By Bilal Abdul Kareem
The siege around Aleppo that trapped 300,000 people as the government barrel bombed the city and the people had no escape has been broken by Jaysh Fatah (Army of Conquest) and their allies from the Free Syrian Army. It was not done by a US-Russia brokered deal that would have made a mockery of all of those who gave their lives during this conflict. It was not done by the “Friends of Syria” coalition (remember them?), nor was it done with the help of Ban Ki Moon and the United Nations. It was done by mostly Syrian Islamic fighters and their Muhajir (emigrant) helpers. Below are 3 things we learned from the breaking of the siege:
1. Syrians Believe Fighting is the Only Way Forward
Are they right? Many people will not like this and I can understand why. War brings death and destruction. However reality has to set in at some point. Chemo-therapy brings sickness and weakness to a cancer stricken patient but for many who fought and won against the disease, it was the only way forward. Many Syrians believe that certain truths have become apparent in the breaking of the siege. Chief amongst those truths is that Syrians are ready to fight for their rights.
It has been 5 long years of war. More than 500,000 people have been killed by rockets, barrel bombs and chemical attacks, that have been consistently (for the most part) been shown on the evening news. It hasn’t been a secret and it didn’t happen in a vacuum. It has been quite clear to the world that the Syrian people were dying in droves. I won’t say no one cared because some did, the monstrous refugee camps that dot the Turkish-Syrian border and foundation stamped blankets young children sleep under are testament that someone did indeed care. However after it became clear that humanitarian aid, Facebook likes, and re-Tweets weren’t going to stop Bashar Assad’s killing machine, no one who had the ability to stop the carnage cared enough to actually put a stop to it. The constant phrase we keep hearing in capital cities around the world is “there is no military solution to this conflict”. The translation of this statement means “I am not willing to commit any troops to stop the killing. It will cost too much. You are on your own”. If ISIS sticks their head up then the world is ready to shoot it off. However the constant photos of men, women, and children lying dead and bleeding in the street weren’t enough to push them to act. After all, from the world community’s feeble response to this crisis, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to adopt a view that the west doesn’t care that much because dead Syrians don’t threaten to disrupt the balance of power in their lands.
I ask any reasonable person to ask themselves a question: If the Islamic fighters who broke the siege would have waited for the US, UK, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the others, do you believe that the siege would have been broken as quickly as it was? Not a single country committed a single troop on the ground to stop Assad in 5 years of blood letting. There is no reason to believe that they would have done so now. The siege was broken because the Islamic fighters fought their tormentors. No matter who may like that or not like that, it is the undeniable truth. The west loves to state that they actually do like “peaceful Muslims”. It is not because they are peaceful that they tolerate them, it is because they are demilitarized and thus pose no threat to them. The only way for a demilitarized people to get their just rights is to beg and plead for them. The reader should note that begging and pleading rarely turns results at the bargaining table. How can you ask people who have been murdered, tortured, and raped in front of a lethargic world to be peaceful?
2. Islamic Fighters are the Dominant Force in Syria
When I use the term Islamic fighters this EXCLUDES ISIS as they are not Islamic fighters. I went to Aleppo the other day and I heard no cries for democracy. Everyone who I met, and I met many, were all calling for and actively fighting for Islamic governance. After having said that, it must be borne in mind that those who fight the wars and win the battles will indeed be the ones who decide what system of governance will prevail. It is unreasonable to assume that these fighters will have fought a hard fought battle against major world powers and then simply give away their gains to the powers of democracy. The world will have to get used to the fact that Syrians will have some form of Islamic governance for the foreseeable future.
3. This was a Major Blow for the Assad-Putin Project
Assad has never looked weaker in the eyes of his supporters. Aleppo is the most important city in the country after Damascus. Assad had been trying to cut off the last road into Aleppo and besiege the city for many long months. He succeeded on the 17th of July. However rebel forces broke the siege in 6 days. Bearing in mind that the siege was broken with a fully engaged and participating Russian air force and intelligence unit on board (not to mention the Iranians as well). Not only was the siege broken but the hugely important Artillery Academy military base was captured by rebels. While reporting from the military base I witnessed truck after truck carrying out of the fallen military base the spoils of war to safer ground by rebel fighters. It has been conveyed that the gains from the Artillery Academy are enough to wage war for several years to come. While I cannot verify that I can say that I saw all sorts of weapons and ammunition being carted out under the sounds of air strikes and mortar rounds in a seemingly ineffective effort to force rebels out of their newfound home.
If the city of Aleppo falls in it’s entirety, how long can the Russians be expected to stay on? They may write Assad a blank check but only if there is a realistic chance he and his forces can take back the country and stabilize it so Putin’s government can reap the benefits for their huge investments made over the past few years. When that no longer seems realistic, what then?
It is far too premature to say we are witnessing the beginning of the end. However I can say with certainty that should Aleppo fall, we may not have to wait long to see Damascus threatened as well.
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