The US and its allies are involved in a collective act of brinkmanship by simultaneously ramping up tensions over Idlib and the Persian Gulf trying to force Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow into making concessions, say political analysts of Syrian origin.

The UN and US have stepped up criticism of Damascus and Moscow over the worsening humanitarian situation in Idlib and accused them of “indiscriminative” air strikes, something that Russia and Syria resolutely denied.

“Russia is adamant to bring to an end to the war in Syria, but it has to juggle its way into a final resolution very strategically”, Ghassan Kadi opined.

While Turkey is maintaining control in the Idlib region, it will have to eventually withdraw from the area and pass the baton to Damascus, the analyst highlighted.

In the summer of 2018, Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran discussed the necessity of an Idlib operation to nix the last terrorist stronghold in Syria. However, Ankara vociferously resisted the potential advance, citing the possibility of a new refugee crisis.

Earlier on 21 May, the head of the Russian centre for Syrian reconciliation, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin warned in a daily briefing that terrorists were planning chemical attacks in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

Kadi agreed that the situation bore a strong resemblance to the Khan Shaykhun and Douma chemical incidents, which took place on 4 April 2017 and 7 April 2018, respectively. The episodes were hastily blamed on Damascus by the Trump administration which led to massive strikes by the US and its allies on Syrian government targets.

“What we are seeing now is a collective act of brinkmanship; not only in Syria, but also in the Persian Gulf. It is a game of ‘who blinks first’”, the political analyst opined, referring to the Gulf of Oman incidents occurring in May and June 2019 and groundlessly attributed to Iran by Washington.

The US-Iran enmity is swiftly escalating. The Gulf of Oman incidents were followed by the downing of a US RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone which, according to the Iranian leadership, was engaged in a spying operation near Kuhmobarak in the southern province of Hormozgan.

​Tehran’s move was dubbed by Trump “a very big mistake” while some American media outlets started speculating that the US president was about to authorise a strike on Iran but “abruptly pulled back”. However, in his next move Trump announced that he would impose new heavy sanctions on Iran specifically targeting the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In response, Tehran made it clear that US sanctions on Khamenei means “the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy”.

As tensions in the Middle East increase, it all depends on what side regional players, most notably Turkey, will take, Kadi believes.

“Recep Tayyip Erdogan must decide on which foot he wants to stand. After all, he is the NATO member who seems to be on better terms with Russia than he is with the US”, the political analyst said.

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