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Obama's Syria Policy
Aleppo, Center of Rebel Power, Besieged

Bashar al-Assad’s forces, bolstered by Russian and Iranian support, have made major advances towards the rebel-held city of Aleppo, as CNN reports:

In the space of a few weeks, the Syrian battlefield has been transformed, the balance of forces pulverized and the prospects for peace talks — already dark — virtually extinguished. Another tide of displaced civilians converge on the Turkish border, trapped by the advance of regime forces.

Last week, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iranian and Lebanese Shia militia, severed the main road from Aleppo to the Turkish border, a narrow corridor through which the rebels and NGOs alike moved supplies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that several villages in the area were hit by airstrikes on Sunday.

A defining battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, seems imminent. Regime forces and their allies on the ground, supported by Russian bombers in the air, are tightening the noose around the eastern half of the city, still held by a coalition of rebel groups. It’s estimated some 320,000 people still live, or subsist, there — under continual bombardment.

A decisive battle or long siege for Aleppo, the devastated country’s economic center, looks set to change the balance of power in Syria and exacerbate the already-dire refugee crisis. If the regime takes Aleppo, the backbone of the non-ISIS opposition to Assad will be broken. Barring a large-scale intervention by one of the players, this will make the chances of Assad’s regime being overthrown basically nil. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States look on with trepidation, as without the ‘moderate’ rebels, the only remaining check to Iranian ambitions will be ISIS.

The timing of Assad’s offensive also points to the farcical nature of the U.N. mediated peace talks that the Obama administration has staked its hopes on. Just as Russian diplomats were supposed to be negotiating a political solution in Geneva, Russian generals were targeting airstrikes on Assad’s political opponents. Assad and Putin appear to be betting on Western and Arab timidity as they consolidate his power. Even the ongoing flood of refugees benefits Assad, as Sunnis and other ethnic and religious minorities flee his territory and minimize possible sources of dissent in the war-torn wasteland he hopes to once again rule. If he can eliminate the Syrian opposition and make the Syrian war a choice between ISIS and himself, the devil we know might be here to stay.

Kerry has apparently been on the phone with Lavrov as many as five times a day, frantically trying to negotiate a “common approach” to Syria. Somehow, the subject of a Russia-backed Assad offensive that would crush the rebels and collapse the peace talks never quite came up. Maybe the answer is to have six, seven, or eight calls with Lavrov a day? Clearly, for some in the administration, the problem is still that we aren’t negotiating enough with Russia.

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  • Gene

    Getting what you want with diplomacy relies on the belief, on the part of those with whom you are negotiating, that you have real power and will bring real power to bear if your diplomatic efforts go nowhere. This is as true in the 21st century as it was in the 9th.

  • f1b0nacc1

    Kerry can talk with the Russians as many times as he wishes….he has nothing to say, and the Russians know it.

    • iconoclast

      Maybe you meant Kerry has nothing to say worth hearing?

      “…a poor player
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.”

      • f1b0nacc1

        How sadly apt

  • Dale Fayda

    “Kerry has apparently been on the phone with Lavrov as many as five times a day, frantically trying to negotiate a “common approach” to Syria.” John Kerry – a moronic moron.

    • Andrew Allison

      The only message Kerry can deliver: have Vaseline, will travel.

  • Ellen

    AlI Lavrov needs to do is take one look at that long dog-face, and he knows there is no intelligent conversation to be had with John Kerry. I can’t decide who is a bigger disaster, Obama or Kerry? Obama is out of touch with reality because he is a narcissist. Kerry can’t see reality as it is because he is simply dumb and dumber. That’s the choice in this White House.

  • iconoclast

    The Russians, like every other player in the world, knows that they have at least another year to grab their gains before any intelligence returns to Washington DC.

  • CapitalHawk

    This breaking news from year 2 of the Arab 30 Years War – Aleppo Under Siege, Again.

  • gabrielsyme

    It is a little silly to blame either side for not having a cease-fire prior to negotiations, when arranging a cease-fire was one of the many subjects for negotiation.

  • gabrielsyme

    This is just ridiculous: “Even the ongoing flood of refugees benefits Assad, as Sunnis and other ethnic and religious minorities flee his territory…” Which other ethnic/religious minorities are you speaking of? Assad still has substantial Sunni support, and has given no indication that he intends to rule a Sunni-less Syria; and the other ethnic and especially religious minorities have long recognised they have far more to fear from Ahrar ash-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh than from Assad, whose government has always been remarkably strong on the protection of minorities.

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