More curiously, both Turkey and Armenia allege that the other side is importing mercenaries to the front lines. The Guardian reported that a group of Syrian fighters from Idlib province, the lone rebel-held bastion where Turkey holds considerable sway, were recruited in recent weeks to work for a private Turkish security company operating in Azerbaijan. According to the outlet’s sources, as many as 20 such fighters may have been killed in fighting this week in the Caucasus.

“Most of the Syrian fighters in Libya have been hired by Turkey, which sponsors militias inside Syria opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” my colleagues Kareem Fahim and Zakaria Zakaria reported earlier this year. “Turkey also is the main military supporter of Libya’s U.N.-recognized government, known as the Government of National Accord, or GNA.”

My colleagues reported that hundreds of Syrians aligned with the Assad regime and its Russian backers were also hired to support the rogue Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter, whose offensive against the GNA was successfully repelled with Turkish aid earlier this summer. A U.N. report this month tracked some 338 Russian military cargo flights from Syria to Libya in support of Wagner, operating on Hifter’s behalf. The report said Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan were all violating a U.N. arms embargo on Libya by ferrying military equipment and supplies to the dueling sides in the conflict.

Ordinary Syrians have become pawns in this regional conflagration. “At a time when the Syrian economy and currency are collapsing, it is difficult for prospective fighters to pass up the generous financial packages offered for heading to Libya, offers that include salaries of $2,000 a month, a $500 advance for families left behind in Syria, and the promise of several thousand dollars in death benefits,” my colleagues reported.

Half a decade ago, state collapse and economic hardship were seen as drivers for Islamist militants flocking to the chaos of the Syrian war. Now, some of these combatants are being funneled into new conflicts stirred by rival nation-states. The prevalence of Syrian fighters in places like Libya, argued Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reflects “a global trend toward the outsourcing of extraterritorial military force driven partly by the availability of itinerant, pay-for-hire fighters from failed revolutions and civil wars in Africa and the Middle East and the growth of private military companies.”

These outfits may see this week’s battles over Nagorno-Karabakh as a new opportunity. Russian officials have urged a cease-fire and cooling of tensions, but experts fear things could escalate as Turkey upsets a delicate balance of power. Ankara and Moscow could find themselves confronting each other in a third proxy conflict if Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes stray beyond Nagorno-Karabakh.

“If we see this conflict spill over into other parts of the geography … that will trigger a much more difficult episode between Turkey and Russia which will come on top of the existing theatres of conflict in Syria and Libya,” Turkish analyst Sinan Ulgen told the Financial Times.

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