Feb 6, 2020 - World

Syria's Idlib offensive forces civilians to flee, pits Turkey against Russia

Fleeing Idlib. Photo: Rami Al Sayed/AFP via Getty Images

Bashar al-Assad’s Russia-backed offensive on Syria's northwestern enclave of Idlib — home to the last rebel-held areas — has forced some 150,000 civilians to flee over the past two weeks and led to direct clashes with Turkey.

Why it matters: David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, tells Axios that the future of Idlib is being decided by an “arm wrestle between the Russians and the Turks” with “no U.S. engagement” and massive humanitarian consequences.

  • Turkey, which supported the rebels against Assad, announced earlier this week that eight of its forces had been killed by shelling in Idlib. It claimed to have "neutralized" 76 Syrian troops in response.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reserved some of his ire for Assad's patron, Russia. Turkey and Russia have inched closer together in recent years but stand on opposite sides in Syria as well as Libya.
  • Erdoğan fears yet another mass exodus of refugees to Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrians.

What to watch: In northeast Syria, meanwhile, there have been a series of “potentially dangerous standoffs” between Russian contractors and U.S. troops, per WSJ. U.S. envoy James Jeffrey says Russia is attempting to “challenge our presence in the northeast.”

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Syria's darkest chapter

Family room without a family, in Idlib. Photo: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s brutal civil war is colliding today with what could be the war’s most dangerous geopolitical showdown, after at least 29 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike.

The big picture: The fighting is taking place in Idlib in northwest Syria, where a ferocious Syrian and Russian offensive has displaced 1 million civilians and infuriated Turkey, which borders the region.

Go deeperArrowFeb 28, 2020 - World

Nearly 600,000 civilians seek refuge to escape Syrian military advances

Photo: Rami Al Sayed/AFP via Getty Images

As Syrian troops push into opposition-held towns and villages in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, roughly 600,000 civilians have evacuated their homes, fleeing to the Turkish border, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: This latest emigration could quickly become one of the "worst humanitarian crisis" since the war started in 2011, the Post writes. Already, it is among the biggest single population dislocations throughout the nine-year war, a United Nations spokesperson told the Post.

Go deeperArrowFeb 8, 2020 - World

Report: Sanders says he was briefed on Russia trying to help his campaign

Bernie Sanders at a press conference in Santa Ana, California on Feb. 21. Photo: Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters at a campaign stop Friday that he was briefed by U.S. officials "about a month ago" on Russia's attempts to assist his 2020 presidential campaign, AP reports. "It was not clear what role they were going to play," he added.

Driving the news: Sanders' comments followed a Washington Post report that U.S. officials briefed Sanders on Russian efforts to help his 2020 campaign "as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy