Idlib province is one of the last major redoubts of non-Kurdish rebel groups operating inside Syria.
But it's also a place of absolute slaughter. As a new BBC report shows, the victims of Syrian leader Bashar Assad's ongoing suffocate-starve-slaughter strategy are often the youngest.
We must remember the human costs of what is occurring in Syria. After all, while the world's attention has shifted away from the roughly 200,000 civilians who have been lost in six years of Assad's rampage, the suffering continues unabated.
Yet while the smashing of Idlib was entirely predictable, our attention shouldn't focus wholly on humanitarian concerns. There are significant strategic considerations also in play here.
For one, the particular brutality employed by Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies in Idlib will help fuel Islamic extremist movements such as al Qaeda and ISIS. While hardline Salafi-Jihadist groups have held a longstanding position in the Idlib-based rebellion, the slaughter of so many Sunni civilians is a great source of the extremists' ongoing recruitment. This bears consideration from those who delude themselves that Russia's engagement in Syria has a counter-terrorism focus. It does not.
But what we're seeing in Idlib is also further evidence of the rampant aggression with which Russia and Iran affect their policies across the Middle East. While both nations claim that they seek mutual understanding and respect, their actions are a zero-sum calculation of brutality and one that absolutely would exclude multi-sectarian dialogue. Albeit in less brutal form, this authoritarian penchant for absolute domination is also reflected on the streets of Tehran and Moscow.
Regardless, seeing as that dialogue is the only way we will cool the conflicts afflicting much of the Middle East, the Russian-Iranian strategy directly concerns our security.
If nothing else, we must pay heed to what we're witnessing.