The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
If Assad Takes Eastern Aleppo He Thinks He Will Have Won the War
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The Syrian armed forces are close to capturing the remaining rebel-held districts in the enclave of east Aleppo, bringing them their biggest victory in five years of war. The insurgent armed forces, that were originally estimated to number between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters, have been retreating or giving up more readily than had been expected. It is still possible that a hard core will hold out in the ruins, but President Bashar al-Assad will be eager to crush any remaining resistance so he can present the fall of east Aleppo as a decisive turning point in the conflict.

Will this be true? There are so many players with such diverse agendas in the Syrian civil war that past “turning points” have turned out to be no such thing. But what is truly important about what we have just seen in Aleppo is that the outside allies of the armed opposition to Assad – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, in a somewhat different category, the US – have not come to the rescue of the rebels whom they have previously supported.

Over the last five years it has been foreign powers and not domestic parties in Syria who have dictated who is winning or losing at any particular moment. When Assad was losing he went to the Russians, Iranians, Iraqis and Hezbollah and asked for more support. Likewise, the insurgents looked to their external allies when they were on the retreat. This time round this has not happened. The Russian military intervention in September 2015 finally and permanently tipped the balance of power Assad’s favour.

Turkey, unsupported by any foreign power and enmeshed in its struggle with the Kurds and Islamic State, has been largely mute about the fate of east Aleppo. Its main concern is the de facto Syrian Kurdish state that stretches across northern Syria just south of its frontier. The failed military coup of 15 July and the consequent purge makes it dubious how far President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can effectively intervene at this stage in the war.

Saudi Arabia took over in 2013 from Qatar as the biggest Arab ally of the insurgency. Until quite late in the day, the Saudis and the Arab Gulf states remained convinced that Assad would be defeated and overthrown like Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. They exaggerated the likelihood of US military intervention against Assad though President Obama had made clear his wish not to be sucked into another quagmire in the Middle East after the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In reality, Assad was always likely to stay in power because the upper ranks of his regime were united, he had a powerful army but, above all, because Russia and Iran were always more committed to his survival than Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US were to regime change.

ORDER IT NOW

But there are limits to Assad’s military success. This has been underlined by the recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra by Isis fighters who are once again executing captured Syrian soldiers in the streets of the modern city. The Syrian army, like all other combatants in the Iraq-Syrian civil war, is short of troops to replace casualties. This is one reason why men of military age leaving east Aleppo are being conscripted straight into the army.

The conflict was and remains a civil war, primarily sectarian between Sunni and the rest but with ethnic and social aspects. The Syrian security forces may have taken the poorest and most religious part of Aleppo, but the countryside around Aleppo is largely Sunni. Better off urban areas tended to support the government, while the rural Sunni districts are the bed rock of the revolution.

These districts are likely to fight on, particularly when government forces move against Idlib province to the west of Aleppo city. These are heavily populated Sunni areas close to the Turkish border and will probably still be able to get supplies from Turkey. The more territory the Syrian army takes, the more it will have to hold and defend. Its enemies hope it will be vulnerable to guerrilla war and will never be able to reassert its hold over all of Syria. They may be right – much depends on the attitude of foreign powers – but many Syrians have always said that the struggle for Aleppo would decide the war. They may well be right.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Syria 
Hide 23 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Trump and Putin will put an end to that shameful war.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  2. @WorkingClass

    The Russians and Syrians seemed to have matters under control despite US and allied sponsorship of ISIS terrorists.

    What is the Magic White Man, Señor Trump, supposed to add?

  3. RobinG says:
    @E. A. Costa

    Don’t get cocky. Obama is doing plenty of meddling in his last days, decreeing support for militants, sending 200 more US special ops troops – and why did the US not prevent ISIS forces leaving Mosul from linking up with Turks to re-take PALMYRA? Things may not be so easy for Señor Trump.

    In a remarkable coup, ISIS managed to wrestle the legendary city of Palmyra from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on Sunday after assembling a massive jihadist fighting force in eastern Homs.
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/12/12/isis-fully-retakes-palmyra-in-stunning-blitz-offensive/

    • Replies: @Baldur Dasche
  4. The conflict was and remains a civil war, primarily sectarian between Sunni and the rest but with ethnic and social aspects.

    I dunno; isn’t it possible that it’s you confirmation bias? If you want to see sectarian, you’ll find signs of sectarianism everywhere.

    What if I want to see it as an anti-imperialist conflict?

