The Aleppo End-Game, ‘Moderate’ Terrorism & the Retaking of Syria…

Destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria, 2016

We of course have to be very careful when watching the media/propaganda war concerning what is happening in Aleppo and in Syria in general.

We also know that there were two attacks, one of them being in the Salahuddin residential area of eastern Aleppo. Russian defense officials have claimed the perpetrators were militants from the ‘Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki‘ faction.

This particular group is still considered ‘moderate opposition’ by Washington: this is the same faction, for the record, that recently beheaded the 11 year-old Palestinian boy. There is very little chance that this ‘Nour al-Din al-Zenki’ is a ‘moderate’ group; though it is one of the factions that has recently been aided by Washington.

This issue of rebel groups in Syria having access to chemical weapons was discussed here yesterday. Also ongoing is the endless smoke-and-mirror game about ‘terrorist’ groups and ‘moderate opposition’, and terrorist groups that sometimes work with moderate opposition, or moderate opposition that has been known to defect to or be absorbed into terrorist factions.

Or – just to add to the ludicrousness of the entire scenario – terrorist groups that try to change their name and re-brand as ‘moderate opposition’.

We learnt – and it would almost be amusing if the whole situation in Syria wasn’t so soul-destroyingly tragic – just days ago that the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate (al-Nusra) has suddenly decided to break off all links with Al-Qaeda and change its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

The militant Islamist/Jihadist group has, of course, had years to make such a decision, but chose not to do so until now.

Why? Out of desperation, no doubt.

Syrian regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have now encircled Aleppo, and the rebel militias know that the war could soon be over. Changing their name and disavowing Al-Qaeda is simply a desperate attempt to re-brand themselves as ‘moderates’ who can’t be targeted by the regime: but no one, not even Washington, appears to be sympathetic to their plight at this stage.

A number of international media outlets constantly portray the rebels in Aleppo as moderates and even noble freedom fighters, while also painting an almost romantic/heroic image of the city’s trapped civilian population being tirelessly defended by the besieged rebels against regime brutality.

In fact, the picture painted by Amnesty International suggests that al-Nusra and the ‘Aleppo Conquest coalition‘ has subjected the population to a brutal form of Sharia Law: which is hardly surprising, given the hardline Salafist make-up of most of the jihadist groups that have been internationally funded and supported to tear up Syria.

Al-Monitor reports that the groups operating in Aleppo ‘are practitioners of an ideology and governance that is barely distinguishable from the Islamic State (IS).’

In recent days, ‘humanitarian corridors’ were opened up in Aleppo (reportedly at Russian instigation) to allow civilians to leave the area and avoid being caught in the fighting.

How many people have departed via these corridors is uncertain, but there are reports that more than 150 families and even some opposition fighters have left the rebel-held areas. Yet a number of media groups have been sceptical about the humanitarian corridors. Al-Jazeera – unsurprisingly – is one of these, asking ‘what is Moscow’s true motive?’ and claiming that ‘activists have expressed doubts over the plan, saying it’s likely a pretext for the government to launch an attack and gain full control of Aleppo.’

What? Of course it is! There’s no pretext: the government fully intends to attack and reclaim Aleppo from the armed militias.

Duh – that’s the whole point. And by ‘activists’, they are presumably referring to the highly suspect ‘White Helmets’ group that Vanessa Beeley has explored in detail on her blog.

Washington is also reported to have suggested the plan might be to attempt to ‘force an evacuation of civilians and the surrender of rebel groups in the city’.

Well, yeah – again, that would be the whole point.

The BBC, again – as with yesterday – in fairness to Britain’s premier broadcaster (which, unlike virtually all American broadcasters, does usually aspire towards balance and complexity in its reporting – at least when it isn’t directly engaged in a government-led psy-op or geopolitical scheme), has acknowledged that use of these humanitarian corridors may have been prevented by those currently holding the city at gunpoint, noting ‘Some reports have said rebel groups are preventing civilians from leaving.’ There have been other suggestions that rebel groups have threatened violence or death to those trying to leave.

Which, if true, would suggest the armed groups are – and have been – using civilians as human shields to prevent an all-out government assault on those areas. In other words, they would know that once civilians and families have been offered a way out, there’s nothing left anymore to delay a decisive regime assault to recapture those areas.

Syrian President Bashar Assad – in an echo of what Gaddafi did five years ago – had in fact offered an amnesty for armed rebels surrendering within three months.

Rally in Support of Bashar al-Assad, Damascus 

In other words, if we can trust the information, it appears the Assad government is trying to give as many people as possible the opportunity not only to get out of those areas but also to disentangle themselves from the armed militias (many of which are, let’s remind ourselves, armed and funded from outside Syria and include in their ranks numerous foreign fighters).

