Revolutionaries in Syria Claim 60% of Aleppo as UN Condemns al-Assad

Since the Free Syrian Army is a guerrilla group, whether it can hold the northern metropolis of Aleppo is not absolutely central to its survival. Guerrillas can always fade away to fight another day.

But for the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad, losing Aleppo would be fatal. The regime controls increasingly little of the country, mainly the capital of Damascus and whatever strips of land the army is actually standing on at any one time. Aleppo is the commercial nerve center of the country, and without it the government will gradually collapse.

The revolutionaries hold most of the east of the city whereas the regime still has the west. But within these enclaves, some support the other side or are on the fence.

Rebel forces said Saturday morning that they now control 60% of Aleppo.

In several days of fierce fighting, the regime still has not been able to reassert itself in Aleppo, despite the use of heavy artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships and even fighter jets. Admittedly, the Baath government has not mounted a really big tank assault a la Homs, suggesting it does not have enough tank battalions it trusts to risk sending them away from the capital.

On Saturday morning, the rebels in Aleppo made an attempt to take over the city’s television station (always the first sign of a change in government in a place). Although their attempt was initially repelled by sniper fire, that battle is ongoing. Regime broadcasts appear to have ceased. The regime continues to be on the defensive in Aleppo, which is not a good sign for it.

Heavy fighting is reported in neighborhoods such as Salahuddin. For the mood and the situation in Salahuddin see The Irish Times

Opposition sources say over 4000 persons were killed in the fighting in Syria in July. This monthly total is the highest since the revolt began.

In Damascus, the regime is still apparently battling for control of districts such as Tadamon. A regime mortar attack went astray on Friday and overshot, hitting a Palestinian refugee camp and killing 20. There are 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, families ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces from their homes in Palestine, now Israel, in 1948, and stuck in Syria ever since. The Palestinians are only about 2% of the Syrian population, but they do have some armed groups and could be pushed by the regime into joining the rebels (they have been divided on the revolution, having an uncertain position in the country). The regime blamed the mortars on the rebels, but it is the Baath army that has been deploying mortar fire against civilian city quarters.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the Syrian regime for using heavy weapons in civilian areas. Russia and China are increasingly isolated in the world community because of their support for al-Assad, and were angry that they lost that vote so decisively. The UNGA vote shows that opposition to al-Assad’s methods is hardly just “Western,” but is rather characteristic of most countries in the world– including many in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Responses | Print |

18 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Rebel forces said Saturday morning that they now control 60% of Aleppo.

    In several days of fierce fighting, the regime still has not been able to reassert itself in Aleppo, despite the use of heavy artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships and even fighter jets. Admittedly, the Baath government has not mounted a really big tank assault a la Homs, suggesting it does not have enough tank battalions it trusts to risk sending them away from the capital.

    Rebel strength has been reported at about 5,000 men. 5,000 men is not enough to control a city of 2.5 million.

    The fighting for the past week looks like it has been designed to bleed the rebels and wear them down, and make them use up their ammunition and fuel. They were reported yesterday as losing 50 dead.

    1% per day is unsustainable.

    UN reports reinforcements for the Syrian Army moving up to surround Aleppo and attack with overwhelming force. Well rested, well supplied, and well led and motivated troops will be able to move systematically through a largely sympathetic city who just want the fighting to go away.

    “God”, The Emperor said, “is on the side of the Big Battalions”. Voltaire said he on the side of those who shoot best.

    Either way, the inevitable outcome is only a matter of time.

    • You don’t have to “control” the populace of a city that isn’t hostile to you. 5000 fighters – a figure for which you don’t provide any backup, and which sounds far too small to have performed as the FSA has over the past few days – can hold a city quite well, if they have the tacit support of those locals. Those locals sure as heck don’t seem to be going out of their way to help the regime forces.

      Could you please avoid the passive voice, and tell us exactly who it is that has “reported” rebel strength in Aleppo at 5000? And who describes the defection-wracked Syrian forces as “Well rested, well supplied, and well led and motivated?” Especially “well-led” – that’s a real howler right there.

        • Chaps do please pay attention. Rebel figures are widely reported.

