Many analysis and forecasts about the fate of the Syrian Revolutions came out the minute the defeat of the Syrian armed opposition factions surfaced, and their retreat to confine themselves in few neighbourhoods, crowded with civilians, after dominating the eastern part of Aleppo in northern Syria for a while, and the Syrian regime forces and allied non-Syrian militias taking control of a large section of the city. Possible developments of the situation were predicted locally and nationally, as well as regionally and internationally, and a variety of views mostly based on personal extrapolation and not on accurate information, some confirming the end of the revolution, and others the start of a new era, some conceding the victory of the Syrian regime and its Iranian and the Russian allies, and others confirming that what was happening was only a localised setback in the long journey. As Aleppo is an articulated military point, it is also a station to move to a serious search for a political solution.
Retreat of the Syrian opposition in Aleppo was accompanied by three indicators, greatly influencing the extrapolation of “post-Aleppo”, mobilised both regionally and internationally, not domestically.
The first indicator stems from the Russian position, which was swaying between willing to stop the fighting in Aleppo, and persisting to proceed with the air strikes until the last opposition in the city was eliminated. Some of these indicators came when early in November, when the Kremlin announced excluding Aleppo from the extensive bombing operations carried out by the Russian troops, and the Russians meeting with opposition factions controlling the east of Aleppo in Ankara, in the second half of the same month, to discuss a Turkish-Russian plan carrying a truce proposal, followed by a “self-management” of the neighbourhoods of the east of Aleppo, but in spite of all of that, the Russian military operation continued with its usual violence.
The second indicator comes from the Iranian position, which was escalating and provocative to everyone for the last two months, including the Russians. On 13 of last November, “Hezbollah,” the Lebanese pro-Iranian party, organised a military parade in the Qussair in the heart of Syria, with the party’s Chairman of the Executive Council, Hashem Safi al-Din, declaring the party transforming from being forces and militias to a proper army. In the twenty-sixth of the same month, the head of Iran’s Chiefs of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri said that Iran may establish naval bases in Syria or Yemen, and in the twenty-ninth of the same month, Ahmed al-Asadi, a spokesman for the pro-Iranian “popular crowd” of Iraq, stressed that they would enter Syria after the completion of Mosul battles.
The third is a partial shift in the Turkish position, in relation to their position of the Syrian issue, with Turkey abandoning Aleppo fighters, apparently based on a Russian-Turkish agreement, and turning its energy to support the Shield of Euphrates operation forces, which began moving towards the city of Albab, whihc confirmed that its operations were directed against the organization of the Islamic state only, and had nothing to do with the Syrian regime.
All of this came along with the failure of the United States, or more precisely, its unwillingness to put an end to Aleppo’s tragedy, and stood helpless in front of the joint Russian-Chinese veto on 5 December, against the joint Spanish-Egyptian-New Zealander draft resolution for a cease-fire in Aleppo for a week, to allow aid (the Russians claimed the United States would have used its veto if the Russians didn’t). Ineffective was too the General Assembly of the United Nations vote in the ninth of the same month, on a draft resolution calling for an immediate and complete end to all indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Syria, and demanding a comprehensive political transition, led by Syria. On top of all taht, all Geneva meetings were cancelled, and meeting of the Rome and Paris of the solid bloc supporting the Syrian opposition in 10 December had no valuable results, and the American indifference accompanied with the announcement of President-elect Donald Trump, that the new administration would stop pursuing the policy of toppling regimes in foreign countries, while focusing on the war against terrorism and defeating it.
In this atmosphere, the European capitals began contemplating what comes “post-Allepo”, and Western officials began analysing the journey of the Syrian reality and the prospects of the near future, and how would they deal with the Syrian issue in the light of the developments on the ground.
Some European countries did not pay much attention to the fall of Aleppo militarily, and focused on the human side, and ignored the influence of such military setback on the Syrian opposition, and its impact on the political solution, with European officials talking about Russia gambling on a partial military victory prior to the President Donald Trump holding office, others betting on an “American corrective movement” led by Trump to rein in the Russian “rebellion”, with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s statement on 6 December confirming that, when he declared: “the fall of the city of Aleppo in the hands of the regime’s forces will not end the ongoing violence in Syria. ”
On her part, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that Aleppo “would remain a scarlet letter on the forehead of the world and ours, because the international community failed to open humanitarian corridors”. At the same time Federica Mugrini, the foreign policy official in the European Union, warned the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that the fall of Aleppo would not be the end of the war, and that the destruction and human displacement the country has suffered would fuel further resistance. Additionally, the British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that what was happening in Aleppo “wasn’t a victory for Assad or Putin, because there were millions of Syrians who would not accept such outcome, and would continue to fight. ”
On the Arab level, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, expressed his “pain” for the repercussions of the crisis in Syria, calling on the international community to intensify efforts to stop the bleeding, and to find a political solution to the crisis.
