Syria Daily: EU Divided Over Sanctions v. Russia

PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi “No link of peace deal to sanctions on Russia”



Video: Assad — Injured Omran is “Faked Al Qa’eda Propaganda”

European Union leaders have condemned Russia for its bombing of civilians in Syria’s largest city Aleppo, but they have divided over taking any action against Moscow.

Britain, France, and Germany are pressing for sanctions on the Russians, whose attacks alongside the Assad regime have killed more than 600 civilians in the past month.

But Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the sanctions would not force Moscow to negotiate a peace settlement.

“We should do everything possible for a peace deal in Syria but it’s difficult to imagine that this should be linked to further sanctions on Russia,” Renzi told reporters after a late-night dinner in Brussels.

While condemning the bombing, the EU leaders removed language from an earlier draft threatening sanctions on Russian individuals and companies linked to President Assad.

EU Foreign Ministers also refrained on Monday from mentioning sanctions on Moscow, limiting themselves to the possible addition of about 20 regime figures to a sanctions blacklist.

Russia and the regime imposed a siege in late August on opposition areas of Aleppo, where there are about 275,000 residents. Russian-regime airstrikes resumed on September 19, initially with the destruction of a UN aid convoy and then with incessant bombing of the opposition districts.

France and Spain introduced a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and suspension of military overflights. Russia vetoed the measure to prevent implementation.

Moscow announced a “pause” in the bombing on Tuesday, but has also sent a tough signal with the movement of its Northern fleet — including Russia’s only aircraft carrier — to the Mediterranean.

See Syria Feature: “Russia Bringing in Bombers for Final Aleppo Assault”

A Russian-regime proclamation of “exit corridors” for residents and rebels from east Aleppo showed almost no sign of movement on Thursday.

An East Aleppo-based “contributor” to The National said several hundred residents gathered at a crossing point in the Bustan Al Qasr neighborhood on Thursday morning, but dispersed after the area was hit by mortar and sniper fire, resulting in injuries.

The Assad regime and opposition blamed each other for the attacks.

Russia-Regime “Crimes of Historic Proportions”

The UN’s human rights chief said on Friday that the Russian-regime siege and bombing of Aleppo “constitute crimes of historic proportions“.

In a speech by video to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva,, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for the crisisto be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, said war crimes would continue to be documented. He appealed to the government of President Bashar al Assad to provide information on violations.

Turkish-Backed Rebels Begin Offensive v. Kurdish Militia in Northern Aleppo

Turkish-supported rebels have begun attacks on the Kurdish militia YPG and its allies across a 12-km (7.5-mile) front in northern Aleppo Province.

The rebel units — including the Free Syrian Army and backed by Turkish artillery — have launched the assaults near the villages of Bir as-Sabah and Umm Housh.

The area is southeast of the town of Tel Rifaat, captured by the YPG in February from the rebels. Earlier this week, FSA fighters promised to retake the town, giving the YPG 48 hours to withdraw.

Turkey carried out its first airstrikes, alongside shelling, of YPG positions on Wednesday.

See Syria Daily, Oct 20: Turkish Warplanes Bomb Kurdish Militia for 1st Time


Map: Yalla Souriya

The YPG General Command in the Afrin canton in northwest Syria has called on people to rally “in the defense of the region against the Daesh [Islamic State] gangs, their supporter Turkey, and all other threats during this historical resistance”.

Opposition Refuse UN Proposal for East Aleppo Evacuation

The opposition Syrian National Coalition and Free Syrian Army have rejected a UN proposal to evacuate wounded from east Aleppo.

The groups expressed concern about the lack of assurances that “the injured and those who accompany them will not be prosecuted and jailed by the regime”. THey also noted that the arrangement does not included aid to the besieged districts.

The Coalition and FSA said the “UN is under pressure by the regime and Russia to implement their policy to displace civilians rather than supporting them in their areas”.

A demonstration on Thursday in east Aleppo rejects Russian-regime pressure to leave:


Video: White Helmets Rescue Teenager After 5 Hours

White Helmets rescuers dig a 16-year-old boy out from rubble after five hours, following a Russian-regime bombing of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib Province on Thursday night:

The rest of the family were killed in the attack.

Regime: We Will Shoot Down Turkish Warplanes

The Syrian military said on Thursday that it will shoot down Turkish warplanes if they enter the country’s airspace.

