In welcome news to Syrian government forces preparing to launch a campaign to liberate the northern province of Idlib, China’s ambassador to Damascus reportedly told Syrian media that Beijing is prepared to aid the government’s push to retake territory throughout the country.
Speaking to Al-Watan, the Chinese envoy, Qi Qianjin, said China’s “military is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria.”
The end of July was also the end of the occupation of southern Syria by terrorist groups, South Front reporting that on 31 July the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies established full control of southwestern Syria after government troops eliminated ISIS in the villages of Beit Irah, Qusayr and Kowaya thus liberating the entire Yarmouk Valley.
Syrians will be immensely satisfied that the home of the fabled “revolution” Daraa, is safely back under government control for the first time since 2011, Syrian forces occupy positions on the disengagement line in the Golan Heights, the border with Jordan has been secured, Al-Qaeda groups have been banished from the region, and significantly, ISIS forces, which operated unbothered by Israel have been soundly routed, a large number taken prisoner as their final holdouts collapsed.
With south-west Syria now secured —allowing for continued provocation and aggression by Israel, but that is another matter — it is time to launch the campaign on the last terrorist held bastion of Idlib.
China is motivated to participate in the battle for Idlib by its desire to not allow separatist Uighur fighters to establish a safe haven in Syria from which to attack Chinese interests and to ultimately return to China to carry out terrorist attacks in their quest for a separate East Turkestan homeland.
China has been consistent in its diplomatic and political support for Syria throughout the seven-year-long war, increasing its involvement after August 2016 with the provision of humanitarian aid and discussions on Chinese military advisers training Syrian army personnel and other security forces. Any involvement in the Idlib campaign is not likely to feature Chinese armed forces directly engaged in fighting, with assistance limited to military advisers in the field.
Uighur fighters have a heavy presence among the terrorist groups in control of Idlib, notably Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) (better known by its former name, Al-Nusra Front) and Jabhat Tahrir Souriya (JTS) (a merger of Ahrar al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, two hardline Sunni Islamist groups.) The Uighur fighters also operate as part of the Syrian branch of the Turkistan Islamic Party, which seeks to establish an independent state called “East Turkestan” in Xinjiang province in western China. It is no surprise that China is willing to actively intervene to quash efforts against separatist aspirations which threaten its territorial sovereignty.
Thousands of Uighur fighters played prominent roles in the capture of Idlib province in 2015 by Jaysh Al-Fatah Northern Hama and in South Aleppo, where they came from Idlib to temporarily break the Syrian army siege against Al-Nusra led terrorist groups. The battle for Jisr Al-Shighour in Idlib, where the Uighurs are present in their thousands, included the siege of the National Hospital, bravely defended by surrounded government forces, a battle predictably ignored by western media, but covered by alt-media that maintains a rational perspective in opposing Islamist terrorism.
As Syrian Arab Army and National Defense Forces make preparations for the coming offensive into Idlib, Hayat Tharir Al-Sham is reported to have rejected Turkish demands to disarm and disband, determined to fight to preserve what they view as their caliphate in Syria, a project doomed to failure. Aside from infighting between HTS and JTS, HTS is opposed by Turkish President Erodgan who backs the Free Syrian Army Northern Liberation Front, which recently recruited the hardline Islamist JTS to its ranks. Can Erdogan convince HTS to lay down arms? Can he also convince the Free Syrian Army Northern Liberation Front to reconcile with the Syrian government and reach a negotiated surrender? With forces in the tens of thousands and still in possession of copious amounts of heavy weaponry bought in over the border of Turkey under the approving eyes of Erdogan, the coming battle of Idlib is likely to be long and bloody. Erdogan has much to repent for his destruction wrought on Syria and no gesture will ever make up for it.
Defeated terror groups have nowhere else to run to after Idlib and the foreign mercenaries will not be over the moon at the prospect of returning to their home countries to face possible prosecution.
If Erdogan can’t get his proxies current and former to lay down arms, and, particularly if Kurdish forces join the assault on Idlib, we could be looking at a scenario @partisangirl tweeted of Turkey and the US facing off against China and Russia.
To avoid civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible, humanitarian corridors have been set up, terrorist groups in control of Idlib only allowing women and children access. This follows the long waited for evacuation of Fua and Kefraya, which have been under siege ever since the Jaysh al-Fatah coalition overran the province in 2015.
