Consideration to geostrategic pulse 227 - Aleppo – a wound of international indifference

Aleppo – a wound of international indifference
Corneliu PIVARIU

I do not ask you to save our narrow streets, our markets, our walls, they are gone! I do not ask you to save the deceased souls, they are gone! I do not ask you to save the freedom, it's gone! I ask for something more I ask you to save the rest of our lives, our women and children…
(from a letter addressed by Aleppo’s Mayor to the President of the European Council, December 14, 2016)

Once upon a time there was a country called Syria and a famous city called Aleppo. Attested as being inhabited since the VIth millenium B.C., Aleppo was the third biggest city of the Ottoman Empire after Constantinople/Istanbul and Cairo and according to the 2004 census,  it had 2.1 million inhabitants being therefore Syria’s biggest city with an important Christian community (including an important Armenian community as well). 80% of Aleppo’s population was Sunni. When writing this paper and after more than four years of civil war, Aleppo is the most affected Syrian city as the estimations concerning the civil population remaining in the city varies between 60 000 – 100 000 inhabitants. It is appreciated that during almost five years of civil war around 200 000 people died and the material destructions are difficult to estimate as the city lyes waste even if the official propaganda of Assad’s regime shows some areas (in the West of the city that was permanently under the latter’s control) where no signs of the conflict are visible. The destructions of the universal heritage are immeasurable; 1,500 out of 1,600 of the old and famous Aleppo’s bazaar shops were destroyed.

The ruler of the presidential pallace on the Kassioun Mountain in Damascus (yet no one knows exactly if and how much of this location he still controls) and I refer here to Bashar al-Assad claims he liberated the city. In fact,  his troops had a rather pale contribution to this action (the aviation distinguished itself by indiscriminately bombing whatever targets - hospitals included) and the success is due to Russian actions and to other foreign forces – the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iranian Guardians of the Revolution and the Iraki Shia militias.

Numerous war crimes were perpetrated and the international community was incapable to put an end to this bloody episode of the Syrian civil war. It was on December the 6th only when one of the heavyweights of today’s world – Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the situation in Aleppo is a “disgrace” for the international community, a day after the UN Security Council failed to adopt a new resolution on a temporary cease- fire  allowing for the evacuation of the wounded and the sick and the access of humanitarian convoys to the rebels controlled area as Russia and China vetoed the resolution. Besides, Aleppo’s fall is not a surprise since the event that announced the situation was the rebels’ offensive on October the 28th, 2016 when their attempt to break the encirclement failed lamentably. It is likely that when this paper is sent to press the last pockets of resistance (totalling around 3-4  km2) would have been eliminated according to the declarations of the Russian Foreign Affairs minister Lavrov: “those who will not leave the city willingly will be annihilated”, while presenting  the USA’s attempt to get a cease-fire as a tentative to succeed in rearming and resupplying the rebels and added that a  “serious conversation with our American partners didn’t bear fruits”.

Aleppo’s victory of the troops under Bashar al-Assad’s label is the greatest success since the beginning of the civil war and, at the same time, the heaviest defeat for Assad regime’s opponents. The troops loyal to Assad control Syria’s first five imporant towns and this achievement will make them try to take over control of other areas through military means. The problem Assad’s regime cannot acknowledge publicly but that is of its great concern is the real control on the Syrian territory. The Syrian Army properly suffered important losses during the years of civil war through betrayals or defections and bringing in foreign fighters is not the appropriate solution.

Without Moscow’s and Tehran’s assistance, Assad’s regime was since long gone and the price it has to pay will not be easily accepted as in fact Bashar is a puppet of his allies and the latter wil not hesitate to underline as the case may be. An eventual attept to decisively change the sectarian composition by increasing the Shia’s presence in Sunni majority areas would be a failure of the current regime in Damascus. Syria became really a experimental testing ground not only for different arms and armaments, for military training but also for experimenting of new developments in international relations where Russia will have the initiative atleast for this period and probably during 2017. That was possible as a result of numerous hesitations and lack of action of the international community beginning with the UN, the Arab League, USA, the European Union and other important international players. Aleppo is the open wound through which Syria continues its agony under the yet world’s helpless eyes.

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