by pushing it to re-share power in Idlib with NLF. Furthermore, the Turkish heavy military presence and the deal with the Russians is making Jihadist inside HTS angry and pushing them to breakout. This can be seen in the resignation of Abu Malek al-Talli, and the sit-in protests on the M4 by offshoot members of HTS.
5. HTS has been taking steps to restructure itself, and started by forming 3 new divisions and mixing the hardcore jihadist groups with other less radical members under the leadership of local members.
6. HTS seems to attempts to contain and weaken the more extreme elements within its ranks in order to reduce the risks of possible defections and ensure a future smooth transition from a Jihadi group to a political Islamist group. It is also taking steps to continue its local control over governing bodies such as the Salvation Government.
1. There will most likely not be a major regime attack in the near future and even from the opposition side too.
2. May is the month of action for the Turkish sides in order to get ready of the difficult situation surroundings the M4 agreement.
3. The area is witnessing more Iranian-backed militias activities, those activities will increase I. The future in different levels (Economic, Security and military)
4. COVID19 is not the main concern for the local and international actors in Idlib; positive reading is confirmed from the Opposition held areas in Idlib.
Executive Summary to Original Arabic Paper:
The following table shows the sectarian and territorial distribution of the most powerful forty positions in the Syrian army nowadays. The table also contains the names and regions of those high ranking officers including the Commander in Chief, the Minister of Defense, the Corps commanders and leaders of the formations and military division, in addition to some security and sensitive leading positions within the Syrian army:
For More in Arabic: http://bit.ly/39QaU42