• Ola Rifai

Eastern Aleppo; a watershed in the history of a declining liberal Powers

Today marks the third week in the Russian and Syrian Regime onslaught to control eastern Aleppo. After 15 days of continuous bombardments and, nearly, a year of besieging of some 250,000 people, the regime now controls more than the third of eastern Aleppo. The power balance is shifting radically towards the Assad forces while on the other hand, rebel forces are in their darkest days with neither supplies on hand nor international or regional support behind them. Rather, they have been left to choose between either staying in eastern Aleppo under the barrel bombs or riding a government bus to the regime controlled areas, where they would face certain arrest, torture and death.

Horrific images stemming from the scene of children weeping over their parents’ dead bodies has provoked a wave of speeches by UN members and Western politicians calling for a ceasefire. Nevertheless, after the use of chemical weapons and committing many other war crimes, it is needless to say that the United Nations is paralysed, powerless and useless as it lacks the adequate tools to enforce any of its resolutions. Ironically, the UN even failed to convince the Syrian regime to issue visas for its team to investigate the shelling of the UN convoy delivering aid in Aleppo last September. Indeed, the failure of the UN in the Syrian Crisis poses questions on its credibility in the eyes of many around the globe.

In this context, world powers have been busy, for the last couple of weeks, absorbing the drastic rise of the right wing which is harmonising offices in key capitals. No doubt, a new tenure is about to start with very vague and unpredictable outcomes. All seem to play to Mr. Putin’s advantage. America’s president-elect Donald Trump wasted no time in appealing to him, and François –Fillon, the French presidential nominee- is not hiding his close ties with the Russian president. Hence, Putin’s ‘adventure’ in Syria is being productive so far in ending the international isolation and shaping a vital role for Russia as a regional player. Obviously, Putin is taking very good advantage of such circumstances to control Aleppo, which would serve as an excellent card to negotiate with his new counterparts, and to impose new rules for the game. Certainly, by allowing him to do so, the current liberal administrations are jeopardising the power balance drastically and, further, they would be directly responsible for more bloodshed and an uncertain future for the whole region.

With about six weeks left for President Obama in the White House, which are probably extremely short to make any serious changes in his policies vis-a-vis the Syrian conflict. Yet, they might be long enough to force -at least- a temporary no fly zone over Aleppo so he can save civilian lives and some morality to be remembered for the declining liberal powers.

A top United Nations official declared last week that Eastern Aleppo is on the edge of turning into a ‘giant graveyard’. Indeed, throughout the last five years, inaction and vague strategy by the UN and great liberal powers in addressing the Syrian Crisis have turned Syria into a massive graveyard that seems to be big enough for all Syrians on board.


© 2018 Centre for Syrian Studies