Expectations for a Syrian military offensive against the al-Qaeda-dominated rebel enclave in Idlib Province is driving a lot of diplomatic efforts, very few of them showing any signs of consensus or success.
The main effort right now is a three-way conference in Tehran, between Russia, Iran, and Turkey. All three nations set out wildly different positions. Turkey and Iran said there was no military solution, though Iran said defeating al-Qaeda was vital, and Turkey said they would not let any offensive carried out in Idlib without them intervening against Syria. Turkey demanded a ceasefire in Idlib, while Russia rejected that idea.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has set himself out as opposed to virtually every other nation involved, with threats to intervene on all fronts. He insisted he would not allow any offensive in Idlib benefiting the Syrian “agenda,”
At the same time, Erdogan reiterated that he is “extremely annoyed” by the US policy in Syria, saying they are supporting a “terrorist organization,” meaning the Kurdish YPG. That Turkey is increasingly open in supporting the al-Qaeda rebels in Idlib appears to be considered a distinct policy.
The US isn’t involved in any talks, at least not yet, but has also staked out a position of angrily opposing the Idlib operation, saying they would view any action against al-Qaeda as an “escalation” of the war.
The situation in Idlib draws increasingly near, the conflicting stances of all these nations means that whatever happens, virtually no one will be happy. With many staking out positions threatening to intervene, this could easily fuel international confrontations.