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This Could be the Last Siege of the Syrian War
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Syrian artillery and aircraft are bombarding Eastern Ghouta, the last big rebel enclave which is just to the east of Damascus. Some 127 people were reported to have been killed on Monday alone. By Tuesday evening that figure was said to have doubled. The strength of the attack by shellfire, bombs and missiles is more intense than anything seen in the area for several years, suggesting that an all-out ground assault is in prospect or, as in East Aleppo just over a year ago, there will be a last minute attempt to negotiate a mass evacuation.

The siege of Eastern Ghouta could be the last of the big sieges that have characterised the war in Syria for the last five or six years and has made it such a destructive conflict. Early on in the war, government forces adapted the strategy of abandoning opposition strongholds, surrounding them and concentrating pro-government forces in defence of loyalist areas, essential roads and important urban areas. The rebel enclaves were sealed off with checkpoints and the people inside were subjected to regular bombardment.

Once there were many such areas, almost encircling Damascus which has a population of around five million. Some districts, like Daraya in the south of the capital, were emptied out early and their buildings still stand but are gutted and uninhabitable. Other opposition enclaves, notably those in north Damascus, have been levelled by gunfire or demolition teams so hardly a single building stands more than a few feet high.

Eastern Ghouta is just a few miles to the east of the capital and is an extensive urban and agricultural area with an estimated population of 400,000 which was loosely besieged after 2013. There were shortages of medical supplies, machinery spare parts and other high value items though not of basic food supplies. But last year the government tightened the siege, closing the informal tunnel system through which fuel and food had been coming in. By January this year, the cost of a basket of essential food items in Eastern Ghouta was 780 per cent higher than in government-held areas a few miles away.

The government has been advancing all over Syria since Russian military intervention in 2015. Besieged rebel areas have been falling one by one, the fighters and the civilian population sympathising with them often going to Idlib in northwest Syria. In Daraya, they left in the summer of 2016 and East Aleppo fell at the end of the same year. Eastern Ghouta has held out longest because it was large, strongly held and could grow part of its own food. But the rebel factions in control were divided, occasionally fought each other and had no strategy to counter the Syrian army’s steady advances other than firing mortars into pro-government districts like Christian Bab Touma in the Damascus Old City.


Living conditions have been deteriorating because of lack of goods or, even when they are available at high prices, people have no money to pay for them. Where food is permitted to enter the Eastern Ghouta enclave, it is subjected to a high fee for every kilo imported. Aid workers say that nobody died of starvation in January, but many people are suffering from malnutrition. As shelling and airstrikes intensified last month, all schools closed.

With Syrian government forces either victorious or not engaged in full scale combat in much of the country, it has more soldiers and air power to concentrate on remaining rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib. But there is a growing confrontation between President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey in the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin. Turkish artillery has been shelling on Tuesday the government held entry point to Afrin down which pro-government fighters armed with heavy machine guns have been driving as part of their new alliance with the Kurds.

The Syrian and – to a lesser extent – the Iraqi wars have been wars of sieges in which limited numbers of ground troops are deployed, but are supported by massive air power. This was true of the Syrian government and Russians against Isis, al-Qaeda linked groups and jihadi rebels. But it was also true of the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) backed by US airpower in the four month siege of Raqqa and the Iraqi Army, also backed by the US air force and its own artillery, in the nine-month siege of Mosul. The latter was probably the bloodiest of all these sieges because of the size of the city, the ferocity of the fighting and the refusal of Isis to allow the civilian population to escape from West Mosul and from the close-packed Old City.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Syria 
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  1. Renoman says:

    War is pretty simple, surrender or die, a lot figure they’re gonna die anyway so they might as well go fighting. An awful choice to make considering the Children they sentence along with themselves but human life isn’t worth much over there and the hate is very old. Just a matter of time now, no one is coming to the rescue we can only hope it’s quick.

  2. Given the remarkable divisions in America today, I often hear from one side or the other that they’d like to see a civil war to “settle things once and for all”.

    I like to ask them if they’re aware of brutality of war and, in particular, civil war and remind them of Aleppo.

    Modern warfare and especially a hate-filled civil war is not something a rational person should take lightly and no one should be advocating it, here or somewhere else.

    • Replies: @Cato
    , @Ace
  3. skrik says:

    Why is it, do you suppose, that nobody tells the yanks to go home [here especially, out of the ME], *and make it stick*? IF the yanks were to go home AND take their Z-pets [aka dog-wagging tails] with them THEN the world could start on the looong road to recovery.

    That road might be called OBOR, haw! rgds

  4. IvyMike says:

    The media seems to be giving this one more coverage, think the powers that be would like to raise enough outcry in this poor broken America to restart the war against Assad.

    • Agree: FB
  5. APT says:

    Could be the last siege, could just be part of 2 or 3 more years of war. This is in the suburbs of Damascus? Really? Russian power for 3 years, Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements, the Syrian army and they are still fighting in the ‘burbs of Damascus? This reminds me very much of the Hama (“massacre” if one wants to read about it on the web) of 1982 by Hafez Assad. They must have a very popular leader, Kim Jong Un-ish popularity.

    • Replies: @WJ
    , @El Dato
  6. Bianca says:

    I do not think that there is an alliance between Damascus and Afrin Kurds. Afrin YPG — by their own admission part of PKK refused to agree to Damascus conditions. YPG would have to either disarm or join Syrian forces under Syrian command. Afrin would fhen be managed by Syria, with provisions for local autonomy. They st this point were required to turn over the funds to run the tegion, as Afrin served a key role in smuggling arms and other suppllies to Idlib.

