Tuesday 21 November 2017

Aleppo next on Assad's military hit list

Kim Sengupta

The next step for the forces of Bashar al-Assad will be an assault on Syria's biggest city.

After three weeks of bitter fighting the regime is readying an attempt to re-take Aleppo.

Such an attack could only come with further help from Hezbollah; some commanders of the Shia militia claim they are ready to take thousands of men across the border.

The opposition holds about half of the northern city, and a battle to retake it is likely to be bloody with the opposition aware that failure to hang on to their positions would be a setback.

Large swathes of territory remain outside the control of the regime two-and-a-half years since the start of the uprising. But recent gains being made on the ground have put Assad in a stronger position before peace talks that will seek to end a conflict that has claimed 80,000 lives so far.

UN international envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the delayed talks may happen in July. American and Russian officials held a preliminary meeting yesterday in Geneva, the venue for the projected talks. The Syrian National Council, an umbrella group of the opposition, maintains that no ceasefire is possible while Assad stays in power and Hezbollah participates in the fighting.

The expectation among diplomats remains that the SNC will be persuaded to attend the talks by its backers in the Arab League and the West.

There is deep apprehension that the talks either failing or not taking place would accelerate the spread of strife from Syria into neighbouring countries.

Residents in the predominantly Shia suburb of Dahiyah in Beirut celebrated after news broke of the fall of Qusayr. The movement's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has given unequivocal backing to the Assad regime and its involvement in Syria is likely to increase rather if fighting continues.

Furthermore, the entry of the Shia militia will further demarcate the war along sectarian lines between the Alawites, a Shia offshoot from which Assad and the ruling elite are drawn, and the mainly Sunni opposition. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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