Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Battle for Aleppo

(Syria)  With the encirclement of the rebel held city of Aleppo by the Syrian regime almost complete, heavy fighting in Syria's second city has been reported, which may be the start of the long awaited assault upon the city

Aleppo is the primary nexus of opposition strength in northern Syria and its capture would bolster Assads claim to legitimate rule over ‘all corners’ of Syria and buttress his position at the table during any future negotiations with the international community. 

Russia and Iran also view Aleppo City as key to the longterm preservation of their client regime. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have strategic interests in preserving President Assad, including permanent basing on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for the former and direct ground lines of communication to Lebanese Hezbollah for the latter. The Syrian Civil War provides Russia and Iran with a platform from which to assert their ‘great power ‘status while challenging the U.S. and its network of global alliances.

Pro-regime forces have conducted a notable buildup in the vicinity of Aleppo City, with local media outlets reporting large numbers of personnel, armored vehicles, and artillery systems deploying to the area since at least April 11. Russia has also redeployed its own artillery units to Aleppo City from eastern Homs Province, where the systems had played a key role supporting the operation that seized Palmyra from ISIS on March 27. At the same time, Iran has allegedly conducted twice-daily flights into the Aleppo International Airport over the past two weeks in order to deliver supplies and reinforcements from the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade of the Iranian Army. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed proxy forces remain concentrated in southern Aleppo Province near the expected route of advance for any operation to lift the siege of the Shi’a-majority towns of Fu’ah and Kefraya in Idlib Province. Pro-regime forces have mobilized for several attempts to recapture the town of Al-Eis in southern Aleppo Province (Point 1 on map) after its fall to the opposition on April 1 despite high casualties.

Russia resumed its air campaign against the opposition as early as February 28, one day after the start of the ‘cessation of hostilities’, concentrating its strikes against the opposition-held north-western suburbs of Aleppo City. Meanwhile, proregime forces have leveraged a deepening partnership with the Syrian Kurdish YPG in order to pressure the Castello Road - the only remaining ground line of communication to opposition-held Aleppo City. The Syrian Kurdish YPG clashed with opposition factions along the Castello Road near Sheikh Maqsoud District (Point 2) on multiple occasions through March and April 2016, threatening to isolate the opposition-held districts of Aleppo City. On April 14, pro-regime forces supported by alleged Russian airstrikes launched a failed attack against positions held by Jabhat al-Nusra and other opposition groups in Handarat Camp and Mallah Farms, located in the northern outskirts of Aleppo City (Point 3). These clashes likely aimed to probe opposition defences along one potential route of advance for pro-regime forces attempting to encircle the city.

Russia reportedly deployed ground forces as well as shipments of weapons and ammunition to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG in the Afrin Canton of Aleppo Province (Point 4) in April 2016, according to anonymous Russian officials. The outreach suggests that pro-regime forces may intend to cooperate with the Syrian Kurds in order to complete the encirclement of Aleppo City from the north. This military cooperation presented the Syrian Kurds with an opportunity to advance their ultimate objective of linking their isolated cantons into a single contiguous zone of control along the Syrian-Turkish border. Russia has also expanded its political support for the Syrian Kurds over the past three months, calling for their inclusion in the Geneva III Talks and hosting their first foreign mission in Moscow.

However, the regime isn't going to find it easy to take Aleppo, this video has emerged of a huge underground bomb which saw dozens of regimes forces being killed:

Here a regime BMP (Why would any sane person enter a battlefield in one of these death traps)
is taken out by a TOW missile

Here a group of Syrian troops and a technical (Pickup fitted with a heavy machine gun) get taken out by an ATGM

There's no way the rebels are going to win in the long run, but they will give the other fellow a bloody nose.