As Turkiye and Syria are officially on the path to restore state-to-state relations, the fate of Wahhabi militias in Idlib is still up in the air.
At the strategic level, Iran not only managed to safeguard its regional presence on the Syria-Palestine border but also enhanced its influence in Syria.
The Syrian government is tied much more closely to Iran today than it was in 2011.
After 12 years of blood-letting, these militias have lost relevance.
Although they pose no strategic threat to Damascus or Tehran now, their presence is still a destabilizing factor.
It was obvious to many astute analysts from day one of the war on Syria that the so- called “Islamist” militias will eventually be ditched by their state sponsors.
Many ordinary Muslims, however, were deceived by the Islamic veneer of the warlords and their Khaleeji backers.
Now the logical end of their political relevance is at hand.
How exactly will the Idlib militias be disposed of by their state sponsors?
While Ankara would like to retain some leverage over Damascus, in today’s regional set up, Turkiye needs Syria on its side.
To achieve this, Ankara appears ready to marginalize the militias that are already cornered in Idlib.
Therefore, the question that is emerging is: what will happen to them once Turkiye and Syria sort out their differences?
Turkiye is likely to choose a dual track approach in dealing with militia land on its border.
Ankara will not demobilize them completely but aim to retain them, albeit on a much smaller scale.
They will most likely be accommodated in remote areas of Turkiye to be utilized on an ad hoc basis against Arabian regimes.
This will be similar to what Turkiye did in Libya.
Retaining the militias is like an insurance policy for Turkiye to remain relevant in case of future upheavals.
Given the Arabian regimes’ illegitimacy, these types of eruptions cannot be ruled out.
This development is most upsetting for the Saudis since they are no longer the primary patron of the Wahhabi trend in the Muslim world.
Riyadh now has the dubious distinction of having to share leverage over the Salafi-Wahhabi trend with Turkiye and Qatar.
This decreases the Saudi regime’s usefulness for its western backers.
Of course, the larger militias and their warlords in Idlib will attempt to secure a more prominent role for themselves and will not necessarily play ball.
Ankara, too, understands this.
Thus, to rein in the groups that are likely to resist Turkiye’s orders, Ankara will use the cannibalization approach.
Militias in Idlib despise each other and regularly indulge in infighting.
Thus, prior to resolving its Idlib conundrum, Ankara can be expected to let the militias fight it out among themselves.
This will naturally weaken them and will allow Turkiye to supress the possibility of their resisting Ankara’s normalization with Damascus.
Such an approach will be coordinated with Iran, Syria and Russia.
The speed of this process will depend on the extent to which Damascus will allow the integration of smaller Salafi militias into Syria’s post-2018 political landscape.
By giving some Salafis limited political space, Damascus will aid in factionalizing the militias and hasten their demise.