The final offensive by the Syrian Arab Army to liberate the eastern sector of Aleppo from the clutches of the US-backed jihadis, begun in mid-November, had by the second week in December freed the vast majority of previously jihadi-held territory. Over the month-long offensive, 78,000 civilians were evacuated and 1,324 terrorists surrendered. Relaying this joyful news the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was able to announce that, with the fraction of territory still held by armed gangs now so small, the Syrian Arab Army was able for the moment to prioritise the evacuation of civilians over further advance.
Whilst the war propaganda against Russia and Syria grew daily more frenzied, the patriotic forces pressed on regardless with the offensive through November and into December, unfazed by the slanderous misinformation coming from the imperialist media. By 29 November the news broke that 50% of eastern Aleppo was now restored to Syria. As each new advance released captive populations from terrorist thrall, aid camps and field kitchens were set up by Syria’s fraternal ally Russia to provide medical treatment, food and sanitation. The jihadis seized every opportunity to hamper these humanitarian efforts, shelling one such aid camp and subjecting to sniper fire any who sought to flee via the humanitarian corridors. Despite all these obstacles, by 7 December the Russian Reconciliation Centre in Syria was able to report that the liberated area now accounted for 70% of the territory previously under foreign occupation, and a week later the head of operations for Russia’s General Staff, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, announced that Syrian government forces controlled 93% of eastern Aleppo.
What kind of ‘truce’?
As imperialism watched its dreams of proxy conquest melt further away with each new advance, the West suddenly became very keen on brokering a truce – but only one which would allow the jihadis leave to remain in the neighbourhoods they have terrorised and give them a chance to regroup, sharpen their knives and catch their breath. Washington, having on 2 December put forward a proposal that would have included safe passage out of Aleppo for the terrorists, abruptly withdrew its own proposal days later, unwilling to see its proxy forces abandon the field of battle and leave the way open for the complete liberation of the city. The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and other armed gangs, whilst begging for a five-day truce, spat on the Syrian offer of safe passage out of Aleppo, demanding instead that the fate of Aleppo being decided after the “resolution of the humanitarian crisis”. The same thugs who commandeer aid-drops and starve the hapless civilians under their cosh, the same thugs who kill and maim those who try to flee from the occupied areas, the same thugs who hurl gas cylinder bombs and fire shells into government-controlled areas of Aleppo and declare war on humanitarian aid camps, now with a straight face demand that priority be given to “resolving the humanitarian crisis”!
Washington has had long enough to make good on its false pledge to separate and neutralise the so-called ‘moderate’ armed opposition from the outright terror gangs. Its failure to do so has confirmed what every ordinary Syrian citizen already knew from bitter experience: that there is no such thing as a ‘moderate’ armed gang, and the sole cure for the attempted terror-subversion of Syria is the most vigorous national resistance against the jihadis, their regional armourers and their imperialist sponsors. Aleppo member of parliament Fares Shehabi, responding to the self-serving plea for an eleventh-hour truce, declared “We will not accept any truce. If they do not leave we will continue our attack” (‘Syrian army retakes 70% of E. Aleppo’, RT, 7 December 2016).
Palmyra: how the West “fights terror”
The true motives of those who plead for truces and airdrops in a last-ditch attempt to postpone the liberation of Aleppo are most starkly revealed, not in their words, but in their actions. The failure of the US to lift a finger to prevent the exodus of Daesh terrorists from Mosul, content instead to watch from the sidelines as thousands of these thugs, backed up by tanks, renewed their assault upon the ancient city of Palmyra, previously liberated at the cost of so much blood, prompted Sergey Lavrov to spell out the full scale of the West’s treachery. The fact that the Daesh terrorists launched their offensive from Iraq, he said, and “apparently from Mosul”, marching through the “territories patrolled by the aircraft of the US-led coalition makes one think that… it was orchestrated and coordinated to give a respite to those thugs, who are entrenched in eastern Aleppo” (‘ISIS offensive on Palmyra could be orchestrated to give respite to militants in Aleppo’, RT, 12 December 2016).
At the time of writing the immediate fate of Palmyra remains uncertain, but neither collusion with Daesh in Palmyra nor collusion with al-Nusra in their last toe-hold in eastern Aleppo will save imperialism from the humiliating defeat of all its ‘regime-change’ plans. Liberated Aleppo is a rock on which imperialism will break its back.
Significance of the liberation of Aleppo
The liberation of Aleppo is of enormous significance. Whilst Syria’s bustling capital is Damascus, even more people dwell in Aleppo, which is a major industrial as well as cultural hub. Before the invasion it accounted for 60% of export income to the national budget. The liberation of Aleppo strikes a key blow at terrorist dreams of using the city as a command centre for planning new outrages along the north-west border with Turkey, and is a major milestone on the road to the liberation of the whole national territory. As district after district slipped from the grip of the gangland bosses, the Syrian Reconciliation Minister Dr Ali Haidar called the advance of the Syrian Arab Army a “strategic victory” that would prevent foreign intervention, adding that “Those who believed in the Syrian triumph know that [the terrorists’] morale is at its lowest and that these collapses that have begun are like domino tiles” (‘Syrian army retakes 70% of E. Aleppo’, op.cit.).
The significance of the liberation of Aleppo did not fail to register even with the New York Times. Acknowledging grudgingly that “it seemed increasingly likely that President Bashar al-Assad would eventually manage to take back all of Aleppo”, the paper reported: “That would give the Syrian government control of the country’s five largest cities and most of the more-populous west, leaving the rebel groups that are most focused on fighting Mr Assad with only the northern province of Idlib and a few isolated pockets in the provinces of Aleppo and Homs and around the capital, Damascus”. (It is worth noting that, so far as Idlib province is concerned, the reason the terrorists in Aleppo gave for turning down the offer of safe passage to Idlib was that they could no longer feel safe there either!) The paper goes on to quote an “anti-government activist in eastern Aleppo” who accurately sums up the future prospects for the proxy war of subversion, telling the journalist “It’s like doomsday.”
