Syria Rebels face Collapse as Thousands flee North Aleppo

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Friday, the Syrian Arab Army and its Hizbullah and Iranian/ Afghan allies made further progress in taking the area just north of Aleppo. They were apparently mainly fighting al-Qaeda, which had a stronghold in the city of Ratyan. The Russians subjected it to intensive bombing and the SAA and allies ultimately took it. Al-Qaeda (the Nusrah Front) said it had killed 25 of its attackers.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 3.48.21 AM
Via Google maps (click)

In New York, as the Syrian peace talks collapsed, the Russian envoy asked out loud why even the opposition was not happy at the defeat and rollback of al-Qaeda.

The answer is, of course, that the Nusra Front has a long history of winning battles against the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad, and so it is useful to the opposition, even if it is, like, al-Qaeda. Moreover, they don’t take its ties to Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of the organization, very seriously.

Unfortunately for us, I think the US is more or less indirectly backing al-Qaeda in Syria (not ISIL but the Nusra Front).

Jenane Moussa, who has reported from inside Syria, pointed out that government troops still hadn’t surrounded Aleppo to the east, and made us a map of what she thinks the situation looks like.

AFP interviews experts who concur that the Syrian regime is now likely to subject the 360,000 people in eastern Aleppo to a blockade and siege, as it had done successfully to Homs, until it can kill off the guerrillas opposing it.

The Syrian Human Rights observatory maintains that some 20,000 Syrians have fled the villages and small towns just north of Aleppo. Several thousand are stuck on the Syria side at the main Turkish border checkpoint, in cold weather, and they face exposure. Turkey, which already has 2.5 million Syrian refugees, has closed the border to them.


related video:

20,000 Syrian refugees stuck on Turkish border after fleeing Aleppo

12 Responses

  1. I expected that with Russian help the Syrian forces would eventually win. Even so, Syria will probably face guerrilla war and terrorism for some time. As I have maintained from the beginning, the best course for the US is to stay completely out. Fortunately our involvement has been relatively limited and late to arrive. There are no winners here and it was unlikely that there would have been once the Assad regime survived the first year and the defections from the army.

  2. Question 1: How much of original Syria can Assad’s forces actually recapture? Do they even care about the great central desert?

    Question 2: This all looks like it’s going to put SAA, Kurdish, Rebel, Turkish and Russian troops in close proximity on the Turkish border. This seems like a recipe for some pretty bad stuff to happen? What do you think?

  3. If the Free Syrian army and allied local brigades collapse, the Syrian rebel movement will be to the Obama administration what the Bay of Pigs was to JFK and Vietnam was to LBJ – unmitigated foreign policy failures that are historic in dimension.

    In mid-2013, the Free Syrian Army was the pre-eminent anti-Assad military force within Syria and close to defeating the Assad military units – until the State Department suspended aid to the FSA , causing defections of FSA fighters to Islamist-orientation brigades and halting FSA advances against Baathist regime forces.

    There needs to be a Congressional investigation how the Obama administration snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Syria.

    • Mark, are you saying that if we continued to fund the FSA, they would have gone on to topple Assad, take power, install a friendly regime and Damascus becomes the new French Riviera?

      It seems US policy makers never learn. Meddling in another country’s internal politics, funneling in arms to strangers and toppling governments is nothing but a recipe for disastrous blow back.

    • Haven’t you learned anything from history? I think the last time the US was able to impose its will on another country was the island of Grenada.

      • Try Operation Just Cause on Christmas of 1989 where Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed and President-elect Guillermo “Porky” Endara was sworn in as the new head of state.

  4. Enormous amounts of suffering in Syria over the last five years. The Obama administration arming rebels etc, fomenting more violence. How that death, destruction refugee situation could have been prevented if diplomacy would been the strategy chosen. So brutal

    • More delusion. When was the last time that diplomacy stopped a civil war? Didn’t happen in Nigeria, Spain, the US, Russia/Soviet Union, England, or anywhere else I can think of. In case of warfare, diplomacy works when both sides are exhausted and accept that a stalemate has been reached and their side cannot win. That has never been the case to this point in Syria.

      • Gary, I think the point is that if our approach had not been from the get go that Assad must go, we could have avoided a lot of destruction and bloodshed.
        And before, any one goes and talks about our goal of democracy in the middle east, no one that is even tangentially informed believes us. We could have impressed on our clients (KSA, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan et al) to not arm all flavor of opposition, but how could we do that when we were funneling arms through CIA.

        • I think that shift in US policy from restraining Arab ‘allies’ to giving them free-reign to implement a wild, proxy war was Obama’s biggest flaw in foreign policy. How do you put the Saudis back in a box once they’ve sprung out.

  5. I am not sure that what we have seen in Syria meets the definition of a civil war. It is a fact that a great many of the fighters in the opposition to the regime were brought in from abroad and supported by outside countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. And Turkey was essential in supporting the rebels by allowing aid to them to flow over its border while providing a way for oil exports from ISIL and others to flow the other way. This amounts to a foreign invasion of Syria with the intention of overthrowing the Assad government. We should also note the role of the U.S. in this. Does anyone think that our NATO ally Turkey could have played the role they have in this conflict if the U.S. had opposed them?

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