    • Replies: @WorkingClass
    , @Sean
  5. A victory in Aleppo is important for Syria and their friends Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah but I agree it is not the end of the war as the Anglo-Zionist empire is still doing everything to keep this dirty war going.
    ISIS succes in Palmyre could not have happen without the US’s willigness. The US saw all the terrorists moving to Palmyre from Mossul, Raqqa and Deir zor and they let them do this trip peacefully.
    What is doing the Anglo-Zionist Empire in the Middle-East is as bad as what did the NAZIs to the Jews. They are committing a genocide and it may last another ten years or more if in between that Empire has not lead the world to Armageddon.

    The Empire is managed by liars, thieves and murderers and I have the feeling that nothing can be done to stop them from triggering the Apocalypse. I am a desesperate soul and I do not know how to wash myself from all that dirt in which, through the democracy, our managers have associated me to theirs crimes.
    The end might deliver me from this nightmare but it cannot be a peacefull end.

  6. @E. A. Costa

    All Trump has to do is quit the field. Get out of the way. Stand down. Repatriate his legions and abandon his mercenaries. Tell Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf States they can have Assad if they can pry him away from Russia, China and Iran.

    Paul Simon – Fifty Ways

  7. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Thanks Mao. You are correct. The war in Syria is yet another manifestation of Anglo/Zio imperial aggression.

  8. L.K says:

    Patrick Cockburn: “The conflict was and remains a civil war, primarily sectarian between Sunni and the rest but with ethnic and social aspects.”

    What a sorry excuse for a journalist this P.C guy is; What a disgrace!

    He calls this sodding regime change/proxy war on Syria not only a ‘civil war’, but even a ‘revolution’.

    Fucking liar. Then again, that is what it takes to be a brit journalist.

    Sad to see there are some fools here at unz who take this bastard seriously.

    Eva Bartlett: ‘It’s not a civil war – This is a war ON Syria’
    http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/08/26/eva-bartlett-its-not-a-civil-war-this-is-a-war-on-syria/

    Eva Bartlett schooling Norwegian journo on why MSM lies about Syria (short version)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IIrzJcEWAU

  9. Sean says:
    @Mao Cheng Ji

    The Saudis are vociferous in their complaints about the treatment of the Arab minority in Iran , even though that minority is Shia.

    • Replies: @bunga
  10. Turkey, unsupported by any foreign power and enmeshed in its struggle with the Kurds and Islamic State, has been largely mute about the fate of east Aleppo. Its main concern is the de facto Syrian Kurdish state that stretches across northern Syria just south of its frontier. The failed military coup of 15 July and the consequent purge makes it dubious how far President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can effectively intervene at this stage in the war.

    His worry may be that a significant Turkish deployment in Syria (with all of the equipment and supplies required) could turn into a coup against him. Morsi thought he had all bases covered. Then el-Sisi pulled the rug out from under him.

  11. @E. A. Costa

    Are you that stupid? You just finished saying that the US has been sponsoring ISIS, which appears to be true.

    But you pretend not to know what President Trump can do to improve the situation?

    How about STOP U.S. SUPPORT FOR ISIS, for starters?

    Number two, declare support for Russia in its war to sustain the Assad government against the Islamist “rebels.”

    Number three, provide any useful intelligence to Russia to enable it to better target and kill Islamists who are trying to overthrow the Assad government.

    And for God’s sake, keep US ground troops entirely out of it.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
    , @E. A. Costa
  12. @RadicalCenter

    ISIS is history. The Russians and Syrians have accomplished that with no help from Señor Trump. They will now mop up.

    The false “Syrian Opposition” is also done for.

    Señor Trump has pledged to fight ISIS. Where–in Syria, jeje? Or in Iraq where it was created?

    What Trump has been elected for is an attack on Iran. The best guess is he will try to make a deal with the Russians along the lines of–free hand in Syria for them, free hand for the US in Iran.

    The Russians will likely not make such a deal. Why should they?

    “Stupid” is relative but there is no doubt who the real suckers are, including you.

  13. bunga says:
    @Sean

    Saudis complain only when America allows it to do so. That’s another reason ( out of many other US ass kissing activities ) Saudis remain in power ,Assad goes,Ghdaafi gets murdered and Saddam gets to gallows .) the answer to question also why Saudis does bad things .They do to survive )

  14. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    It’s all about momentum.

    If Assad takes 3 steps forward and one step back, he will eventually win.

  15. Anonymous [AKA "matzo balls"] says:

    Cocky is a disappointed sore ass loser and so is his tribal mates squatting in occupied Palestine. Why? Because the Yinon plan to split Syria along sectarian lines failed miserably. They did got what they wanted in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq but it stopped here and it won’t proceed to Iran and Russia. Russia is now the strongest force in the region. The zionzist frankenstein monster can try to adapt or resist but eventually this bloody colonial project too is over.

