Why Russia and Regime want all of Aleppo before Trump is sworn in

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In the past two days, the Syrian Arab Army and its Shiite militia allies (Hizbullah from Lebanon and others from Iraq) has taken a third to forty percent of the Eastern Aleppo pocket. The northeast zone of the pocket has collapsed, with rebel fights apparently declining any longer to stand and fight. They are taking massive fire from Russian and regime aircraft.

The Russian source Interfax alleges, “”Full control has been established over 12 neighbourhoods” of eastern Aleppo . . . “as Baeidin, Sheikh Fares, Qadisiya, Haidaria, Al-Ghani, Sheikh Hasser , Sheikh Khudr, Jabal Badro, Tareeq Sheikh Najjar, Turab al-Hollok, Bustan al-Basha and Sakhour.”

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On the order of 80,000 out of the 250,000 who lived in the pocket have fled. The press now has to say there are about 170,000 civilians trapped there, since so many appear to have departed– for regime-held West Aleppo and for the Kurdish-held region.

President-Elect Donald J. Trump has made it clear that he favors a victory of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and is willing to let Russia do the heavily lifting to finish off Muslim radicals such as Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) and the Levantine Conquest Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), the al-Qaeda affiliate formerly known as the Support (Nusra) Front.

Al-Assad did not disguise his glee when Trump was elected.

But Russia and al-Assad are not willing to risk Trump changing his mind, what with all the hawks milling around him and on his new cabinet. For many hard line Republicans like Michael Pompeo (CIA) and Michael Flynn (NSA), Iran is the next war over the horizon, and al-Assad is seen as a strategic asset to Iran.

Maxim Yusin and Georgy Stepanov quote Vladimir Sotnikov, director of the Russia-East-West Strategic Research Center in Kommersant.ru, (trans by BBC Monitoring) that Bashar “Al-Assad, as well as Russia and Iran who are backing him, aim to take the maximum advantage of the two months of ‘doldrums’ in the USA after the presidential election was over, but a new administration has not started its work yet. . .”

Sotnikov says that taking all of Aleppo before Trump’s inauguration makes it less likely that any demand will be made that he step down. Since there at some point will likely be negotiations over Syria, al-Assad will be able to deal from strength.

Another point, which the Russian press doesn’t seem to make, is that the Aleppo pocket was the last big concentration of relatively moderate fundamentalist militias. If the rest of it falls, the fighters will have to try to escape to Idlib, a rural northern province still in the hands of the opposition. Unfortunately for them, the leading group in Idlib is the Levantine Conquest Front, which has al-Qaeda links. So reducing the rebellion to Idlib and al-Qaeda will be a huge propaganda coup for al-Assad.

In other news, the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi supports the al-Assad regime because of its enmity with the Muslim Brotherhood (most of the rebels that aren’t Salafi Jihadis are MB). Former Mubarak-era cabinet member Ahmad Abou ‘l-Gheit, now Secretary-General of the Arab League, launched an attack on the government of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, saying that it was the one who let all those European and other Western radical youth transit to Syria and Iraq.

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Related video:

AFP: “At least 1,200 rebels, civilians flee bastion of Aleppo”

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13 Responses

  1. “Another point, which the Russian press doesn’t seem to make, is that the Aleppo pocket was the last big concentration of relatively moderate fundamentalist militias.”
    Got your point the other night, Juan, but it doesn’t alter the fact that they were too disparate to be likely to agree themselves into a governing body along with the non-Muslims Assad protects.
    Amnesty under Assad is the best idea for all but “al-Q” & ISIS. Putin probably has enough sense to talk Assad into moderating his rule.
    Likewise hopefully he has enough sense to dissuade Trump from “vengeance” on Iran, cos that’s all it is, as you point out frequently!
    None of the RULERS in the world have wanted war for decades, it all a US fantasy (pardon, excuse) with the exception of Israel which only wants the US to fight its battles for it.

  2. “So reducing the rebellion to Idlib and al-Qaeda will be a huge propaganda coup for al-Assad.”
    So it’s a win win, the majority of “rebels” using green buses head for the border and the west finally gets its favorite “relatively moderate fundamentalist militias”

  3. The regime and its allies appear to be doing quite well, and I imagine they have some reservations about US aid, particularly if that might mean a carnival of military aid which they could probably do without. Much more useful would be non-interference from the US, allied to a substantive effort to halt the inward flow of weapons. That is something Trump might be able to do which Putin can’t. Neither Putin nor Assad believes in rebels armed with foreign weaponry being in any meaningful sense moderate. In fact, I doubt anyone does if they sit down and consider the concept brought to their own shores. It’s one thing for individuals to involve themselves actively in remote ideological struggles, as many did in the Spanish Civil War, but not nations. If a problem becomes supra-national then it really should be dealt with by the UN, itself an outfit that, as Muammar Gaddafi believed, could do with a good old shake up.

  4. This is preposterous. There might be hawks in Trump’s cabinet but not a single one is sympathetic to the Syrian rebels. In terms of what happens next with Iran, it is anybody’s guess. A large part of the tilt toward Iran was motivated by pure capitalist motives for a new market, just as it was with Cuba. But in any case, all of the “anti-imperialists” should be gleeful that the Syrian revolution has been crushed even though the result is something resembling Franco’s victory in Spain.

  5. “The hawks are willing to use the rebels to overthrow Assad and thereby weaken Iran” You State Juan. Again try? No way. The hawks want to go all the way against Iran but I doubt they will get the Ok from that narcissistic man. If he doesn’t create jobs or fix the superstructures he’s done.

  6. Aleppo and Mosul, battered and shattered, these man-made hells on earth. As if the world is not having enough natural disasters. Unthinkable.

  7. “most of the rebels that aren’t Salafi Jihadis are MB”
    Aren’t we trying to keep that a secret?!

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