          A rebel commander in Aleppo said his fighters’ aim was to push towards the city center, district by district, a goal he believed they could achieve “within days, not weeks”.

          The rebels say they now control an arc that covers eastern and southwestern districts.

          “The regime has tried for three days to regain Saleheddine, but its attempts have failed and it has suffered heavy losses in human life, weapons and tanks, and it has been forced to withdraw,” said Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Joint Military Council, one of several rebel groups in Aleppo.

          Oqaidi told Reuters late on Monday more than 3,000 rebel fighters were in Aleppo, but would not give a precise number.

          The fighting has proved costly for the 2.5 million residents of Aleppo, a commercial hub that was slow to join the anti-Assad revolt that has rocked the capital, Damascus, and other cities.

          link to thisdaylive.com

          link to reuters.com

        • Chaps

          This is the throughput at one casualty clearing station

          The hospital is treating around 50 patients a day, almost all of them injured due to the fighting. At present it has five doctors and two nurses working a rota. Dr Ahmed, an orthopaedic surgeon, the only specialist, says: “We really need around 12 doctors, some with specialisation, and two nurses per doctors. So you see how difficult it is to deal with complicated cases

          link to independent.co.uk

    • Chaps

      BBC Radio News at 13:00 Sunday 5 August reports that the Syrian Armmy has 20,000 men ready to take part in the recapture of Aleppo.

      The residents of Aleppo are unlikely to join the numerically inferior rebels while this number of troops are waiting outside.

      I would be surprised if they will offer the survivors aid and assistance to escape after the battle either.

      • Thank you for the number. Now, your source for the laugh-out-loud sycophancy about the leadership and morale of the defection-wracked Syrian armed forces?

        You would be surprised by a lot of things, it would appear. You’re clearly surprised by the continuing failure of the government to take the city.

  2. It appears that the Assad propaganda machine has decided to bring Baghdad Bob into the internet age.

    Someone hacked Reuters and posted false stories about the rebels suffering a defeat in Aleppo: link to nymag.com

    Also, there are no rebels at the airport. They’ve all been defeated, the outcome is inevitable, and it’s only a matter of time.

  3. The deep issue is not now and never has been whether the opposition or Assad will “win”. The issue is whether the tissues and organs of Syrian society will be physically disintegrated by the conflict. We focus on blood spilled in a war of attrition and assume while watching tv from our warm intact hovels that buildings can be rebuilt. But ruin enough buildings and infrastructure and the outcome of attrition is non-functional chaos that lasts and lasts. In a word, Iraq.

    The few thousand “rebels” didn’t win in Fallujah. The US military definitely did not win; they simply destroyed the china shop, killed a lot of innocent people, and had to admit in the end that they had not cornered and eradicated the people they were after. The people of Fallujah lost. Another military-media critical turning point toward victory that wasn’t anything of the kind.

    Fallujah’s example begs the question of why Russia and China continue to support Assad, which by now means support for Syrian disintegation and non-functionality, with no one remaining having the power to make stable financial or military deals. China usually doesn’t make this kind of strategic mistake.

    The only plausible explanation I’ve seen inkled is that Syria as an open wound continues to bleed diplomatic power from the US and Europe which have clearly been unable to head off the conflict. A disintegrated Syria also further destabilizes the positional power team of Israel and the US. Israel has a demonstrated historic preference for destabilizing its neighbors, a perspective that almost every other nation except itself and the US have viewed as unhealthy. Israel normally prefers to perform these causitive acts itself. Having someone else assist a runaway conflict might finally be conveying the reality that fighting with ones neighbors, and contributing to their internal chaos as a full time occupation is not conducive to long life. Of the multiple great games being played, in this one Israel may be the bait.

    • The only plausible explanation I’ve seen inkled is that Syria as an open wound continues to bleed diplomatic power from the US and Europe which have clearly been unable to head off the conflict.

      China and especially Russia have suffered diplomatically much more from the situation than the US. The UN General Assembly just sent Russia and China a nasty-gram.

      A disintegrated Syria also further destabilizes the positional power team of Israel and the US.

      Syria is a Russian client state and host to a major base. A disintegrated Syria harms the Russians’ power interests much more than those of its opponents.