    YPG has not agreed to cede power and return under state control — Turkey was right in its estimate that Afrin is still waiting to get political dupport from US on independence.

    I sm not aware of any new deals eith YPG. YPG is may br helped ny some pro-government forces — but it remains yo be seen if YPG will allow them to keep their own command — or insist to be in charge. Turkey would stop ghe operation in Afrin the minute Afrin YPG ceases to be independent military not under control of state. Syria cannot be pleased with Turkey ground force advancements. But at the same time, cannot protect area that has its own militants committed to secede from Syria. Up to YPG.

  7. Cato says:

    Completely agree. We should all follow your example.

  8. The fact that this enclave was permitted to continue to exist in the neighbourhood of Damascus does not mean it was due to the weakness of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance, but because, not controlling any strategic highways or invasion routes of the capital, it was not a premium value target. Also the high numbers of civilians meant that the government did not want a bloody fight and hoped the terrorists would negotiate a surrender and withdrawal (just as in Aleppo). Now the government has removed more pressing threats to the city for one thing while the terrorists have not just not surrendered, they have continued to commit, and intensified, attacks on the civilians of the capital. The two different reasons combine to make it the right time to eliminate them, and by this stage of the war the desire for vengeance on the cannibals and their supporters is so high that they cannot and should not expect any mercy anyway.

  9. Nah, the US/Israel/UK Axis of evil will it going for a decade.

  10. WJ says:

    US, Saudi and Israeli aid has been very helpful to the jihadi maniacs trying to overthrow Assad. Regardless, it appears that the homicidal, head chopping swine have lost the war.

    It’s about time for another fake chemical weapon attack or maybe the pundits will pull out the really heavy hitter, apparently the most vile weapon on the face of the earth the “barrel bomb”

    • LOL: Ace
  11. El Dato says:

    As Falluja shows, it is difficult to pacify the suburbs if there are angry people sitting in it. Somebody strung up a couple US Marines, they flattened the whole area with extreme prejudice as payback, the sector afterwards was STILL a hotbed of Sunni radicalism.

    But no problem, White Helmets are there, probably with a stash of chlorine.

  12. Ace says:

    The war in Syria is not a civil war. Syria has been invaded by thousands of foreigners supported, financed and/or supplied by the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Norway, israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, inter alia. It’s naked aggression against a sovereign state that is a threat to no one.

  13. Randal says:

    As is usually the case in such sieges, the best way to bring peace to this location is for government forces to defeat the rebels as quickly as possible. And as usual, the voices in the US sphere claiming the loudest agonised outrage at the suffering are the very same ones trying to make it as hard as possible for the government to restore order.

    Here’s the pathetic Merkel yesterday displaying her murderous hypocrisy, which is fully in line with the murderous hypocrisy of the other US poodles, Macron and May:

    “What we see at the moment, the terrible events in Syria, the fight of a regime not against terrorists, but against its own people, the killing of children, the destruction of hospitals, all this is a massacre which has to be condemned,” Merkel told the Bundestag parliament in Berlin in a debate on Thursday.

    Merkel calls for European response to Syria, takes flak from opposition

    The old bag lady wasn’t making the same fuss when Iraqi troops were doing the same stuff to Iraqis in Mosul, of course. After all, they were doing it with the approval of Washington.

    As for the “takes flak from opposition” bit in the headline, it’s noticeable that the opposition they quoted mostly came people wanting even more aggressive “humanitarian” murderousness from Merkel and her American bosses.

    Omid Nouripour, a Green Party MP and member of both the foreign and defense committees in the Bundestag, told DW that it was not enough for Merkel to simply condemn the situation in Syria.

    “It’s not enough to say ‘we are condemning it,’” Nouripour said. “I would love to see the chancellor talking about the Russians, addressing the Russians and asking them to take responsibility for their own votes in the UN Security Council.”

    “The question from the other sides, from the US, from the Russians, has always been: ‘What is the European position?’ And we’ve never had one. This is why we’ve been sidelined.

    This dual loyalty Green airhead seemingly hasn’t noticed that the US position, far from “what is the European position?”, is: “Fuck the EU“. And the Russian position is much the same, just in more grownup language.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  14. El Dato says:

    > Omid Nouripour

    Diversity MP.

    ‘What is the European position?’ And we’ve never had one. This is why we’ve been sidelined.

    Iranian expat representative, please.

    There is only one position, and is the NATO position. Which is the US position. Too bad.

    • Replies: @Randal
  15. Randal says:
    @El Dato

    Iranian expat representative, please.

    Iranian expat certainly but functionally a traitor to his own real nation (as opposed to his adopted one) based upon his political positions.

    There is only one position, and is the NATO position. Which is the US position. Too bad.

    That’s Washington’s wish, certainly.

    But in practice it’s true that Germany’s and Europe’s position in relation to Washington involves being bent hard over, so long as the likes of May, Macron and Merkel, or any of their likely replacements, are in office.

  16. APT says:

    East Ghouta has been under seige since 2013.

  17. APT says:

    Keep bombing children, that’s Russia’s challenger, the country that can’t even have an olympics team, has to resort to more lies, nothing one can believe with their unpopular president that would not be elected in free elections. SDF Kurds won Raqqa, ISIS flees to Syrian regime controlled areas. It is our business, if their refugees are flooding the West.

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