On February 2, a little known anniversary passed with barely a remark. On that day in 1982, Syrian forces entered the town of Hama and massacred thousands, as many as 20,000 men, women and children. When I visited almost a decade later, the town was still in ruins. So it should come as no surprise that 38 years later, as Russian-backed Syrian forces try to take Idlib Province, there’s not much interest in another massacre in Syria. What’s a few more bodies on top of the half a million piled high, a monument to the Assad family, Ayatollah Khamenei, Vladimir Putin and Hezbollah. But Idlib deserves a second glance, if not for the human tragedy, for the potential geostrategic fireworks.
As I write, Syrian forces backed by their Russian and Iranian overlords are pounding Idlib Province in a desperate attempt to take this last remaining slice of Syria. In January, hundreds of thousands of Syrians were forced from their homes. Millions more are poised to flee the brutal onslaught, among them plenty of nasty al Qaeda affiliated jihadis. As the Washington Post noted in an editorial this morning,
A new flood of refugees into Turkey could easily lead to another destabilizing exodus to Europe. International terrorists now bottled up in the province, including from the Islamic State, could disperse, too. That’s not to speak of the horrific humanitarian crisis the new offensive may trigger.