      Israel has a demonstrated historic preference for destabilizing its neighbors

      Except when it hasn’t, such as its post-Camp David relationship with Egypt, and its relations with Jordan.

      Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to conclude that the Russians are primarily motivated by wanting to prop up Assad and maintain their regional influence through their closest ally in the region?

      • >China and especially Russia have suffered diplomatically much more from the situation than the US.

        I don’t think either care very much about diplomatic blips. They don’t claim to be democracies responding to the will of the people. Having been on the receiving end of a previous axis of evil label they’re quite used to letting diplmatic teapot tempests careen on past. Business they care about, but I haven’t seen any big deal business backlash for their positions.

        >Syria is a Russian client state and host to a major base.

        That, plus business and military supply is the superficial reality, but there isn’t just one operant reality here.

        >A disintegrated Syria harms the Russians’ power interests much more than those of its opponents.

        Which supports my point. The Russians need to maintain people in power who can arrange and authorize deals. That’s not possible in a disintegated nation, which is what Assad is creating, or has created, by violent repressive force. Better for Russia to facilitate change to try to retain the greatest number of sympathetic bureaucrats. Syria is now in a full blown civil war. With Assad’s continued presence, and even with a loss by rebels in Aleppo, the conflict will default to guerilla tactics given the force and weapons imbalance. Assad can kill people but cannot win a guerilla war waged against even a relatively small minority of his own population.

        >Doesn’t it make a lot more sense….that the Russians are primarily motivated…. to prop up Assad and maintain their regional influence through their closest ally…..

        No, not any more. The initial Syrian opposition to Assad was determined, patient, and peaceful beyond any reasonable expectation. The violent Syrian opposition did not exist until violence ordered by Assad exceeded the suppressive capability of that violence and peaceful means were recognized to be of no value given Assad’s kill count, and his meaningless rhetoric. Once the fear of violent Assad repression was overcome–and I pointedly note that demonstrators somehow did manage ro remain peaceful even during many Assad authorized attacks–opposition violence began. Armed, violent conflict did not begin with armed gangs roaming the countryside. It began with repeated, brutal Assad attacks on peaceful demonstrators. Assad is toxic to Russians own interests.

        Therefore my question remains of what other factors Russia adn China might consider more valuable than a disintegrated ally.

      • All right, Israel is interested in destabilizing its neighbors until they are under the control of worthless stooges like Mubarak and Prince Playboy of Jordan. If you recall, all of that was in the “Clean Break” paper that the Neocons wrote for the Likud, and it included Iraq on the hit list… then those same Neocons ended up planning the US invasion of Iraq. So Israel is interested in destabilizing its neighbors until forever, because then the Arab citizens try to overthrow these imposed regimes, and then Israel has to destabilize the replacements, etc., etc.

  4. It seems the most certain prediction that can be made is that Syria is in for an extended period of chaos and violence, years not months. The level of cruelty on all sides is overwhelming.

    The second most sure bet is that Assad and his Alwite militia have no chance to reestablish control over the country.

    Any prediction beyond this is blind speculation. Who knows whether the Christian, Kurd, Druse communities can conciliate with the Sunni majority, but they are not going to charge the hill through a hail of bullets to save Assad’s bacon.

    • I can’t help but remember, Richard, that people were telling me as late as August 2011 that the Libyan civil war was stuck in an entrenched stalemate, and predicting that it would last for a long time.

      • Military history said that a war in Libya would be characterized by giant reverses and vast leaps, with so much of the population strung out on one road. Recall Rommel vs Montgomery, which swung back and forth for hundreds of miles until the prolonged siege of Tobruk.

        Wars in the densely, deeply populated parts of the Middle East often get ugly. In the big Arab-Israeli wars it went fast in the deserts, and wherever one side had the right combo of superpower-built goodies to attempt an advanced offensive against a poorly prepared or overconfident conventional foe. But the specter that hangs over this struggle is the Lebanese Civil War. Village against village, neighborhood against neighborhood, and each outside power that intervenes to bail out its buddies gets enmeshed and bloodied.

        That’s the key – this war has more than two sides.

Comments are closed.