What are the reasons for China expressing the willingness to aid militarily in the liberation of Idlib province? They are perfectly explained in an interview with Dr. Christina Lin.
- What is China’s motivation for a greater involvement in Syria, considering that many Uighur fighters seem to be going to Syria, with the goal of making a new permanent home for themselves, and thus not returning to China?
China does not want Syria to turn into a haven/base for Uyghurs to attack Chinese citizens and interests overseas as well as in the Chinese homeland. The August 30 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan, planned by Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria and financed by Al Nusra, is a sign of what is to come if they continue to grow. This is similar to what provoked Washington to invade Afghanistan in 2001 to deny Al Qaeda a base to plan further attacks against the US.
- China has traditionally not been very interested in Syria, unlike Russia for example – what are they hoping to gain from helping Assad?
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is the most effective fighting force countering terrorists in Syria. I’ve documented in my previous Asia Times article about Asian jihadists especially from Uzbekistan and China-based in Aleppo and Idlib. So SAA is fighting Asian militants in Syria (which China dub as the new Afghanistan) on behalf of the Chinese and Central Asian states. It is natural that China would help the Syrian government’s counter-terrorism efforts against anti-Chinese militants and other terrorist groups in Syria.
It is important to understand that China is taking a comprehensive approach towards the two Afghanistans—one in Central Asia and one in the Middle East—they are not separate and are interlinked with the same terrorist actors. China is already training Afghan security forces and will step up its aid to the Syrian security forces. The West makes a mistake in looking at them separately, but they are the same issue for China.
Also, China is dependent on Central Asia and Mideast energy sources, and instability in these countries or a take-over by Salafist regimes sympathetic to Uyghur separatism threaten China’s energy supply as well as the Eurasian One Belt One Road project. Xinjiang is the bridgehead and crown jewel of China’s grand strategy.
China envisages a long-term regional benefit from the reconstruction of Syria as being essential to integrate it into its One Belt One Road project. It wants stability and security to return to the war-torn country to invest confidently in the New Silk Road, defeating the last bastion of foreign armed and fed terrorist formations in Idlib crucial to allow the work to achieve that objective to commence. Estimates are that the cost to rebuild Syria will exceed $200 billion and China, in the Syria ordained exclusion of hostile western states, is crucial in providing the investment needed to rebuild. CIA loyalist outpost The Washington Post sums up the political stance taken by the West in its incessant efforts at blackmail and hostility toward Syria. Russia urges depoliticization of reconstruction, “but Western nations are adamant about withholding reconstruction money to maximize pressure for a political transition.”
Uighur fighters, who traveled via Southeast Asia into Turkey, to be prepared by Turkish/US intelligence before being sent into Syria, are using their experience to take back home to China in their fight for a separate state in Xinjiang province and to boost the presence and influence of Uighurs in Afghanistan.
China views Afghanistan and Syria as one problem, not two, as both countries contain Islamist groups that produce well trained and skilled terrorist fighters that threaten Chinas OBOR and CPEC projects and therefore its own national security. China seeks the cooperation of Southeast Asian countries to stop the flow of fighters such as Thailand and Malaysia which have both come under western state criticism for arresting and detaining Uighurs attempting to reach Turkey.
Many Uighur fighters have also joined ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reports:
Leaked Islamic State records provide the first solid evidence that more than 100 Chinese nationals have joined the jihadist movement in Syria, according to two recent studies, findings that come as Beijing is seeking closer cooperation from Western governments to counter terrorism.
The studies by two U.S. think tanks found that almost all Chinese fighters in the records said they came from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where some members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group have been resisting Beijing’s rule for decades.
The liberation of Idlib is only a matter of time. At the start of 2018, terrorist groups still controlled Daraa and Quinetra in the south-west, ISIS controlled Yarmouk, thus threatening central Damascus, as did the four jihadist groups that occupied East Ghouta, from which they launched countless rocket and mortar attacks which killed and wounded thousands of Syrians. Roll forward to the end of July and these areas are all liberated; Damascus is quiet, save for the repeated acts of aggression by Israeli bombing. China’s assistance is welcomed and the rising power in the east has a key role to play in the post-war reconstruction of Syria.
December 16, 2017, we reported about Chinese elite forces coming to Syria, the vast majority of the readers discredited us that time, Read: Chinese Night Tigers Special Forces Arrive in Syria
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