One would imagine the idea is that whoever is eventually left will be considered a legitimate enemy target.

I want to make something clear here: I know of course that real life and the real situation on the ground isn’t likely to be quite that simple or tidy. Also, where there is a major, horrible humanitarian crisis occurring, it can become distasteful or churlish to play guessing games. I don’t doubt that there are civilians suffering terribly in these areas – there are constant reports of starvation, malnourishment and illness.

And it makes me feel ill to think I’m minimalising or downplaying that suffering by focusing instead on al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda: but it is very important, at the informational level, to correct the international media mis-assertion that when Assad’s forces attack areas in Aleppo they are “trying to massacre civilians”.

International outlets mostly blame the Syrian and Russian governments – but they tend never to explore the nature/make-up/ideologies of the militias (some of them foreign-backed) that the Syrian government is trying to get out of those areas.

And it has been the same since the war started in 2011: everything has been laid on the hands of Assad and the government and discussion of jihadist rebel crimes have been largely avoided (along with foreign governments and agencies’ involvement and the entire covert-ops nature of the Syrian War in general).

In fact, before the open emergence of ‘ISIS’ and the declaration of a ‘caliphate’ two years ago, those very same terrorists and jihadists (who the media now calls ‘ISIS’) were being referred to in international media as ‘opposition’ and ‘freedom fighters’.

This question of Aleppo has been going on for a long time already: and months ago, when regime forces launched an attack on Aleppo, international mainstream media portrayed it as Assad betraying the ceasefire agreement and attacking ‘moderate rebels’.

However, even at the time, sources from within Washington were admitting that the fighters in Aleppo were primarily al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) – and therefore exempt from any ceasefire conditions.

If it’s true – and we can’t know for sure that it is – that rebel fighters in those areas are preventing many civilians from leaving, then how is the Syrian government supposed to recapture Aleppo? Are they supposed to back off and leave Aleppo in the hands of armed Salafist/jihadist gangs being backed from abroad?

And then what? Allow them to turn it firmly into another extremist ‘caliphate’ like Raqqa?

As I noted yesterday, this latest chemical attack may be a symptom of desperation and urgency on part of the rebels in Aleppo. I would suggest – and this is only my suspicion – that the foreign-backed fighters in Syria and their international sponsors are desperate to salvage the regime-change project: which they cannot do if the Syrian Army retakes Aleppo and drives out the remnants of ISIS from Raqqa.

Again, my suspicion is that all parties involved – those on the ground in Aleppo and those watching from foreign capitals – are desperate to prolong the fighting long enough for Hillary Clinton to assume the presidency.

At that time, some new way can be cooked up to re-frame this whole situation and to move away from the more adaptive, moderate and diplomatic Obama/Kerry way of operating.

But that is many months away – and all indications are that Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, could retake all of Syria before then: meaning, effectively, that the disastrous, bloody covert war in Syria that was begun in 2011 could be over before Neo-Con Hillary comes into power. At that point, with a new White House regime essentially unable to have any real case for further intervention in Syria, everyone will have to concede defeat and simply ‘let it go’.

So, until then, it becomes a race.

And efforts to portray the Aleppo militias as ‘moderate opposition’ has failed to stop the Syrian/Russian alliance from moving against them; so now, lost for options, another chemical attack occurs that can be blamed on the government forces, while the Al-Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra scrambles to change its name and pretend it is suddenly a peaceful, pro-democracy group.

It may even be that the Assad regime knows it has to finish all of this quickly; not just for the sake of Syria, but for the sake of resolving all of this before the Obama administration is replaced by a more aggressive administration that will be much more intent on accomplishing the regime-change that was stalled back in 2013.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


  1. Yes, there seem to be some very troublng unfolding of events. As for the US intervening to rescue its armament that may not necesarilly be the case since POTUS ignored 3 options on his desk to rescue or destroy state of the art drone brought down over Persia.

    And speaking of Persia and as to where this all may go, it all begs the question if we are witnessing what Daniel the profet spoke of: An endtime ‘little horn’, “stouter” than his fellows’ who “plucks up 3 other horns in his rise to power. Established horns in the region were Hussien, Ghaddafi, and Mubarak; or any combination of the latter 2 and Assad (who still remains) – all leaders of the ancient lands of the region.

    Then there is John the Revelator who enigmatically mirors Daniels writing and speaks the Great River drying up for the Kings of the East to come to battle, and of 3 croaking (frog-like) personalities – stirring up a hornets nest along the Euphrates to lure in all the Kings of the Earth to battle in the Middle East. Provided for insight value… however despairing.