What for such imperialist stooges must indeed feel like “doomsday” is for Aleppo a new beginning, as its citizens begin to pick up the pieces and put their beloved city back together again. Basic things like access to water and electricity, so long denied, can start to be restored. Already by the end of November the Syrian Arab Army had expelled the terrorists occupying the Suleiman Al-Halabi water-pumping station which supplies water to a million citizens. The jihadis used to turn the pumps off as a way of punishing civilians for not supporting them, obliging the inhabitants to rely upon makeshift wells. Now the pumps are back in safe hands and citizens can look forward to an uninterrupted supply.
The road to Raqqa
Imperialism has watched with growing dread as its proxy forces have faced defeat after defeat, fearing that once the liberation of Aleppo is accomplished the Syrian patriotic forces will be able to concentrate their efforts on the liquidation of the last surviving Daesh stronghold in the country, Raqqa. Imperialism has responded by manufacturing ever more hair-raising tall tales concerning the supposed “extermination” and “mass execution” of civilians by the liberating forces, hoping thereby to bump credulous public opinion into backing new violations of Syria’s sovereignty under the pretext of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (a recent UN invention, given the catchy acronym R2P, which is intended to lend a ‘humanitarian’ justification for violations of national sovereignty). In the case of Syria, the ‘international community’ (read: band of monopoly capitalist marauders) has spent the last six years exercising its responsibility to ‘protect’ the Syrian people (at huge cost to them in lives and property) from being led by the leadership they themselves have chosen. The UN is happy to give these lies currency, only noting in the small print that none of these horror stories can be independently confirmed.
Meanwhile, under cover of this blizzard of lies, Washington’s own Special Forces are engaged in a desperate bid to get to Raqqa before government forces manage to reclaim the city themselves. The US boots on the ground, documented on numerous occasions, are presumably there to help keep order amongst the wildly heterogenous forces upon which Washington is relying to grab Raqqa from Daesh before the Syrian Arab Army is ready to do the job in its own way. However, just how lacking in cohesion or common purpose are these forces is becoming painfully obvious in the skirmishes going on around the town of al-Bab, seen as a stepping stone to Raqqa itself. The Independent made a valiant effort to sum up the players:
“Three forces which have been engaged in a bitter struggle against each other in Syria’s civil war are closing in on a city which is a strategic prize for an offensive on Raqqa, the capital of the caliphate proclaimed by Isis.
Rebel Sunni Arab fighters of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) with Turkish military backing; A Kurdish led alliance [the SDF] with American advisors and air support and the regime’s army with Russian backing are closing in on al-Bab in Aleppo Province, fighting each other as well as Isis on the way” (Kim Sengupta Kilis, ‘Syria civil war: All eyes on strategic town of al-Bab’, The Independent, 28 November 2016).
Ankara is entirely hostile towards the Kurdish-led SDF, which it suspects of harbouring secessionist aspirations on Turkish soil, yet Washington cannot afford to dispense with so experienced a Kurdish fighting force. When it comes to Raqqa, the Pentagon’s plan is for the SDF to encircle and isolate Raqqa whilst the FSA jihadis supplant Daesh in the city. However, if al-Bab is seen as a kind of dress-rehearsal for Raqqa, the chances of everything going pear-shaped for US imperialism seem high.
In the last week of November it was reported that FSA thugs, backed by Turkish armour and warplanes, had captured three villages in the vicinity of al-Bab whilst also launching attacks against SDF forces. Meanwhile the Syrian Arab Army took the opportunity to take four other villages near al-Bab, assisted by Hizbollah fighters and the Syrian National Resistance (SNR). This latter body, formed in September this year, is reportedly composed of loyal Syrian Kurds and is said to have facilitated better relations between the SDF and government forces. How far this is to be believed is a moot point, but the fact that some of Ankara’s FSA stooges are convinced that the SDF laid down covering fire for the SAA’s advances around al-Bab does not bode well for Washington’s grand plans for Raqqa, as Noah Bonsey, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst on Syria, observed, noting that “both Ankara and the SDF are too important to the fight against the Islamic State to abandon completely. At the same time, however, Washington’s decision to throw its weight behind whichever side is better positioned at any given moment to seize territory from the extremist group has led both Ankara and the Kurdish forces to advance as quickly as possible – even at the risk of sparking a conflict with each other. Such circumstances incentivise each party to create favourable facts on the ground as quickly as possible. They also raise the risk of overreach, and thus of a cycle of mutual escalation potentially encompassing both sides of the Syria-Turkey border” (David Kenner, ‘Raqqa will put Trump’s deal-making to the test’, Foreign Policy, 27 November 2016).
Meanwhile, whilst the Pentagon vainly sticks flags in the map and tries to marshal its intractable and mutually hostile forces, the Syrian Arab Army, its morale sky high after the liberation of Aleppo and drawing behind it all those who sincerely wish to see the country rid of all terrorists and their backers, advances step by step to victory.
Victory to the Syrian government, army and people!
Death to imperialism!
Postcript. In the days following the writing of this article the complete liberation of the city of Aleppo was achieved and the sick and wounded successfully evacuated. This glorious accomplishment, contrary to the lamentations of the imperialist media, is enormously to the credit of the Syrian Arab Army and will be celebrated by all of progressive humanity.