As for Turkey, whose role clearly diminished in Syria in the last two months, particularly since restoring the relationship with Moscow to its former glory, has issued a few faltering remarks, confirming that its only concern was securing its border strip, to prevent the approach of the “Democratic Forces of Syria” or any Kurdish militia of the Democratic Union Party, the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, and not let the “cantons” established by the Kurds in northern Syria connect, along with its desire to “tease” the Americans and put pressure on them after improving their relations with Moscow. In this context, one can understand the Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim’s remarks, in which he said that the operation of the Shield of Euphrates “was not linked to Aleppo’s events, and had nothing to do with the process of regime change there,” it was “to end the presence of terrorist organizations in the region and Daesh on top,” asserting that” discussing the fate of the Syrian people was more important than discussing the fate of Al-Assad,” and pointing out the possibility of drafting a new constitution in Syria to meet the demands of all the sides, sects and parties.
The Battle of Aleppo is an opportunity to discover or explore the facts, revealing the true face of Russia, not only to the Syrians, but also to the entire international community. There is nothing better than the numbers to reveal its violent side, which indicate that the Russian air raids decimated about ten thousand people since the start of the direct military intervention in September 2015, 25 percent of which were from the organization of the Islamic state, and 30 percent were fighters from various factions of the opposition fighters, and the rest (about 45 percent) were civilians, with vast majority of children women and elderly (Source: the Syrian Observatory for human rights ). It is clear from these figures alone, that Russia has launched a full-scale war on the Syrian civilians only because they opposed the regime, or more precisely because they lived in areas controlled by the opposition. In addition to the killings; it has destroyed hospitals and markets, schools, and humanitarian convoys, which conclusively confirms that Russia has become a partner in the crime, and to be involved in the political solution, it must quit its demands for the survival of the regime.
The extent of Iran’s predominance in Syria was also exposed, and the size of the militias, which are estimated at tens of thousands, sectarian in character, and holding an Iranian strategy purely to complete the Corridor dream from Tehran to the Mediterranean.
Battle of Aleppo also gave away how fragile were the strategies of the Syrian opposition armed factions, and how wrong was to transfer the battles into the cities, and how wrong to follow a strategy of geographical control of populated areas, without being in a position to provide protection to them, or manage them, making them target fields for the regime’s explosive barrels and Russia’s forbidden missiles and poison gas, not to mention the displacement of residents of those areas and exposing them to risks and destroying their lives.
It also revealed the extent of discord and fragmentation between these factions, with some of them pledged to extremist organisations, and how naïve they were by insisting on allying with militant terrorist organizations, especially (Fateh Al-sham formerly known as Al-nusrah Front) and the likes; confirming to the Syrian opposition, political and military, how important to learn their lessons before it was too late, and review the revolutionary experiment in a responsible critical way, far from ideologies and self-benefits, and abandon revolutionary and childish delusions, and political frivolity, and correct their mistakes and visions, and develop applicable and viable collective political and military programs, convincing to the international community, and corresponding with the interests of all the Syrian people.
The battles of Aleppo revealed that the Syrian regime would never abandon the military solution, and all the negotiations and a political solution it was talking about were only “throwing dust in the eyes”, and manoeuvring to pass the time, and mere lies which did not reflect the firm and permanent war strategy they were following.
Finally the battles confirmed that the solutions were limited, predominantly relying on a revolution occurring within the revolution, to produce an entirely different revolutionary and military forces from what existed, with discipline, strategy and programs that would win real and considerable international support, with the Syrian opposition ignoring any diverse assertions coming from “supporting” regional and Western countries of receiving the weapons they needed, and seeking self-sufficiency and unity, stressing intellectual political religious and national plurality and diversity, and taking advantage of senior dissident officers, who were the most disciplined militarily, and would be able to dismantle the Syrian regime better.
It is almost certain, that the fall of Aleppo would not constitute the end of the revolution/war in Syria, but the beginning of a new chapter, determined by many issues, of which features would appear in the next short period of time, especially how the military opposition factions would respond, and whether they will have alternative plans after being defeated in Aleppo? Will it continue in its state of fragmentation and self-operations? Will it continue injecting the revolution with religious targets? Or will it turn to unity and integration and censoring the overall danger that threatens all of them, whether Russian or Iranian, or the threat of the regime and its militia, or even that of projects planned by non-innocent forces in northern Syria, which threaten the country’s unity?
Will the armed opposition factions turn away from its strategic control of regions, and to protect itself from the regime’s air force and its artillery and the Russian air force, to the guerrilla strategy and city battles, and to traditional commando operations, targeting the regime and the militias allied to it, and Russian military bases where the regime is unable to provide protection?
Furthermore, the nature and shape of the next stage shall define the new US administration’s position, which will become clear after the transition of the presidency, and whether there will be a fundamental difference between the Barack Obama administration’s position and the management of Donald Trump? Or will the latter continue viewing the “terrorists” – according to the Russian characterization of them or other- a bigger national security risk to the United States than that posed by the Assad regime, or will he finally agree to bargain with Russia on other international files, located at the top of their priorities, such as Ukraine, the Caucasus and the warm water, and sources wars and energy routs, European sanctions and others. Also, will the House of Representatives decision, which was announced on 6 December, to support a project that allows for the administration of President Trump to send surface-anti-aircraft rockets to the opposition factions in Syria, begin a change in the US decision, especially it is a tempting opportunity for the new White House to create a new situation on the ground in the Middle East.
