A Story of Two Syrian Sieges: Manbij and East Aleppo

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The relatively even-handed Arabic newspaper Oman reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces (a mixed Kurdish and Arab group) advanced further into the city of Manbij on Wednesday. Manbij is a major outpost for Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in northern Syria, and the likelihood is that the Syrian Democratic Forces will take it entirely in coming days with US air support. On Wednesday, some 28 Daesh fighters were killed. Manbij is a major supply route for men and materiel entering Syria from Turkey. Cutting it off will hurt Daesh’s ability to resupply its capital, al-Raqqah. The SDF is a majority Kurdish organization with some Arab tribesmen, but the latter have been put in the forefront in taking the the Sunni Arab center of Manbij. When Manbij falls, the Daesh fighters will be increasingly cut off, and you could start to see defections.

At the same time, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow hoping to increase US and Russian military cooperation in Syria. Kerry is offering to share information on the rebels if in turn Moscow will agree to focus solely on Daesh and al-Qaeda in Syria (the Nusra Front), leaving the remnants of the Free Syrian Army in control of their pockets of the country in preparation for a permanent ceasefire and ultimately new elections.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army again successfully resisted attacks on it by fundamentalist rebels at the Malah Farms area north of Aleppo. The SAA holds territory near the Castello Road, by which supplies used to come into besieged East Aleppo. The road is now effectively cut off.

The UN says it has enough food for East Aleppo to last its some 200,000 residents for about a month, after which they are at risk for starving to death. The rebels holding East Aleppo are fundamentalists but are not Daesh, and al-Qaeda/ the Nusra Front is weak there. These are mainly Muslim Brotherhood types. They have been sending mortar fire on ritzy West Aleppo, where many students go to university and life for the two million residents is as normal as it can be under the circumstances.

Some 600,000 civilians are under military siege in Syria.

If Aleppo falls entirely back into regime hands, the rebels seem doomed.

And that’s the way it is in Syria today, folks.


Euronews: ” Syrian rebels prepare for Aleppo siege”

Posted in Featured,Syria | 7 Responses | Print |

7 Responses

  1. I am praying that the dictator Baathists who have killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians (since they protested for freedom after they noticed freedom for others in the Arab Spring such as Tunisia) are not able to starve the 200,000 of Syrian babies, children, women, and men of East Aleppo. Ameen. God please protect them from the Thugs of Assad and his allies. Ameen.

    • Considering that the Terrorist supply line comes out a NATO country (Turkey), you seem to have a very simple opinion.
      Our enemy is the Devil?!

  2. “On Wednesday, some 28 Daesh fighters were killed.”

    I’m always amazed at the small scale of casualties in this war. Daesh stands aside Syria and Iraq like a colossus, apparently able to hold on against armies and air forces with minimal troops of their own. Perhaps you could give us an account of this strange phenomenon?

    • Don’t know about Prof. Cole, but here’s my take :

      The Daesh success builds on internal cohesion and absolute dedication to a cause, combined with flexible non-standard warfare and underground financing. Their military capabilities rely critically on a constant influx of globally recruited volunteers, and the ready availability off ammo and light military gear.

      Once denied territory the Daesh remnants will melt away and resurface as terror / organized crime organization.

    • The road was not even closed, the Syrian regime and allied militias are still between 1 and 1.5 km away from the road, the Mallah farms are at an elevated position making it easier to target the opposition.

      And Daesh and the Kurds already cut the road before and it was opened by force and if you check the maps there are other roads open to the south where the rebels are still in control.

      As for the war, it is still far from over, 5 provinces are either partially or fully under rebel, Kurdish or ISIS control, Mr. Cole is quite silent about the advances in Latakia province where Qardaha village, the hometown of the Assads was attacked for the first time in the war and the countryside around Salma was liberated during a Ramadan offensive.

      In 2013 the rebellion was all but dead militarily (just as the regime was a year before) and 3 years later people are still saying the rebels are in their dying throws…. Just what Rumsfeld said in 2004.

  3. The number of people living in west Halab is less than 600k, and the whole city never had more than 2 million to begin with (last Syrian census) and refugees from Halab and its province are around 1 million most from the city itself.

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