— Navstéva (@Navsteva) November 28, 2016
The Remaining Jihadists of East Aleppo are in Not So Secret Peace Talks with Moscow
The UK Financial Times newspaper is reporting that Syrian rebel factions representing the jihadists trapped in east Aleppo's remaining pockets of resistance are negotiating with the Russians to end the fighting and bring humanitarian relief to the city. Ankara, playing both sides of the fence as always, is acting as the mediator and host of the talks. The United States State Department and its envoys were not invited. But State Dept. spokesmen like John Kirby were busy this week condemning the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)'s advances into east Aleppo as destructive of civilian lives and infrastructure, while never once admitting the U.S.-backed rebels were killing civilians fleeing to government territory after holding them hostage:
1. Fund "moderate" rebels.
2. Illegally intervene.
4. Ally with state sponsors of terrorism: KSA, Qatar, Turkey.
3. Blame Putin and Assad. pic.twitter.com/IoGnxAAq2Z
— Nina 🐻 KGByzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 1, 2016
The U.S. State Dept. Can't Get the Egg of its Face as Lies About the Civilian Population Supporting the East Aleppo Jihadists Collapse, Along With Their Narrative
— Partisangirl (@Partisangirl) December 1, 2016
Tulsi Gabbard: In Aleppo, Al Qaeda is "using the civilian pop. as human shields & their deaths as propaganda tools" https://t.co/kLACmNgxxe
— Sharmine Narwani (@snarwani) December 1, 2016
““The Russians and Turks are talking without the US now. It [Washington] is completely shut out of these talks, and doesn’t even know what’s going on in Ankara,” said one opposition figure, who asked not to be identified.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has provided limited training and weaponry for the rebels but had been hesitant to give forceful backing that could turn the tide in the opposition’s favour. President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly signalled willingness to back Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s efforts to shore up the Assad regime, arguing they are working to stamp out Islamic extremists.
While the secret contacts are not the first time a rebel representative has met with the Russians, those familiar with the talks said it was the first time such a large number of opposition groups were involved.
However, the negotiations are riven by the tensions between Ankara and Moscow. Russia confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Putin spoke with Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Turkish leader said he was seeking Mr Assad’s overthrow. A Turkish official, who asked not to be named, said talks over an Aleppo ceasefire were derailed after Mr Erdogan’s comments caused a Russian delegation to abruptly cut off talks while waiting for Mr Erdogan and Mr Putin to speak.
Though the talks have made little progress, they underline the shifting political dynamics in the Middle East. Regional actors now seem more willing to bypass Washington to seek out pacts with Russia, which is keen to develop the image of a rising power that can help broker such deals.”
“IMO the Battle of East Aleppo will be over soon. R+6 is carving up what is left of the pocket like a Christmas “Turkey” (Heh! Heh!). The Sheikh Sa’eed neighborhood at the south end of the kessel fell today, and a massive drive westward is underway from the area of Aleppo International Airport toward the citadel of Aleppo. At the same time the Tiger Forces and Palestinian militia are pressing south from the lines they held yesterday along the east-west highway at the “waist” of the former East Aleppo pocket. IMO the pocket will be gone in a few days.
At the same time civilians are fleeing to government lines en masse where they are transported to reception camps and provided food, water, shelter and medical care. The Russians have been moving mobile field hospitals into the Aleppo area to provide more capacity.
The lying US and European media are, of course, portraying the situation as something very different. In Mediaworld, the people of east Aleppo are fleeing from the government. I ask you, pilgrims, to what place would civilians be fleeing in trying to escape the government? The east Aleppo pocket is entirely surrounded by government allied force. Evidently a lot of media halfwits cannot read a map. The statement is also made in Mediaworld that there is a shortage of drinking water in east Aleppo. There is no mention in Mediaworld of the rebels’ use of drinking water as an instrument for reward and punishment of civilians. There is also no mention of the SAA’s capture of the city water works a couple of days ago and their ongoing efforts to turn the water back on.
