US-Backed Syrian Rebels Claim ‘It’s Over’ After Aleppo Losses
Is the Syrian Civil War finally winding down? According to The New York Times, the “moderate” rebels are completely demoralized after the Syrian military cut off supply lines and laid siege to parts of the Aleppo province, the central stronghold of the U.S.-backed rebel faction.
Rebels reportedly used phrases like “no hope,” “it’s finished” and “it’s over,” to describe the prospect of prevailing in their multi-year war on the Assad government.
These views are only likely to solidify as the siege begins to take its toll. Retaking Aleppo city has been a key goal for the Syrian government. Now, thanks in large part to Russian air power, Syrian government forces have encircled Aleppo
In the best case scenario, this could lead to a more realistic negotiating position at peace talks expected to restart soon in Geneva. Rebel factions at the table essentially made it impossible to negotiate a peace deal because their starting point is that the Assad government must go. Not surprisingly, both the Assad government and its backers in Moscow and Tehran refuse to agree to those terms.
If the siege of Aleppo forces the rebels to recognize that toppling Assad is not an option, they may remove the precondition and start negotiations in earnest.
But, even if the U.S.-backed rebels did negotiate in earnest and the Assad government followed in kind, that would still leave the larger conflict driving the Syrian Civil War unresolved: the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for hegemony in the Middle East. That power struggle led the Saudis to provide the initial (and perhaps ongoing) support and funding for ISIS. Iran, in turn, made heavy investments in the Syrian government in the hopes of ensuring that Assad, or some other Alawite, keeps power in Damascus.
And let’s not leave out the great historical driver of this conflict: the Western colonial powers who purposely carved up territory in the Middle East to prevent unified nations that could challenge their empire from forming. The divide-and-conquer ethnic architecture of countries like Iraq and Syria laid the fuses for these sectarian conflicts to periodically explode.
To invert Martin Luther King’s famous definition, it might be time to measure peace in Syria differently — less by the presence of justice and more by the absence of ongoing military conflict.