Syria’s Aleppo Falling: The Government Russia actually Turned

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

By Monday morning Syrian time, the large and important district of Shaikh Saeed in southeastern Aleppo had completely fallen to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies among the Shiite militias of Lebanon and Iraq.

(Orange in this map areas regime has taken in past 3 weeks; blue is government-held West Aleppo; green is rebel holdouts, light blue Kurdish).

Shaikh Saeed collapsed under the weight of extremely intensive aerial bombardment by Russian fighter jets, which aided ground advances by the Syrian Arab Army and its Shiite militia allies.. Amid talk of Russian interference in the US elections, it should be remembered that Russia decided some 15 months ago to become the arbiter of Syria’s fate in a very serious way.

As far as I can tell, the rebels now hold only the area immediately south of the Citadel, which is about 10% of the eastern city. Syrian Arab Army troops say that they can see the Citadel from their new positions.

On Monday over 700 fighters, out of the 4,000 who had been there, donned civilian clothing and melded into some 13,000 civilians from Shaykh Saeed who fled to West Alepp.

At the beginning of the current campaign, there had been some 250,000 non-combatants trapped in East Aleppo (rebel militias did not allow them to leave despite heavy bombardment by the Syrian and Russian air Forces). It now seems likely that only 25,000 civilians remain under rebel rule in the 10% of East Aleppo they control, south of the Citadel.

Likewise, the some 4,000 fighters must have shrunk to 1,000 or so. They are a mix of al-Qaeda, Freemen of Syria, and Nour al-Din Zanki Brigades.

Regime-held West Aleppo has several hundred thousand residents, who are much better off than the East Aleppans, and who have suffered mortar fire from the rebel east.

Before the war, Aleppo was the country’s largest city, with a population of some 2.3 million in the metropolitan area.

When all of East Aleppo falls, as seems likely before the end of this year, the Bashar al-Assad regime will hold all the country’s major urban areas. Only sparsely populated rural districts remain with the rebels– places like Idlib in the north, and then part of al-Raqqa and all of Deir al-Zor in the east (these two provinces are held by Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Palmyra has again fallen to Daesh in the past couple of days, but it is a small desert town.

Some 80% of the population is under regime control. The war can continue thereafter, but there seems no path forward for the rebels to win the contest.

Russia’s success in shaping the outcome of the Syrian struggle has made Moscow a player in the region again for the first time since the fall of the old Soviet Union.

Syria’s totalitarian Baath government, longed backed by Iran, is beginning to pick up other regional support, e.g. from the Egypt of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and from the new government of President Michel Aoun in Lebanon. The big losers here are Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Even Turkey appears to have made some sort of deal with Russia such that it has acquiesced in al-Assad’s brutal reassertion.

Posted in Featured,Syria | 17 Responses | Print |

17 Responses

  1. It is a delight to see to see the counter-interventionists winning the game. What right does anyone has to destabilize a foreign government militarily or academically?

    • The destabilization began when Assad security forces fired on peaceful protesters. Assad could have met with the protesters and tried to work out some form of limited representation, but he chose instead to engage in armed repression that led to civil war when some of his own army defected to the rebels rather than fire on them. He then engaged in war crimes which have been thoroughly documented. This ground was laid well before any outside intervention.

      • Wrong. The destabilisation started years before that. USA had been working to remove Assad since 2006. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations had been financing the spread of their extreme version of Islam. Other interests had been encouraging the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which staged an earlier uprising in 1982. Seymour Hersh has written some interesting articles on this issue.

        Granted, the initial stage of the protests was not well handled by the Government, but the external players with their extremist religious beliefs were ready and waiting to hijack the civilian protests.

        And that’s what happened. The resources from these outside sources flowed to the most successful opposition groups, who were usually held the most extreme views, so the extremists prospered at the expense of the moderates. This has caused vast difficulty to the Western governments, who feel obliged to maintain the fiction that there is a vast number of ‘moderate’ rebels just waiting in the wings. As the siege of Aleppo has shown, there isn’t.

