Aleppo Falls

All that Obama’s interventions did was drag out the inevitable. Syrian forces loyal to Assad are now finishing their conquest of Aleppo and reportedly shooting people on sight. It’s quite likely we are seeing a massive catastrophe unfold. I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done, short of invasion and a possible war with Russia, to stop this. But we certainly didn’t make it better. And now the co-author of this atrocity has ties to the incoming Administration.

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  1. stogy

    The (mostly unreported) immediate cause of the collapse in East Aleppo was Erdogan, who pulled Turkmen fighters from Aleppo a couple of months ago to provide local support for the Turkish army’s beachhead in Northern Syria (the Turkish army are only 40kms away from Aleppo and have been constructing a large base at Akhtarin). I am not sure if Erdogan thought that the enclave was already doomed or he really intended to send them back, but that was the tipping point.

    Anyway, it’s good that there is an agreement to get civilians out. I hope it holds.

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  2. stogy

    Just a few more thoughts on Aleppo since yesterday:

    There has been plenty of chatter around that blames the US, and particularly the Obama administration and Hillary, for the whole Syria debacle. Conspiracies abound about how the US engineered the whole thing from the beginning, through funding and arming of Islamic terrorist groups, completely forgetting that this started as a civil protest movement violently attacked by Assad’s secret police. And dissidents tortured and murdered.

    This has been a regional conflict for some time (with global implications). It’s a flow-on from the proxy war between the Iranians and the Saudis, with the Syrian people picking up the tab. Most of the parties are trying to keep the fighting at a local level so that they don’t have to go to war against each other (in just the same way that Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting through the Houtis and the remnants of the government in Yemen). Assad’s invitation to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to become involved in the Syrian conflict very effectively circumvented and incapacitated the UN Security Council, and rendered US policy in Syria impotent. The Turkish forces are pretending to be fighting ISIS, when what they are really doing is making sure that the Kurds are not in any position at the end of the war to take advantage of the situation and break away and form an independent Kurdish state. This explains the Turkish army’s unwelcomed and unasked for interventions into both Northern Syria and Northern Iraq.

    Rather than being the secret puppet master, the US has really only been a bit player in the war since 2013, when its efforts to overthrow the Assad regime fell apart, and Obama lost interest. After 2013, I think there was likely a secret agreement between the US and Russia to stay out of each other’s zones of influence, with the US role in Syria limited to bombing ISIS targets. And Russia allowing the US carte-blanche in Iraq. Each side does a bit of criticizing the other when civilians get bombed so that the pretense can be kept up, but the US accepted quite a long time ago that Assad was going to win. Obama got outplayed but it’s hard to see what else he could have done.

    There is a really interesting long piece in the Guardian on the significant role of Iranian forces in the battle for Aleppo, and how they took a very main role once Russian bombing subsided a few weeks ago. Syrian government forces have been next to useless. I know many Syrians who have left to avoid being drafted: they just don’t want to fight for Assad – the fact that Palmyra has fallen again this week to ISIS is a perfect illustration of this.

    The Iranians have framed the war very much in terms of a Sunni-Shia conflict, and the need to protect the Zainab Shrine in Damascus – rather than a battle against terrorism or ISIS, and apparently to avenge historical battles against the Sunnis. With the fall of Aleppo, what Iran will want now is anyone’s guess, but the Iranian militias are under the control of Qassem Suleimani, and were formed over a decade ago with the aim of exporting the Iranian revolution. Only 13% of the pre-war Syrian population was Shia, with more than half of those Alawites. However, the overwhelming majority – 74% – are Sunni. I can’t see the Saudis standing by and allowing an Iranian “victory” in Syria. Saudi Arabia sees Syria as its backyard, and won’t want to see any increase in Iranian power there. Erdogan is not happy either, but his hands are completely tied by Turkey’s proximity to Russia, and by his own domestic political concerns. He’ll settle for a denial of Kurdish statehood.

    How this plays out is anyone’s guess. But the US is better off staying out of it.

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