The General Command denounced Turkey’s first airstrikes on positions of the Kurdish militia YPG in northern Syria, calling them “naked aggression” and claiming — without evidence — that “more than 150 civilians fell victim to this criminal attack”.

“Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available,” the staetment assserted.

On Wednesday, Turkish jets carried out 26 airstrikes on 18 YPG positions, in villages taken by the Kurdish militia from Syrian rebels early this year. The Turkish military claimed that it killed 160 to 200 YPG fighters.

As the Islamic State retreats in northwest Syria, a race is developing between Turkish-supported rebels, the YPG, and the regime for areas of Aleppo Province.

One of the key objectives is thw town of al-Bab, a town about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Aleppo.


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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. A salute to the brave people of East Aleppo, who came out yesterday to protest against the threats against them to leave their city or carry on being bombed.
    And who demonstrated to the world powers that they can drop bombs, murder and starve innocents, plot and scheme in their conferences and lie through their teeth, but they can’t even bend the will of the syrians in Aleppo never mind break it. For all their force and might, they are powerless.

    • which can acer as civilians after 5 years of loyalty to the revolution … passeth at the hands of the regime will risk being detained in detention scepters of systematic death (better to die than live on your knees feet)

    • A salute to the brave people of East Aleppo, who came out yesterday to protest against the threats against them to leave their city or carry on being bombed.

      You mean friends and family of the moderate head choppers right?

        • If we see tommorow new pictures with dead children it’s because their parents did not take them to safety!
          Enyone in his right mind would leave an area witch is heavelly bambarded and shelled !

          • Its a simple basic concept which you tend to forget or dont understand. ITS THEIR HOMES not some shia’s iranian milita or for the regime to loot and rearrange ethnically. Basically 200k civilians have to leave their lives behind beacuse someone 10000km away decided if not he gonna raze to the ground the whole city. Kudos to them to resist and say no way. I would like to see you if someone threatens you at gun point to leave your house to him what you would do. I am sure you would fight it out, like anyone else with some self esteem left.

            • Basically 200k civilians have to leave their lives behind beacuse someone 10000km away decided if not he gonna raze to the ground the whole city. Kudos to them to resist and say no way.

              If they have decided to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of material possessions, that’s one thing, but for those who have children, it’s the epitome of irresponsibility.

              If it’s the difference between being alive tomorrow or dead, then there is only one sane choice.

              I take it Caligola that you believe all the refugees are a bunch of spineless cowards for choosing not to stay

            • HEad chopping fanboys live in a parallel universe. Behold the courage and democracy at work.

              East Aleppo civilians ‘shot at’ by rebels to prevent them leaving during truce
              “Several residents inside east Aleppo reported that people trying to cross into the West were shot at by mortar fire. ITV news crews reporting from West Aleppo said they saw rebel mortar rockets targeting checkpoints “scatter people as they fled for their lives”. ”

  2. Once you are offered a way escape bombings and shelling and you reject it.. then you take responsability for everything that fallows…

    • Hmmmm. Yes, if you refuse to surrender your human dignity to Assad, then the torture, murder, and terror bombing are all your fault.

      • what’s amazing is that these same crowd who are praising the families of the moderate head choppers for refusing to leave would also praise Israeli humanity for sending text messages to buildings in Gaza warning them to evacuate 3 mins prior to bombing it.

  3. The EU is so weak and the economy on teetering on the brink of collapse, that none of the states can afford more economic hardship from hypocritical sanctions which clearly will produce no results anyway.

      • Obama and Putin won’t lift a finger for YPG , they are at the mercy of turkish air force and artilery

        and soon Clinton will take over , wouldn’t be surprised she will make plans with allies to screw Putin even before she takes effective office

        • My 2 cents. Putin is granted no turkish interference in Aleppo whilst Erdogan wins back a free hand against the Kurds West of Marea. The same which the russians helped directly months ago against the FSA. So basically the kurds who screwed up the rebels in Aleppo will themselves be screwed up from a once thought ally which is now helping a surrogate of that same FSA which they fighted against. Whilst the rebels inside Aleppo remain screwed anyway you look at it. Unfortunately. Guess we will have to wait to see what the future plans of the turkish backed FSA will be when they finish with the kurds (if they do). But i am afraid that whats reported in the tweet below will never happen (see line one of my post)

        • and soon Clinton will take over , wouldn’t be surprised she will make plans with allies to screw Putin even before she takes effective office

          Doubtful. Her first order of business will be to invite Netanyahu to the White House to take the US/Israeli relationship to the next level, which probably means she’ll be giving Bobbi a lap dance.

