What Is the Endgame in Idlib, Syria’s Largest Remaining Rebel Enclave?

What Is the Endgame in Idlib, Syria’s Largest Remaining Rebel Enclave?
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, searches for survivors in a collapsed residential building in the village of Saraqib in Syria’s Idlib province, June 22, 2019 (DPA photo by Anas Alkharboutli via AP Images).

Since late April, tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes in the Idlib region in northwestern Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s air force pummels Islamist-controlled towns. Amid the fighting, Russia and Turkey continue to negotiate for a restoration of a broken cease-fire in Idlib, with each seeking changes that will shore up its own influence over the conflict. As ever in Syria’s civil war, there are key questions about this latest escalation—from the fundamental facts on the ground in Idlib, to the interests of outside powers and the potential endgame.

The region of Idlib, which also includes insurgent-held parts of adjacent provinces, is often described as Syria’s last rebel stronghold. There are, in fact, other areas outside Assad’s control, but none still so fiercely hostile to his government.

Power in Idlib mostly rests with a jihadist faction known as Tahrir al-Sham. It has roots in al-Qaida and is internationally designated as a terrorist group, but Turkey nonetheless maintains ties to it to project influence. Turkish soldiers have set up a dozen military outposts inside the Idlib enclave—one of several Turkish military incursions into this corner of Syria over the past few years—and they also work closely with Tahrir al-Sham’s local rivals.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.