Syria: The end of the beginning |


The end of the beginning

What could be the consequences of the battle for Aleppo

Tuesday, November 29, the Russian defense Ministry announced about reaching the turning point in the battle for Aleppo and liberation in the Eastern part of the city for day 14 blocks with a population of over 80 thousand people. According to military experts, the campaign, the prize of which is the once-largest city of Syria, is nearing an end. What’s next?

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The battle for the crossroads

As “” has already noted, Aleppo is one of the main objects in any war for control of Syria and the Levant, along with Damascus. The city at the intersection of strategic communications, has always attracted people over and over again recovering from another war and raids. In the ongoing civil war in Syria, the role of the Aleppo — possession and its surroundings means control over the most important section of the Northern border of Syria and the possibility of choosing the direction for further advance.

For fighters, at least during the period of active support of the Islamists Ankara control over much of Aleppo has meant and unimpeded assistance from Turkey. The Syrian government, to regain the city and Stripping the province, will cut the positions of the assorted groups of fighters that not only will allow to cut even the existing supply channels, but also greatly increase the chances of Damascus on the favorable outcome of the war as a whole.

But what constitutes a favorable outcome? In principle, taking into account local specifics, those could be considered a saving on the whole territory of Syria (or at least most of it) of government that guarantee basic human rights and protecting the established in this country over many centuries of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. Certainly, the secular authoritarian “officer mode” of the house of Assad is responsible for this task in much more than Islamic theocracy with terrorist tint.

With usapravachol the point of view of interests of Russia, the preservation of the secular state in Syria it is necessary to slow the further spread of radical Islamism, primarily near Russia’s borders, and to preserve Russia’s influence in the region, which is essential to the security of the country.

The main opponents of the government troops and loyal volunteers Damascus to Aleppo, Islamists, like from “Dzhebhat EN-Nusra” and other organizations, including “Dzhebhat al-Islam” and groups of the so-called “free Syrian army”. The whole campaign of 2016 is accompanied by a fierce political battles about who should be considered “bad Islamists” and who the “moderate opposition.” Numerous local truces and political consultations to resolve this issue to no avail.The West refused to distinguish the Islamists such as the “An-Nusra” and moderate, defining as “opposition” all opponents of Damascus in the area. Moscow and Damascus in these conditions did not want to understand the varieties of opponents, arguing that those who fight on the side of the Islamists and behave like Islamists, is the Islamists. The political process on the ground this does not stop the Syrian army and the Russian center for conciliation of the parties to continue to support the corridors of the combat zone have already reached several thousand fighters.

The greatest results were achieved on November 28-29, several areas of the city occupied almost without a fight, and the North “pot” has ceased to exist. Stop resisting the terrorists, their families and supporters have thrown at the buses submitted in advance to another controlled by opponents of Bashar al-Assad in the city of Idlib. Just from the combat zone went from 500 to 3000 people (if you count with sympathetic non-combatants).

This suggests that in the battle actively used by both military and political means: spontaneously organize such surrender, evacuation would be impossible. Obviously, the success of Moscow on the political front in Syria where more visible than in the debate with the Western countries — given calls to collect the UN security Council and even to enter against Russia once the sanctions in connection with the events around Aleppo.

The meaning of these calls is unclear — the events of recent months have shown that the truce with the humanitarian objectives do not lead to anything other than restoring the combat capabilities of Islamist groups and prolonging fights. The best humanitarian aid would be the liberation of the city from terrorists and the subsequent restoration of its normal functioning, preferably with minimal collateral damage.

This can be achieved both military and political means, but both are not so easy. Negotiations on the delivery of and output in other regions are always with great tension because of mutual distrust. As intermediaries they usually involved the officers of the Russian military intelligence seconded to the Center of the reconciliation of the parties.Agreements of this kind have to agree with many of the warlords, the multi-hop and heterogeneous Syrian military leadership, the allied troops of the Lebanese, Palestinians and Iranians informing the Russian advisers to the Syrian headquarters, the management of artillery units, and aviation groups. The mere fact that the efficiency of this scheme indicates the high quality control process both in Moscow and in place.

General battle

In Aleppo turned the most decisive battle between government forces and Islamists, which is the inevitable to decide the fate of the war have repeatedly said experts. It needed to divert a significant portion of the government forces, which inevitably affected the operations in other provinces, in particular, becoming one of the causes of the failure of the June offensive of government troops in Raqqa. Government troops were stopped by the forces of the terrorist group “Islamic state” near the town of es-Saur.The battles were widely used suicide bombers in cars and armored vehicles, including infantry fighting vehicles.