  4. FSA News ‏@FSAPlatform 19m19 minutes ago

    #Breaking | ##EuphratesShield

    #FSA forces take control of Herbil, Sheikh Eisa & Im Housh from Kurdish militia & are advancing to Tel Rifaat.

  5. Rumours are that rebels in South-west Aleppo are delaying their offensive because rebels taking part in Euphrates Shield are waiting for the Turks to capture Bab first, once captured it’s assume rebels in south-west Aleppo will time their attacks once the rebels in Bab push down south to attack regime positions (e.g. Nubol Zahraa – not to capture it but to tie down enough regime fighters there so rebels in Handarat can push up north to re-capture areas lost) in the north. If true then I hope rebels do the following:
    A) Learn to switch off the GPS tracking device on their communication devices or at least put a 48hour block on all such devices from being used.
    B) Rebel use (and if not have them nor can get them from the Gulf states or Turks then create one) jammers for 48 hours to block the comms of regime fighters (no Andre am not suggesting rebels should block Russian equipment in Latakia or Damascus rather am suggesting they block the crappy comms the IRGC and Afghan Shiite fighters in Aleppo city have) so Russian fighters can’t be called in quickly.
    C) That they DO NOT commit every battalion on every front but rather they keep one third of troops in reserve for operational (ie they have spare troops to open up or re-enforce a front in another part of the city – e.g. they deploy 1000 troops +artillery + armour to achieve this) and tactical (ie they have spare troops to capture additional buildings in a particular neighbourhood or to continue the fighting through the night – eg. they deploy 300 men +mortar +machine-guns to achieve this) purposes.
    D) They rebels in southern Aleppo prioritise the capture of Mount Azaan (to isolate Haider) and Mount Idris (so to bring Nayrab airbase within artillery shelling distance).
    E) To remember once they achieve their initial objectives (eg, capture Water Treatment facility and Mount Azaan) to starting fighting in a more efficient way (e.g. to aim to capture entrenched regime buildings/positions not to hold permanently – the Russian jets will stop rebels from doing this – but to capture it long enough to booby-trap it so can trigger it remotely once regime fighters re-enter that building then counter-attack again to booby-trap it again) this means capturing areas to create traps for their infantry (e.g. booby trapped buildings) and vehicles (IED’s) that way regime KIA/WIA is 5 or 6 times higher then rebel’s and that is slows down the movement of regime troops/vehicles so much that regime can’t re-enforce one part of neighbourhood as quickly as the rebels.
    F) Instead of making their artillery units (and I include mortar units also) a part-time group where part-time riflemen sometimes bring their mortar pieces with each unit doing their own thing with their own different targets firing at different times of the day make your artillery units one team with a full time staff (ie fall time staff specialised in the task of shelling – e.g. you have mortar/light-artillery/heavy-artillery) trained and led by one leader (ie a general artillery commander) who decides (after consulting battalion commander) and gives the same map coordinates (to soften regime defences so the battalion commander can storm it more easily), same timetable (so as to both maintain surprise and allows artillery pieces to do their job before the Russian jets arrive) and each team member given a target to meet (ie. a certain number of shells fired accurately per minute, artillery commander can time them on his stopwatch – e.g. drone guided mortar team accurately hits regime building/infantry whilst firing 5 to 6 shells a minute).
    G) Finally when planning which buildings to storm use google-earth to plan (ie calculate how many rebel fighters and armour units to use and where) and train (e.g. week before simulate that assault using buildings the same size and shape as the one to be attacked – Assad didn’t order buildings in Aleppo to be built that are different from one neighbourhood to another as that be too expensive so use this fact) how to capture it quickly and how to defend it with a minimal (after calculating the least number of fighters needed to hold an area – use experience with Ramouseh for this) number of men. And not just the buildings to be captured in the first phase of the offensive but the 2nd and 3rd (e,g, after finishing the planning of capture of Water Treatment Facility then start training for the capture of the two neighbourhoods next to it).

