Russia launched a humanitarian operation together with the Syrian government in Aleppo on July 28. The large-scale operation faced a negative response of the external forces and sparked intensive military actions by the Islamic militants as soon as launched.
By various assessments, there were 200,000-300,000 civilians in Aleppo as of late July. To save their lives, the Russian and Syrian military opened three humanitarian corridors for the people to flee the besieged city of Aleppo and a separate corridor for the militants who want to lay down arms and surrender. The city has been under control of the governmental troops (in the west) and various groups of jihadists (in the east) for several years already.
During the first hours of the operation, there was certain movement of the “rebels” that decided to surrender, after amnesty was announced for the given category of persons. Later, the situation has changed dramatically. After officials in U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other countries made statements “questioning” the success of the Russian-Syrian operation, the jihadist groups launched coordinated attacks on the southern and southwestern regions of Aleppo.
More than 20 different groups launched a large-scale offensive on July 31 in the morning to break into the besieged eastern part of Aleppo. Attacks were launched at once on several parts of the frontline extending up to 30km in total. The positions of the government troops were subjected to artillery attacks. These days, the militants are battling their way to Ramussa, in the south of Aleppo, to bar the Syrian government army and its allies from the local transport communications.
The groups of militants and several battalions of the Free Syrian Army fight under command of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group commanders. It is the well-known Jabhat al-Nusra that has changed its name to “separate itself” from Al Qaeda. The militants are fighting under the flag of the Jihadist coalition Jaish al-Fatah (The Army of Conquest) set up in the spring of 2015 with the support of Turkey and Arab monarchies.
The Army of Conquest has managed to deploy about 12,000 various extremists in Aleppo since February 27, when cessation of hostilities commenced in Syria. The Turkish window for inflow of fresh Jihadist forces into Syria was not closed then.
The “Jihadist elements” were trained and armed within a few months. The militants from Turkey did not stop being “gun fodder” but the Turkish instructors-special forces operating deep in the territory of Syria had their hand in it too. Military experts say the actions of the forces fighting against the governmental troops in Aleppo, starting from “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army up to the terrorists of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, are highly coordinated.
Actually, U.S. has failed to fulfill its promise to separate the Syrian “Al Qaeda militants” from the “moderate” opposition rebels. Furthermore, with its statements saying that the joint humanitarian operation of Russia and the Syrian government troops in Aleppo is more like an offensive, U.S. has encouraged the Jihadist International.
It is noteworthy that on August 1, a Russian Mi-8 transport helicopter was shot down by a ground fire over Idlib province that is under control of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militants. The helicopter was flying back to Khmeimim base after delivering humanitarian cargos to Aleppo. Death of the five Russian servicemen on board of the helicopter emphasized Washington’s “serious concerns” over the success of Russia’s humanitarian operation.
U.S., Turkey, and Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf are uninterested in the success of the humanitarian operation of Moscow and Damascus that involved Tehran too. According to Middle East media, nearly 5,000 pro-Iranian fighters are involved in the military actions in Al-Khader. These are not only the Lebanese Hezbollah, groups of the Afghan Shiites and Palestinian volunteers. There are regular units of Iran’s security forces too.
Although U.S. has declared it pursues political settlement and further cessation of hostilities in Syria like Russia, its actions differ from its words. According to U.S., if Aleppo “falls into the hands of” Bashar al-Assad, it will have negative consequences on both the frontline and the diplomatic talks on Syria. Turkey’s stance is of extreme importance for U.S., as the southern regions of Turkey are neighboring with the Aleppo province. Turkey has been traditionally supplying arms and troops and funding the militants in the east of Aleppo. The recent developments inside Turkey have inherently caught Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attention. However, the drastic changes in the Turkish president’s policy of confrontation with Russia have seriously frightened U.S. In addition, Erdogan started hinting at the U.S. “hand” in the coup attempt of July 16, praising Moscow that managed to warn Ankara about the impending coup.
On July 28, the humanitarian operation started in Aleppo and already on August 1. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford paid a working visit to Turkey despite the tense relations between the two countries. Dunford arrived at Incirlik base that is used by the U.S aviation to target Daesh positions in the north of Syria.
It appears that the major goal of General Dunfold’s visit was “anti-terrorist” measures to fight Daesh. In the meantime, one can suppose that the U.S. delegation comprise not only military but also intelligence representatives whose mission was not just discussion of the war against “caliphate.”
Jointly with the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey (MIT), U.S. CIA has been leading the groups of Islamic militants to Aleppo during the recent months. The center of this activity is in Gaziantep, Turkey, where the operative staff of MIT and CIA - Musterek Operasyonu Merkezi (МОМ) – is based. Intensification of the MOM is perhaps the most effective measures for U.S. to keep its levers of influence on the operative situation in Aleppo.
We’d rather not think that the flurry of the Jihadists’ activity on the frontline in Aleppo was MOM’s scenario, but you can’t ignore facts.
The north of Syria is a good area for U.S. to collide Russia and Iran with Turkey. Arab countries of the Gulf earlier pushed Turkey to intensify its actions in the theater of military actions in Syria. Washington, on the contrary, held Turkey from going beyond its commitments to NATO. However, Russian humanitarian operation in Aleppo, the consolidation of the pro-Iranian forces on the southern borders of Aleppo made U.S. correct its goals.
Turkey has been weakened from within. Its army and security services will have to undergo a long period of adaptation to the new situation after the coup attempt. However, Turkey’s political leadership meets with hostility any actions of Russia and Iran in its underbelly, unless they are agreed with it. A failure of the operation in Aleppo will give U.S. a chance to refuse from its commitments to separate terrorists and “moderate” opposition as well as to spoil the relations of Russia, Iran, and Turkey for years to come.
The leaving U.S. Administration has kept the hotbed of instability in Syria and in the entire region. The military command of USA has its special opinion concerning the diplomatic efforts to find interaction points with Russia in Syria. Pentagon, JCS, CIA are not happy with the peacemaking achievements of the Department of State. They can influence the situation through either Incirlik base in Turkey’s Adana or the MOM Center in Gaziantep. As for the Department of State, its current chief can make any arrangements with Russia, until the military situation changes in Syria. This is the opinion of U.S. generals who strike a chord with Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, U.S. has not become a stabilizing power in Syria. Quite the contrary, it constantly attempts to break the fragile balance of forces there. Failing to fulfill their commitments to separate the Syrian “Al-Qaeda” fighters from the “moderate” ones, U.S. resorts to more manipulations persuading Turkey to stay on alert in Aleppo but make no independent steps. At the same time, as the Russian Foreign Ministry has noticed recently, the White House seeks to revise the arrangements made in Moscow and Geneva concerning the coordination of actions in Syria.
The joint humanitarian operation of Russia and Syria in Aleppo could be successfully over, if U.S. joined it. All the healthy forces in that war-torn country would win from that and many lives would be saved. Unfortunately, U.S. again preferred geopolitical game “to deter Russia and Iran” to the principles of all-human solidarity.
EADaily’s Middle East Bureau