The big news from Syria recently is that government troops, supported by Russian air power and Shia militias from Iran and Lebanon, are close to encircling Aleppo. Syria’s largest city was one of the epicenters of the rebellion when it began in 2011 and has been the scene of constant fighting ever since. Large parts of the city have been held by rebel forces, supported by groups in the surrounding countryside, and those areas have apparently been purged of religious minorities and anyone who supports the government. Now, with their combat power radically increased, Assad’s troops have almost cut off the rebel-held districts and it looks like the whole city will soon be back in government hands.
What does that mean for the Syrian war in general? Probably nothing good for any rebels trapped in the city when Assad’s men move in, but it’s a useful indicator of how the balance of power has shifted. Six months ago, the Syrian Army seemed to have been fought to a stalemate and the various rebels were consolidating their gains, but since the Russian Air Force piled in and militia reinforcements started arriving, the government has bounced back strongly. Whatever your views on who should rule Syria are, that changes the situation in some pretty fundamental ways.
Unless something changes radically, Assad is probably going to win the war. Retaking Aleppo is only a small step towards that, but if he can pull it off he can most likely take down any other rebel stronghold too. His most likely operational plan is to steadily work outwards from the areas the regime controls now, waiting for the Russians to pulverize the rebels from the air and then moving in his troops to mop up. It’ll get easier with time, as Syrian morale rises and that of the rebels fades; a few months from now we can expect to see rebels running at the news that the army is approaching, and air strikes probably won’t even be necessary.
There’s little chance of the rebels getting meaningful reinforcements either. Plenty of Turks have volunteered, but the Turkish-Syrian border has been a dangerous place for insurgents since the murder of a Russian pilot in December. There are other Sunni states who’d like to help some of the jihadi factions, but they’re unlikely to actually do much. The only group that can count on significant foreign support is ISIS, and they’re suffering a cash flow problem right now as Russian bombs obliterate their oil-smuggling racket.
So Assad will regain most of the country, and then he’ll run into Islamic State. That’s where it could get messy. NATO is also bombing Islamic State and, if Putin’s air force pitches in, there’s potential for accidents. The problem for NATO is that the law is on Russia’s side; they’re in Syria at the invitation of the government and we’re not. It’s going to take some smart statesmanship on the part of western leaders to find an acceptable endgame, and based on our actions in Syria so far I’m not sure most of our leaders are up to the job.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.