    • ALEPPO, Syria — There weren’t any bombs today, or the day before. That’s good, because it means you can leave your apartment, see your friends, try to pretend life is normal. Still, you don’t know when the attacks will resume or how much worse they’ll be when they do.

      The war here has been going on for more than four years. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and thousands more are dead, including many of my friends. My wife and I are among about 250,000 people who are trapped here in the besieged eastern section of the city. If you want to stay alive in Aleppo, you have to find a way to keep yourself safe from explosions or starvation.

      Here’s how.

      First of all, to survive the many different kinds of airstrikes, shells, rockets, phosphorus bombs and cluster bombs, you’ll need to live on the lower floors of a building. They’re less likely to be hit than the upper floors are. When a smaller bomb lands on top of a building, it often takes out just the top two or three stories. A lot of people are living on the lower floors of buildings whose upper stories have been destroyed. Many of these residents moved into apartments left vacant by people who fled the city. My home is on the second floor of a six-story building, so I might be safe. But I might not: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Russian military launched a coordinated assault on Aleppo last month, and in the most recent airstrikes, the jets have been using a new kind of bomb that demolishes the whole building.

      Stay out of any rooms near the street. Because light in window attracts bombers or snipers, I keep our front rooms empty or use them for storage. My wife and I seclude ourselves in interior rooms. We have no electricity, which means it’s usually dark. Before the war, I was studying Islam at the University of Aleppo, but the campus is in a government-controlled neighborhood, and I can’t get there anymore, so I dropped out. Now we almost never leave the apartment. If we’re going to die, we prefer to be together when it happens.
      A boy sits on a bicycle in front of damaged shops after an airstrike on the rebel held al-Qaterji neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria September 25, 2016. (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

      If you have kids, they’ll have to stay off the streets most of the time, or they’ll be killed. Occasionally, they can go outdoors to play or get to school, but then their parents have to listen carefully for the sound of warplanes or shelling — and these days, for cluster bombs, which are even more dangerous. Schools and hospitals have been moving underground for several years, and almost every neighborhood has an underground school operating now. Not all of the children go;some parents think it’s too risky to send them. Some families live near the schools, though, and they let their kids go if it’s not too long a walk. All the teachers are local volunteers. They are our neighbors and friends, so parents know that their children are safe. Under the building across the street from mine, a school opened recently, managed by a man who lives there. All the children in my neighborhood are going. It is called al-Hikma, which means “Wisdom” in English.

      Maybe you have a car. You’ll have a hard time getting gas for it. If you’re hoping to keep it from being blown up or damaged by shrapnel, you might store it inside an empty garage or shop. Open the windows, too. Otherwise, the glass may crack from the pressure of bombs exploding nearby.

      Listen for scouting planes, which sound different from fighter jets on bombing runs. The scouts fly lower, and they make a constant buzzing sound. If you hear them, you’ll know that shells will be falling soon, bringing death with them. If you do go outside, make sure you don’t wind up in a group of more than 20 people, or you might attract a plane to target your area. Scouting runs were particularly dangerous in the summer, when there weren’t any clouds to obscure pilots’ vision. But they’re also bad on clear days in the winter.

      Going out at night is especially risky, because you can’t see the planes coming overhead, and you have to drive without headlights so you aren’t spotted from the air and targeted. One night, I was driving through my neighborhood when I suddenly felt pressure in my ears, and the windows of my car cracked. It was an airstrike less than 100 meters behind me.

      Unlike the scouting planes, you won’t always hear fighter jets coming. Sometimes, you hear their bombs or missiles only after the planes have flown past. If you listen closely, you can tell the difference between Syrian planes and Russian ones: You hear the Syrian planes before they’re in the area. Russian planes are quieter, and their rockets are more accurate.
      People look at the sky fearing an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Myassar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

      Staying cooped up at home all the time will get boring, and you’ll eventually want to go out to try to live some semblance of your normal life — to see friends, to attempt to find food. People want to go out. But if you leave, remember that you might not make it back. Whenever I run into friends or neighbors, I keep in mind that I might never see them again. Once, I ran into a neighbor who was a blacksmith. I asked him to make me a new hand-powered generator. He said he’d do it, but he died the same day in a cluster-bomb attack on our neighborhood.

