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The Battle of Aleppo
Only 4 Miles Separate Syrian Rebels from Annihilation

Bashar Assad’s forces have almost completely encircled the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, leaving only a four-mile corridor open to the outside world and setting the stage for a siege that could spell the end of moderate resistance in Syria. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Tuesday, rebels and regime forces clashed in Aziza, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, while government aircraft stepped up strikes on the old city, activists said.

Simultaneously, extremists with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, are encroaching on rebel-held territory north of the city, uprooting the FSA from the countryside.

“We’re about to lose Aleppo and no one cares,” said Hussam Almarie, an FSA spokesman. “We won’t be able to recover the revolution if this happens. And we’ll lose the moderates in Syria.”

Attempts to resupply the rebels would be complicated by the fact that the Free Syrian Army is defending Aleppo alongside fighters from the more radical Islamic Front, whom the United States is reluctant to arm. It may not matter, though; odds are that any opportunity to help has passed. Nearly trapped, they are on the verge of annihilation.

If a siege ensues and ends in a government victory, expect the aftermath to be bloody, as the regime is determined to crush the rebels with the utmost brutality.

Nor will the bloodletting stop there. Assad’s forces and ISIS have tacitly cooperated against the rebels in the region, but experts expect ISIS to push hard for Aleppo once the moderates are destroyed. This could be the beginning of the battle royale of the Syrian civil war.

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  • stefanstackhouse

    By not choosing sides, we are going to end up with a side that is not of our choosing.

    • Arkeygeezer

      If we chose sides, we would still end up with a side not of our choosing. We chose sides in Libya and Egypt, and both of the sides we chose either lost or turned on us. This is a civil war with strong religious overtones. There are no “moderate rebels”. Let these people fight it out among themselves. We can then try to deal with the eventual winner.

      • Johnny May

        There are no moderate rebels left would probably be a more exact statement. Also the Libyan example shows, that an early intervention not necessarily would have lead to a stable liberal democracy but might have still caused a better outcome.

        The NATO air support in Libya significantly shortened the civil war against Gaddhafi. As we can see in Syria the longer such a war goes on, the more hardened and radicalized the individual fractions get and the more bitterness it instils in the general population. Imaging what situation Libya would now be in, if the fight against Gaddhafi had taken years, in which a group like ISIS could have asserted itself and all moderate voices drowned out between the Islamist radicals and Gaddhafi’s forces. Libya might not be Heaven, but it is certainly much less Hell than what could have been the result of this.

        • Arkeygeezer

          I think Libya is in the same Hell as Syria. They have a very weak central government that is unable to control militias in its major cities. The central government is now asking the U.N. to send in troops to quell the situation.

          • Johnny May

            A simple look at the casualty count should show you, that your assumption is wrong. The Syrian Civil War has claimed more than 250,000 lives already while the estimated deaths from Libya mount only 25,000, less than 2,000 of them after the end of the main war.

            Syria has three times the population of Libya but ten times as many dead. Obviously they are not in the same kind of hell, at least not quantitatively.

          • Arkeygeezer

            Hell is for the living to fear, not the dead. Proportionately, there are more people living in hell in Libya than Syria?

          • Johnny May

            Well, then let’s just kill every single human being on Earth, then there will be no more suffering.

  • Kevin

    Sounds like the Soviets sitting pat while the Germans destroyed the Polish Home Army 70 years ago this month.

    • Johnny May

      The difference is: The Soviets were letting the Germans crush the Polish Home Army, so they would not have to fight against them for control of Poland after the victory against Germany. I don’t see any Wester power intent on crushing Assad in order to take control of Syria herself.

      • Kevin

        I meant ISIS letting their co-belligerents, the Free Syrian Army, get crushed before they then take on Assad. In my metaphor ISIS = Soviets, Assad = Germans, moderate Syrians = Poles. The West in both cases sits by and watches their allies get slaughtered.

        • Johnny May

          Okay, then it makes sense. Though I doubt the Islamic State has any chance of crushing Assad.

  • FriendlyGoat

    I don’t think ISIS (or ISIL) intends to end up politically subject to Assad.

    • Johnny May

      No, but ISIS is playing the idiot ball. In all the confusion of alliances in the current Middle East, the only thing everyone can agree on is: ISIS must not win.

      Fighting a war of choice on four fronts (Assad, other Syrian rebels including al-Qaeda, Kurds and Shiites/Iraqi government) can under no circumstances be considered a sound strategy. Especially, as going after the Kurds and minorities in Northern Iraq has brought the reluctant NATO countries into the game. And even with only very limited involvement those can give ISIS some heavy losses.

  • gabrielsyme

    Assad’s forces and ISIS have tacitly cooperated against the rebels in the region

    This really overstates the matter, since at most it is self-interested tactical decisions that have lead to the FSA and the Islamic Front to be besieged by both ISIS on the one hand and the Syrian Army on the other. ISIS and the Syrian Army are fighting each other on multiple fronts, and the fact that ISIS has been fighting the FSA doesn’t establish cooperation between ISIS and the Syrian Army.

  • lukelea

    Given the general situation the least-bad outcome might by an Assad victory and re-assertion of Alawite control in large areas of Syria. At which point maybe Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the Kurds could ally (with American air support) to exterminate ISIS.

    • Johnny May

      Assad isn’t the solution, he is at leas part of the problem, if not one of the main sources for it. Under Assad ISIS not only gained much power, because he preferred fighting more moderate rebel groups, so that his claims of fighting a war against terror seemed more believable. No, during the American presence in Iraq, Assad actively supported insurgents in Iraq and let them use Syria as a safe haven. The Syrian border was the main entrance for foreign fighters against U.S. troops in Iraq and Assad did nothing to stop them from joining the fight.

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