  2. Once again thank you for bringing us news that is otherwise unavailable or larglely ignored because it doesn’t concern those who are truly pulling the strings. Also thank you for shining light on the plight of the victims of the ‘civil war’ in Syria. At present Syria seems to have been reduced to rubble and sits in an apocalyptical pre-industrial state. No relief seems to be in sight for the humanitarian crisis, no hopes for it’s people in Syria proper or in neighboring exile. In the absense of a food relief program, it can be reasonably suspected that one facet of the foreigners strategy is starvation.

    As for the militant side of the crisis… the US elections role is an interesting observation you present Trump has voiced he would be more aligned with Putins views to fighting the insurgency and re-establishing the democratically elected Assad; whereas, as you wrote, Hillary would let the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct business as usual and escalate the crises as they see fit.

    My guess is that this whole thing in Syria is a ‘nightmare gone bad’ for its Western and Gulf supporters. It is difficult to fathom that there are any rebel forces on the ground with any hope of even the slightest victory. Aleppo seems to have been the last remaining Citadel of the Caliphate to which retreating rebel forces expelled from other Syrian battle grounds have sought refuge to save their own skin.

    There does seem to be a new dawn looming for Syria with the upcoming US elections and with the cange of watch in Turkeys military and the nation’s realignment with with Russia. As for the Syrians exiles, history may viewed them as victims as Armenians were in the last century.

    Thanks again for bringing the truth to light.

    P.S… what can you tell us about the situation on the ground in Turkey. It was first rumoured about a fire near Incirlik and the that it was sieged. Do you think Erdogan is taking possession of NATO nukes to become THE regional power and to show Putin he is severing Western ties?

    • Yes, I should’ve mentioned the Turkey element too, as that is probably a significant part of this equation still.
      In regard to the NATO nukes, I don’t know what the latest situation is being reported as. But Erdogan taking control of them would be extremely dangerous, as the US would surely find that intolerable and would have to intervene forcefully somehow. Which would provide yet another serious flashpoint potentially between the US and Russia. I honestly couldn’t predict where all this is going to end up; as this whole situation – beginning with the Libya and Syria interventions – has gone in the direction of total chaos where anything could end up happening.

  3. I would agree with you that the timeframe for achieving western goals has suddenly become an urgent factor due to the upcoming presidential election. But also Syria/Russia/Iran know that should Killary win the problems of the middle east could easily go nuclear. So both sides need to get the job done before it’s too late.

    As a result the west are rehashing their original lies – state brutality, chemical weapons, freedom fighters etc etc. I noticed last night on the ITN news at 10 that they are now claiming Syria/Russia are bombing hospitals, killing civillians, in order to drive out the population which would then allow them to retake Aleppo. Since they neglected to mention the humanitarian corridors which have been opened up to allow the trapped population to escape any viewers watching last nights news, who haven’t been paying attention properly, wouldn’t bother to ask themselves: why would they bomb hospital to drive out the population when they are trying to get them out safely by other means?

    ITN even had a British doctor filming from inside an Aleppo hospital, reminiscent of the BBC report with a woman doctor in 2013 – the one where they changed the voice track from napalm like attack to chemical attack. Anyway the doctor in the ITN video left me thinking he was a pretty ham actor and looked more like an intruder in scenes of medical emergencies rather than being of any use to any injured person. It was all far too staged and scripted to be entirely real.

    • I didn’t see that particular news report, but it sounds about right. It’s gotten pretty ridiculous by now, as far as staged situations go; and I guess we’re getting better at spotting them.
      In terms of Russia/Syria bombing hospitals or civilian targets, etc – even if it’s true, the US and France have done the same just in the last couple of weeks: the French air-force killed something like 100 civilians in one operation just after the Bastille Day attack. The difference is that the Russians are there at the request of the Syrian government, while France and the US are there with no legal basis.

    • Good points you bring up on the deliberate destruction of hospitals. From an Assad Syrian strategic standpoint it would stand to reason that the hospitals are targets because is where the injured insurgents are being treated. And while on one side they offer an exit strategy for the people on the other side they flush them out.

      As for the or the West this war may already be getting written-off as a lost cause; if so, is it possible that while out of one side of the TV set they are claiming to be supporting freedom fighter while out of the othe side what we’re really witnessing in the images is a search and destroy mission against their own assets to remove the evidence of their failure?

      Again, very good news reel observations: It is also inconceivable that any news correspondents are present anywhere near the war zones.

      • That’s an interesting thought about them possibly killing off their own assets to remove them as liabilities. I hadn’t really thought about that.

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