      When the bombardment is heaviest, you’ll start to worry that you might lose more of your friends. Call them to check in on them. If you see them, when you say goodbye, tell them: “Take care of yourself. Maybe I won’t see you again.”

      You’ll be able to tell which days are safer. If there are peace talks going on in Geneva, there will be fewer bombing runs that day. This past week, the regime and the Russians announced a cease-fire. But that has made everyone afraid — we don’t know what’s going to come next. Maybe the attacks will be worse than before, when they start again. That’s what happened last time. And the scouting planes continue flying overhead, day and night, even during the cease-fire.

      Hearing bombs going off all the time is hard. They’re so noisy — the sound alone could drive you crazy. So now I try to ignore it. If bombs detonate nearby, try to forget them, try to be calm. Go save your neighbors instead of panicking. If you aren’t calm, you will really go mad.

      It’s so easy to lose your mind here. You might go out one day to look for food and come back to find that your building has been destroyed and your family killed. I’ve seen people standing in front of bombed-out buildings, screaming and crying in disbelief. More and more people have lost their homes, and now they’re living on the streets asking for money. Before the war, they never imagined they would be beggars.
      People inspect the damage as a civilian walks near bloodstains at a market hit by air strikes in Aleppo’s rebel-held al-Fardous district, Syria October 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

      Even people who still have their homes struggle to cope. A friend of mine killed himself with a machine gun after another friend of ours died. (That friend had been at home when a small bomb blew up nearby; shrapnel lodged in his brain and killed him.) My friend shot himself in the chest. I think it is more common in Western society for people to commit suicide, but here in Syria, it is very rare. In Islam, it’s a terrible sin.

      If you aren’t killed by airstrikes or shells, your big worry will be food. Before the siege, there was enough for everyone. But now a lot of poor people don’t have enough money to buy food, because there aren’t jobs anymore, so every neighborhood has young volunteers whose responsibility is to get food and other supplies for their communities. Families that still have a father are lucky, because his mission is to get food and other supplies every day.

      Bread is getting rarer and more and more pricey on the black market, because the economy has been destroyed. The Syrian pound is getting cheaper and cheaper against the dollar, which makes everything more expensive. There is some rice and pasta available from aid organizations. Some of them give it away, some of them sell it. A few families sell their extra food. But there is no meat, no milk, no yogurt.

      Maybe you’ll try to grow vegetables in your garden. In my neighborhood, people are growing eggplant, parsley and mint. Many gardens have become burial grounds, though, because there isn’t room anywhere else to bury dead bodies after four years of war. But if the alternative is starving to death, you might not mind eating food that’s been grown among corpses.
      A boy plays with a bicycle past damaged buildings in the rebel held Seif al-Dawla neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria October 6, 2016. (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

      Other commodities are hard to find, too. We have serious trouble getting hold of fuel or gas to cook with, so we use wood or some kind of dirty diesel. This is really bad for everyone’s health, especially the children’s.

      Hope — or pray — that you don’t have to go to the hospital. They’re absolutely miserable. I don’t know how the doctors and nurses can stand all the blood, bones and bowels all over the floor. The smell is awful. Patients who can’t leave are constantly screaming in pain. Several weeks ago, I was shot in the hand by a sniper, and I have some broken bones. So I have to go to the hospital once a week to have my bandages changed. I can’t bear to be there for more than half an hour.

      Why am I still here?

      Aleppo is my city. Syria is my country. This is my principle, really, and I insist on it.

      People here are suffering because we want freedom. Before the war started, I joined a demonstration against Assad’s regime — and I was arrested, beaten and detained in a tiny cell for five days for it. The longer the demonstrations went on, the more violent the regime’s reactions were. Eventually, the Free Syrian Army tried to launch a revolution, and the war began.

      After all that — the beatings, the airstrikes, the war, the bombings — I want to live in a free Aleppo. I want to stay here, where I was born, all my life. It’s my right.

  6. This old (and only? Am I correct?) Russian coal-powered air-craft carrier is just asking to be TOWied and what’s more if a rebel group were to do this (it’d only need one clean shot) not only would they have done a favour to the civilians of Aleppo city but also a HUGE FAVOUR to NATO also:
    Imagine if Russia lost it’s only air-craft carrier? It’d lose it’s ability to project force beyond the North Sea and Black Sea for at least a decade. It would be catastrophic. If the Houthis can pull this off why not rebels? Though mind you Houthis did have anti-ship missiles.