        • Please link Hersh’s articles. Do you know what happened to the Local Coordinating Commities who I remember played a key communications role in the early protest movement. They opposed arming the protesters and any foreign intervention. They seemed foresighted at the time to me.

  2. Russia’s success in the demoralization of the West, boosting the election of poodle-or-madman Trump and this Mideast re-alignment you report, represents a stunning success for them, and a tremendous failure for the USA and the other relatively liberal (and much to be prized) democracies.

    Between the failures of the dump-anything-anywhere industrial model of economics (we still pretty much follow),
    and the failures of the outright dictatorial models of government, and the and crony-corrupt “populist” Peron-Berlusconi-Trumps of the democracies, it’s a pretty grim future for all the extremely happy young Hispanic babies I see playing around my day job –and for your and my and everyone else’s grandchildren as well.

    • What’s really depressing is how many people buy in when the MSM and even the government gaslight you with the Red Menace.
      Still no evidence offered.
      It’s a very thin narrative, and it was never a sure thing for Clinton, who started off with enough baggage to offset her name recognition, but then doubled down w/ a dirty primary campaign (lied about– then lies outed and proven true). Then Podesta told us independents that they didn’t want or need us.
      Message received.
      Then, Clinton held *no press conferences* for almost a year, and threw about half of the rallies that Trump did.
      She was counting on the propaganda that Podesta’s lapdogs in the press constantly shoveled at the public. (Chant w/ me: Racist! Mysoginist! Xenophobe!)
      But, they ran out of credibility long, long ago.
      Now, after all the shilling and lies and astroturfing they expect us to believe it was Russia?
      No. It was not Russia.
      link to

      • Please see my other comments here, and my Facebook posts whch contain screenshots. I have evidence on my relatively-modest website, from Google Analytics, that the Russians have managed to invent what Google identifies as a “language.”

        The name of this new language? “ You are invited!! Enter with this ticket URL. Copy it! Vote for Trump!”

        The 130 google sessions that used this new language in human history used behaviors notably different than my usual audience, which correlated quite easily with 133 sessions from Russia.

        Two more new “languages,” promoting some sort of double zero eight hundred search shell, and again using Google’s name (one saying better than google, the other that google endorses their site. Again the folks using these new languages identified by Google Analytics, correlate easily with users from Russia.

    • For the young ones the biggest problem in the future will be climate change, not war in Syria. The biggest danger of Trump, of which there are many, may be his denial of climate change and promotion of fossil fuels.

  3. The biggest losers surely are the Syrian people whose endurance and courage bring tears to my eyes. link to Trump says he’s not going to get involved in this kind of regime change adventure so hopefully we’ve all seen the last of them.

    • People should have learned by now that you can’t trust his words. He has literally changed major positions from one day to the next. Look only at his actions.

      • Would you apply the same test to what he says of a racist or misogynist nature? Obama will leave us apocalyptic destruction which he didn’t inherit in both Libya and Syria. If Trump views that sort of thing as an unprofitable waste of time and treasure, who would disagree. As for the neocon entourage, maybe they’re there to keep the tension on his side. My grandfather, who was the gentlest of men, kept alsatians and let them loose at night for a similar purpose.

  4. I suspect that Erdogan’s deal with Putin will be to maintain control over northern Aleppo for sometime into the future.

  5. It isn’t really true to say they will have lost all the urban areas, they still have Duma and some other areas of Damascus. Big, war changing victory anyway though, and hard to see how the opposition wins from here, best case is not loosing.

  6. From the point of view of Putin this might well be a “I helped you out of your stupid red line drawing pickle and then you continued to support forces which would try to throw us out of our Latakia naval base if they won. No way man, no way”.
    Assad fired at rebels. Lincoln did too. That is what government do to rebels. Get real.
    The issue is never whether rebels act peacefully. What counts is: are they acting peaceably?

Comments are closed.