  16. jag37777 says:

    Patrick Cockburn has always been a mainstreamer and thus largely toed the imperial line.

    It isn’t a civil war. It never was. It is a US proxy war.

  17. Bianca says:

    Not serious article at all. Does not understand Syria. There is also a lie factor that permeates all the media lately throughout western socities. It has become a culture of lies. Media ownership may have something to do with the tendency to force narratives on public. But the spell has been broken and information is now available through hundreds of sources — so information control is no longer possible. Aleppo will probably be remembered as the symbol that lyimg media tried to appropriate as a symbol of a wholesome revolution, instead of terrorist occupied part of town with cilians suffering unspeakable evils. As more and more information has come out — the more determined was the narrative driven media to stick to their story — complety unaware that there were not too many people in this world they were convincing. The entire western media needs reforms — as it is becoming irrelevant. The shallow understanding of the relationships of religions resulted in missing altogether the fact that Sunni, Shia and Christians of Syria came together to support their Army and government. For all the Ssudi funding of Salafi fundamentalism — it did not affect too many people, except poor Iraqi Sunni refugees that moved to Syria following US invasion. This is why Sunni are still the large majority of Assad armed forces. Also — role of Turkey is positive and will be even more so in the post conflict phase. Hopefully with Ttump in charge there will be no nation building in Syria, and focus will be on destruction of cults that have been funded snd armed by Gulf states. Trump will put them on notice. Turkey may administer Idlib as a means of transition but has no territorial pretensions. Same with Raqqa provided US either gets serious — or lets Russia and Turkey take care of them.

  18. “past “turning points” have turned out to be no such thing. But what is truly important about what we have just seen in Aleppo is that the outside allies of the armed opposition to Assad . . . have not come to the rescue . . . Over the last five years it has been foreign powers and not domestic parties in Syria who have dictated who is winning or losing”

    True. It is important to realize that this is a proxy war driven from outside, with outside resources committed for the outsiders’ objectives, and not only or even primarily a civil war of domestic resources contending for domestic issues. It is a massive turning point if one side backs away from its proxies.

    However, this is also a turning point in another sense. Aleppo does not just happen to be such a major city, it is that for real geographical reasons of location, location, location as in all real estate. It is central to transport and commerce because of where it is, where the roads are, how the land is shaped. Losing it is like losing other cities in the past, at key hubs of transport and commerce. Paris. London. They dominate their countries for real reasons of geography that are unchanging.

    Outsiders are backing away from proxies because the proxies lost something that matters. It isn’t the ruins, like Stalingrad was not its ruins. It is the location.

  19. Patrick Cockburn is back on form.

    It’s NOT a “Civil War”, a Covert Operation by Washington is NOT a civilwar by definition. Still less with 10 years inthe planning, a fortune inAmericantaxpayer’s taxes and recruitement of an army of Jihadists. “Revolution” is aneven worse claim, The failed Color Revolution of march 2011 out of Washington was yet another Color Revolution using what used to be known as a fifth column.

    But Cockburn has to dothis to keep well inwith the Independent’s editor to keep his job as their long serving Middle East correspondent.

  20. Bruce says:

    If anyone has the time and inclination, please read and write an intelligent reply to this article on Syria by Paul McGeough, published in the Melbourne Age newspaper. The Age is regarded by many as a more decent, independent newspaper, yet it publishes only the official fake narrative. No wonder the public are seriously misinformed about Syria!

    ‘Save yourselves’: Aleppo residents face dark end game.
    By Paul McGeough

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/left-alone-to-face-your-doom-aleppo-residents-await-dark-end-game-20161208-gt7gl6.html

    • Replies: @richard young
  21. @RobinG

    The SRA (the ‘good’ rebels), currently located some 20 kilometers west of Aleppo’s city limits, have launched another ‘offensive’, in another attempt, to break into the city to relieve their forces inside. Their attempts to do that over the past year have been stymied by Russian air power.

    But neither Assad or Russia have been able to stop somebody sending them modern armor and artillery. They had some of that on display (You tube) as they prepared for their attack last week. The video also revealed they didn’t speak Arabic like Syrians.

  22. @Bruce

    I just read the article you referred us to, describing the “rebels” as “headstrong and undersupplied.” Yes, I suppose one might describe ISIS and Al Qaeda (Al Nusra) as “headstrong” folks — but one surely more honestly must describe them as the merciless terrorists that they have proved themselves to be. I don’t see why the article you cite provides us with anything remotely “intelligent” concerning the Syrian conflict; or where it departs from the false propaganda being spread by Mr. Cockburn concerning the true nature of the so-called “rebels” responsible for the past five years of US-backed “regime change” warfare in Syria.

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr