Aleppo in the Eye of the Storm

Reconciliation and the War in Aleppo

You probably thought, when you read my last post about imminent reconciliation in Aleppo, that I was bonkers. Indeed the war rages on in Aleppo. Not only is the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) moving to retake the Eastern side of the city, but the fighters in East Aleppo, with Al Nusra and ISIS flags at the forefront, are persistently bombing areas of West Aleppo that their weapons can reach. Numerous civilians have been killed and wounded in these attacks on strictly civilian areas including many children (RT News, October 14 – 17). There is no doubt that there are also civilian casualties in Eastern Aleppo where the fighting is actually occurring as reported in the Western media.

The latest from the Syrian war reporters is that the SAA now holds a number of critical hills around East Aleppo, and they are feeling confident of an imminent victory. The reconciliation message is popular in Syria and so the government is promoting it, just as the US style reconciliation imposed by international agreements among competing states is popular in the west, and the absence of that possibility is the source of endless one sided propaganda in our news. In fact, it is a very aggressive schedule to expect the reconciliation plan to work so quickly. However, the cards are on the table. Amnesty for fighters who lay down their arms, a bus trip to Idlib for those who do not wish to continue a hopeless battle but do wish to fight for independence, and a rout for the foreign mercenaries and extremists leading too relief for civilians and ongoing support from the government.

When we met with Ali Haidar, he told us that whenever the reconciliation is imminent the intensity of resistance rises. He also said that building the reconciliation is a slow process. This is surely a problem in Aleppo where they are under a great deal of pressure from the international forces that are vying for power in Syria. The Syrians and their Russian allies have once again called a unilateral halt to fighting so that civilians and the wounded can be evacuated to West Aleppo. I hope this time they will be allowed to leave, but it is certainly not guaranteed. Al Nusra leadership has rejected the offer to leave Aleppo under international protection. The issue of sorting FSA moderates from Al Qaeda is once again on the table, though that too has been repeatedly rejected.

Meanwhile, the US is currently engaged in a battle to retake Mosul, Iraq from ISIS. Along with the Iraqi Army, Shia militias from the south and local Sunni militias, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Turkish forces, there are 1500 Americans in this battle as ‘advisors’. Shades of Vietnam. The coalition is not stable. Unlike the Syrian coalition, which is composed of allied forces, this is an ad hoc coalition of opportunity. The Sunni and Shia militias don’t trust one another. The Peshmerga expect to be repaid in villages given over to Kurdish governance, and Turkey has coveted Mosul since they lost it in the negotiations that ended the Ottoman Empire.

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