The next phase will define the Russian position itself, and reveal whether Russia is aware that they will hand over the land to Iran and its militias, and will it put an end the Iranian cancerous expansion, which is now taking difficult-to-control forms. That will include controlling the 66 militias scattered in Syria, allied to Iran (according to activist observatories), along with (the Fifth Legion-raids), which includes volunteers with high salaries, and is planned to swallow all the other militias soon, and was designed similar to the pattern of the Iraqi Shiite crowd (PDF), or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, including – of course – Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah party, which was announced lately to have become a “complete army.”
With regard to the Russian position, it is necessary to control the military situation, whether Russia decides to send ground troops to Syria, or hold a stronger military alliance with Turkey to weigh down the Iranians militarily, or will it continue in its destructive global war on all other areas controlled by the Syrian armed opposition of different ideologies, just as it did in Grozny sixteen years ago?
There is no doubt that the victory achieved by the Russian is worrying them too, and they fear the consequences, because they are unable to control all of the Syrian war, with its complexity and the large number of parties involved, Kurds and different levels of Islamist fighters, whether militants or extremists, or the very resourceful regional powers who have a strong interest in Syria, as well as international powers who are waiting to get what they think is theirs in this region. They also fear they may turn Syria into a pile of rubble and entirely devastated cities, what would turn the population into frustrated powerless groups waiting for relief aid for years to come, forcing Russia to reconstruct hospitals and provide physicians, and repair water and electricity plants, and face pandemics, before even considering entering the reconstruction market and its business deals.
Despite the apparent understanding between Russia and Iran, and the advanced level of coordination, it does not rise to the level of a strategic alliance, and their final goals are entirely different, and “two occupiers” in the same land cannot normally exist together, unless the strategic or political and military calculations of the two parties allowed that. the fall of Aleppo is writing a new chapter of multipolar international and regional conflict, and the Syrian regime cannot do anything about it; as it is ineffective in field and political action, and is still there only because of the joint support of Iran and Russia, giving Russia a sponsoring deed, and Iran a tutelage one, in exchange for guaranteeing its survival.
In fact, after the fall of Aleppo, there could be many scenarios, but certainly the entire region of Syria to be dominated by the regime is not one of them, not even by Iran and Russia, because there are many other areas such as Aleppo, where the Syrian regime has no authority, and it did not expect the city to withstand any further, under the bombing with explosive barrels, and the bombing of the Russian air Force with prohibited weapons, and the sectarian militias’ siege.
The “ruins” of Aleppo cannot constitute the beginning of a resurgence of the State of Syria, ruled by Bashar al-Assad again, and as the Russians the Syrian regime and the Iranians wish. It would neither be a symbol of the end of the Syrian Revolution, as revolutions usually has the same ability to adapt and change, and the right holders usually have great endurance and creativity to invent new revolutionary resistance, which applies on the Syrian case in spite of the opportunist religious ideologies of many armed factions, because the other party is no longer a merely authoritarian bloody sectarian regime, but there are “occupiers” in the Syrian point of view now, Iranian and Russian, and it is only natural for the Revolution owners to transform from being rebels to the resistance against the occupation.
If the Syrian regime and its allies took all this time just to take control of part of the city of Aleppo, it means they needs many folds to take control of other areas similar to the east of Aleppo, and years to impose its presence and full control. So, will Russia and Iran continue in this absolute violence for years to come to control the rest of the provinces and cities and towns of Syria? will they endure the ongoing human and economic losses, and regional and international rejection?
Then, how will Assad rule a devastated torn country, after spilling the blood of his people, more than any dictatorial leader had ever done during in the last century, a country full of revenge against him, infested with unrestrained sectarian militias, which he himself cannot control.
Revolutions do not go on a straight line, nor on a previously prepared plan, and may stumble or sometimes go awry, and change its ways and tools, often offering a heavy price, and any attempt to end it with excessive violence will leave behind prevailed chaos. This perfectly applies to the Syrian situation, as it is expected that Syria is moving – in the event of the regime and its allies’ victory- from being an authoritarian totalitarian regime, as it was before 2011, to the mafia and gangs system, where warlords rule, as it emerged after the revolution, and this will make any negotiating for a political solution impossible, and will create an international problem for ten million refugees who absolutely cannot not return to Syria under a system of this kind.
The Syrian Revolution was launched against a corrupt security regime, discriminatory and sectarian, that repressed tortured and predominated the state and stole its wealth, and controlled its institutions, justice, media, economy and army, and monopolized the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and destroyed the cultural, education and social life, and tampered with the religious establishment, and involved with terrorist organizations, and invested in them, and after the Revolution, it has become a “bloody regime”, which killed at least half a million Syrians, and caused permanent disability to 2.8 million approximately, and displaced half of the Syrian people, and destroyed about half of the infrastructure, and it is impossible to expect the revolution to stop against it, but maybe it will continue differently, contrary to its spontaneous experimental and random acts that marked the first revolution.
In all cases, if Syria will be reborn by the revolution and the war that tailed it, it is likely that Bashar al-Assad will remain in Syria’s past, not its future.