    • One infiltrating ATGM 2-man team on the Latakia cost to pull this off, rebels did this with the high-profile hit of a regime figure in Latakia by paying off a regime soldier to this so the precedence is already there.

    • TOWs are wire-guided. Guidance states not to fire over water as it would mess with the wire signal (which is very thin and not insulated). I also don’t think they would have a great effect on a large ship. But I’ve said in this forum if you get a good shot over water the rebels should take it. Just lock the system down and see what happens.

        • Your continued defense and denial of Moscow’s war criminal campaign against hospitals is heartwarming. LOL. Kind of hard to spin it when there are tons of pictures and videos of hospitals being repeatedly hit by the corrupt and dastardly Russians. These are well documented. Only a fool would continue to try to lie about them.

          • Kind of hard to spin it when there are tons of pictures and videos of hospitals being repeatedly hit by the corrupt and dastardly Russians.

            Not really. The evidence kinda falls apart if you continue to insist the the last hospital has been destroyed or the last doctor killed. That can only be true once, after which logic would dictate and subsequent claims are BS or the the previous claims were.

            Only a fool would not understand that some simple fact.

    • One factor complicating Russia’s ability to take the city is Turkey, or more precisely Turkey’s allies. Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria, Operation EUPHRATES SHIELD, had two aims: (1) push IS away from its border, cutting off its access to the outside world, and replace it with moderate rebels; (2) prevent the Kurdish PYD/YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK, establishing a contiguous statelet from Hasaka to Efrin. Both objectives have succeeded, and Ankara appears to have acted under some kind of modus vivendi with Russia. As the Turkish-backed rebels push south, however, the Russian-Turkish entente cordiale is likely to be disrupted, and there is little either side can do about it.

      EUPHRATES SHIELD swept IS from Dabiq on Sunday and is now moving toward IS-held al-Bab. If the pocket around al-Bab is cleared of IS, it will remove the strategic depth the regime has in enforcing the siege of Aleppo, and rebel-held areas will bump up directly against regime-held areas. The rebels who signed on to EUPHRATES SHIELD did not abandon the conflict that defines them—the rebellion against Assad—and have made quite plain that the ability to reach, and definitively break the siege of, Aleppo city was a tacit condition of helping Ankara clear the IS menace from its borders.

      At one level, therefore, the question is one of time: can the rebels reach Aleppo city before the pro-Assad coalition take it? And at another level, the doubts remain about the pro-regime coalition’s capacity to take the city.

      The deep-rooted nature of the opposition could be seen during this synthetic ceasefire in the last few days: with this slightest lull in violence, just as in the spring, the peaceful, nationalistic, anti-regime protests were revitalized.
      It is possible that an indiscriminate campaign of total slaughter on the model of Hama in 1982 or Grozny in 1999 might give some short-term sense of “victory” to the pro-Assad coalition, but this would be an illusion.

      The perennial problem of the Assad regime’s lack of manpower, as forensically explained recently by Tobias Schneider, means it likely cannot hold Aleppo city, even if it can take it. There are severe structural limits to how far the regime-held areas can be expanded. The most that a Hama/Grozny-style campaign can achieve is to degrade the nationalist rebels enough that they become totally dependent on al-Qaeda, which would be a political victory. But that is doubtful. The nationalist rebels in the area are numerous, and with Turkish support there is now a real, on-the-ground alternative. Indeed, Turkey’s intervention has been a boon all round for the anti-jihadist cause, damaging IS physically and politically isolating al-Qaeda within the insurgency.

      The West’s unwillingness to complicate the pro-Assad coalition’s policy of mass-homicide and -expulsion will undoubtedly allow the infliction of many more deaths in Aleppo over the coming months than if the population was protected from aerial bombardment or provided the weapons to protect itself. Frederic Hof has noted that “the West has protected not a single Syrian inside Syria,” and President Obama’s term in office will likely conclude with that record intact. But the Russians are unlikely, despite their clear desire, to be able to conquer Aleppo city before the end of January. And if the Turkish-supported rebels reach regime-held areas within the next eight-to-ten weeks and Hillary Clinton enacts her stated policy of a no-fly zone in reasonably short order, then the battlefield might look very different in six months.

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