Syria War March 2016
Russian airstrikes restore Syrian military balance of power.
Russia's airstrikes on Syria struggle to spur progress on the ground.
The Syrian Arab Army Recently achieved a major victory in Aleppo, and is on the offensive all over Syria liberating terrorist occupied territories and preparing for an even wider offensive.
Once again, whatever hangs in the future for Syria on both the political and military fronts depends on the new Battle of Aleppo. The city and its outskirts, with the influx of internal refugees, may be harboring up to three million people by now.
It’s always about Aleppo.
Here’s what’s going on, essentially, on the ground. West Aleppo is controlled by Damascus, via the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Some of the northern parts are controlled by the Kurds from the PYD – which are way more engaged in fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh than Damascus. The PYD also happens to be considered an objective ally by the Obama administration and the Pentagon, much to the disgust of Turkey’s ‘Sultan’ Erdogan.
East Aleppo is the key. It is controlled by the so-called Army of Conquest, which includes Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. Al-Qaeda in Syria, and the Salafi outfit Ahrar al-Sham. Other eastern parts are controlled by the “remnants” (copyright Donald Rumsfeld) of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who refused to collaborate with the Army of Conquest.
Across the Beltway, all of the above are somewhat considered “moderate rebels.”
The most important recent development in the Aleppo battlefield is that the SAA – with key Russian help – has killed Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Suleiman al-Masri, a.k.a. Mahmud Maghwari, an Egyptian who’s been on Cairo’s kill list for ages.
Additionally, several hundred Iraqi Shi’ite fighters, under the supervision of superstar Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, have been transferred from Latakia to Aleppo.
And a roughly 3,000-strong, battle-hardened, armored Hezbollah brigade is also coming.
What is shaping up is a kind of southern offensive. These forces will all be converging not only towards Aleppo but, in a second stage, will have to clear the terrain all the way to the Turkish-Syrian border, which is now a de facto Russian-controlled no-fly zone.
The supreme target is to cut off the supply lines for every Salafi or Salafi-jihadi player – from “moderate rebels” to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. That’s the meaning of Moscow’s insistence on the fight against all brands of terror, with no distinction. It does not matter that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is not the main player in and around Aleppo.
The Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq-Hezbollah coalition in Syria – also linked with the “4+1” intel center in Baghdad – stands a great chance of winning the next Battle of Aleppo if they fulfill three conditions.
1) Russian air cover coordinating with on the ground intel for all operations (that’s a given); 2) Popular support (that’s also a given; the Sunni urban population in Aleppo, mostly businessmen, support Damascus); 3) Experienced ground troops numbering at least 15,000 (on the way, considering the input from Iraq and Hezbollah).
During the Russian airstrikes the Syrian Army freed 217 settlements. Syrian Army offensive. Kurdish Peshmerga also offensive and pressing ISIS positions.