Ramadan has begun in Syria, a land that could use the prayers of the faithful now more than ever. Russian airstrikes are currently rocking Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, now home to the country’s largest remaining pocket of resistance from the moderate opposition. Over the past week, the BBC reports, airstrikes have claimed 126 lives in Aleppo’s opposition-held neighborhoods. Just this morning, the AP reported that 15 were killed as a hospital in rebel-held territory came under attack.
Meanwhile, in an address to the Syrian Parliament yesterday, President Assad reiterated his resolve to end the Syrian Civil War on his own terms. Reuters:
Assad said he would win back “every inch” of Syria and said Aleppo would be a graveyard for the hopes and dreams of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a major sponsor of the insurgents battling to topple him.
“Our war against terrorism is continuing,” Assad said in a speech to parliament broadcast by state TV. “As we liberated Tadmur (Palmyra) and before it many areas, we will liberate every inch of Syria from their hands. Our only option is victory, otherwise Syria will not continue.”
If there was ever any doubt that Assad was aiming for anything less than a complete Reconquista of Syrian territory, it has now vanished. No ceasefire is sacrosanct, no peace conference paramount, when such “diplomatic solutions” come into conflict with Assad’s ultimate goal.
The ceasefire agreed to in February, despite lasting longer than expected, is now in tatters. The latest round of peace talks are going nowhere, for the main opposition group withdrew two months ago. The Assad regime, with the Russians in tow, will pay lip service to the ceasefires and attend the peace talks so long as any pause in hostilities gives it time to regroup, resupply, and map out the next offensive.
Thanks to Russian backing, Assad is the only actor in Syria with the resolve, momentum, and means to achieve his goals. He’ll take by force what he cannot secure by negotiation.