The futility of the offensive against ISIS, regardless of its direction, without a preliminary decision of “Aleppo of the question” the correspondent “” military experts announced in the spring. However, the solution to this issue was difficult as the friction in the joint Russian-Syrian-Iranian military planning, and Moscow’s unwillingness to go to drastic measures in Aleppo because of the inevitable in this case, the deterioration of relations with Western countries.

Today the situation has changed. First, apparently, in Damascus, understood the futility and potential danger is not coordinated with its key ally “military initiative”. Secondly, Moscow seems much less is the question “what will the West say?” otherwise activity in Aleppo would have looked differently. Although Moscow and Damascus are trying to mitigate the consequences of the battle for the civilian population, organizing temporary accommodation of refugees, medical assistance and food. Evening of November 29 from Russia in Aleppo, departed by air mobile hospital of the Ministry of defense of Russia.

A number of experts are already comparing the battle for Aleppo the battle of Stalingrad (of course, adjusted for scale and age). Of course, any analogy limps. But in any case it can be stated that the efforts were adequate to the task, and if nothing extraordinary happens in the next few weeks of active fighting in the city end. Then the question arises about the continuation of hostilities in other parts of the country. As for comparisons of Aleppo with other battles, it immediately comes to mind is the campaign of the Western coalition capture of Mosul, is clearly slipping.Analysis of causes of failure will leave to specialists, but among the obvious are the lack of coordination between the allies. The United States tried to turn the campaign into a personal victory, hoping to take the city only forces prepared their parts of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Suspension of active operations of the volunteer Shiite militias and the insufficient level of combat training of the Iraqi military is not allowed to perform this task.

Do not go there, go here

Even if Aleppo in the coming days/weeks will return full control of Damascus, to predict the further course of the war is not easy. One option is offensive in Idlib, capable of, among other things, to eliminate the pressure still exerted by the militants in the Northern province of Hama. Other retry decisive defeat of Islamic state in Eastern parts of Syria, but this will require solving a number of important intermediate objectives. First, Damascus will somehow answer the question about the forms of interaction with the Kurds “suspended” until better times.Otherwise, the offensive against ISIS will be impossible — because the Americans will not leave attempts to increase its influence in Kurdistan.

Secondly, in case of victory in Aleppo Syrian troops soon will inevitably come in direct contact with Turkish, and here arises the problem of preventing direct collision between Damascus and Ankara, the consequences of which can be quite unpredictable, especially given the statements Erdogan on the need to overthrow Assad. Thirdly, we can hardly assume that “the Heffalump would be looking up at the sky,” and the Gulf monarchies that support the Islamists, as well as the Western coalition, the Islamists do not support, but which the victory of the official Damascus is not completely necessary, will not take any retaliatory action, including indirect. Of the immediate potential effects of the expect attempts to strike militants from the outside — in any case the political activity of Western countries, as a rule, is accompanied by activation of the Islamists.

The strengths of the Damascus in these circumstances can be several circumstances, including smooth interaction with the allied groups, including previously owned by the opposition, have grown in recent months thanks to the Russian support level of training Syrian troops.And of course, the active support of the Russian Armed forces: spetsnaz operations, the aviation group, with bases in Syria and the Russian territory, the work of artillery (both Russian and control the actions of the Syrian), a missile strikes the fleet, logistics, information support — both through technical means, including satellite constellation and drones and through intelligence on the ground.

It is obvious that Russia is the only major powers who are able to establish a real interaction on the spot, and engaged in the political process. The role of the Russian mediators from the centre of reconciliation yet to be explored, but the pacification of tens and hundreds of large and small settlements and entire districts — is evident. Developed over decades of Soviet/Russian influence in Syria’s political capital allows intermediaries to achieve success in the negotiations where local representatives of opposition are not ready to speak directly with the official Damascus.

The question of political settlement in Syria is still open — it is still unclear what limits and with what form of government the country will emerge from the war continued for six years. How long the war will last — is also still unknown. But if we draw an analogy with the Second world war, it is quite possible that it is now appropriate to recall one of the famous phrases of Winston Churchill, which he delivered on 10 November 1942, summing up the victory of the allies in the second battle of El Alamein:

— This is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But, it’s probably the end of the beginning.


Stauffenberg was Right!

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