Someone should explain to Madeleine Albright what the actual situation is in Syria. pl”
— Walid (@walid970721) November 29, 2016
What Happens Next: The Idlib Battlefront and the Need for More (Egyptian?) Manpower to Hold Cleared Areas
What's clear is that if the jihadists are finally desperate enough to engage in actual peace talks through the Turks with the Russians, then their positions in east Aleppo have already been cut to pieces and what's left is the grim reduction of the pockets through massed firepower. Many of the jihadists reportedly want to surrender, likely because their families have already fled to government controlled territory, as retired Army Col. Patrick Lang writes at his Turcopolier blog. Some jihadis may choose to fight to the bitter end, while many will accept the government's truce offer and evacuation to Idlib on the lime green buses along with their relatives, as at Homs and East Ghouta. But Idlib itself, often under Russian Air Force bombardment to strike jihadi supply lines to the front, won't be spared ground combat for long, if this Southfront report is accurate:
However, despite the stunning success of the Syrian Arab Army, Liwa al-Quds (Palestinian militia), Hezbollah and Iranian/Iraqi Shi'a allies Aleppo offensive, progress toward Idlib is unlikely to be rapid. That's in no small part thanks to the pressure the Turkish Army backed jihadists are exerting on Al-Bab to the northeast of Aleppo city's newly liberated districts. In widening the breach and pursuit of a badly weakened enemy, the SAA's chronic shortages of manpower come into play. Especially when it comes to securing all of the newly liberated territory and preventing jihadists from infiltrating back in, especially the CIA armed factions equipped with TOW missiles -- though the TOWs have not proven as deadly of late as before, due to the Syrians' improvements in infra red jamming and use of T-72B3s upgraded with Kontakt 5 explosive armor.
Here the Russian trained Syrian forces use of drones linked to artillery and mortar fire to catch jihadi Toyota technicals and infantry in the open and along highways will be important. But the most critical factor is likely to be how much manpower from Iraq and perhaps the Egyptian Army the SAA can obtain to hold ground -- while elite units such as the Tiger Forces or Hezbollah assault enemy strongpoints, backed by Russian air strikes.
— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) December 2, 2016
The Emerging Russia-Egypt-U.S. Triangle Under President Trump: The Coalition New SecDef Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis Will Use to Destroy ISIS
The rumblings that not only Egyptian advisers and ammunition but also regular infantry and helicopter assault units are being dispatched to fight alongside Syrian government forces continue from Damascus and Cairo. If the Egyptians did arrive in large numbers, it would totally deflate the neocon/Gulf Cooperation Council narrative about an Allawite/Shi'a sectarian alliance disenfranchising and crushing Syria's Sunni Arab majority. Not only is the SAA majority Sunni but the Egyptian Army is almost totally Sunni Muslim.
Be Polite, Be Professional, But Have a Plan to Kill Every Daesh-bag You Meet: Pakistan as Another Potential Muslim Military in the Trump/Putin 'Coalition of the Willing'
A significant Egyptian military commitment would also go a long way to finally killing off any ideas the neo-Ottoman Sultan of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, may have about trying to seize territory north of Aleppo in piecemeal fashion as ISIS conveniently melts away. It seems given the fondness Donald Trump has for President Sisi personally and Trump's National Security Adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn has for Egypt, that the Egyptians (NOT the paper tiger Saudis or Qataris, who're losing the war in Yemen) will be the ones providing the 'Sunni Arab allied force' ready to march on Raqqa with Presidents Trump AND Putin's blessing.
Another potential wild card in this mix is Pakistan, whom the media and Trump haters sneered at for The Donald buttering up the other day -- but the President elect may call in a Pakistani peacekeeping force for formerly ISIS-held Syria soon enough. RogueMoney's most astute readers may recall the OTHER major Muslim country besides Egypt that Russia just completed serious military exercises with? That would be the Soviets' old enemy turned member with rival India of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- Pakistan. What would those exercises have been done for, if not in preparation for a potential situation (say in eastern Syria) where Pakistani officers would need to be able to work with their Russian counterparts?
This Southfront video from early November explains some of the geopolitical (but not as much economic) reasons for Egypt's shift from a Gulf Cooperation Council ally to the Eurasian camp: