Saturday, 17 December 2016

Aleppo Is a Microcosm of a Middle Eastern Tragedy With No End in Sight

Analysis Aleppo Is a Microcosm of a Middle Eastern Tragedy With No End in Sight

Dec 17, 2016 6:13 AM

The map of areas controlled by the various armed militias operating in Syria resembles a dance of mutant amoebas. Not a single straight or stable line marks the boundaries of these areas, which change daily, sometimes even hourly – like the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope.

Even the most detailed maps make do with general terms like “rebel territory,” “Kurdish territory” and “Syrian Army territory.” But within each of these territories, including those controlled by the Syrian regime, dozens of militias are operating independently, financed by countries near and far – including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria and Turkey. These militias are constantly joining forces with or breaking away from each other, and sometimes even wage internal wars on one another.

Aleppo is a microcosm of all these Syrian fronts. Until three days ago, its eastern side was controlled by “the rebels.” That term includes the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly called the Nusra Front), which is affiliated with Al-Qaida. It also includes a militia affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, as well as 12 other militias – some Islamist and some secular.

Within this medley of militias, a dispute broke out over the cease-fire agreement proposed last week by Russia and Turkey. Before that, they were at odds over whether to end their cooperation with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – despite the importance of this cooperation from a military standpoint, since Al-Qaida’s fighters have demonstrated impressive military capabilities. Some of the militias supported severing ties; some also agreed to withdraw from eastern Aleppo and leave Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to bear the brunt of Russia’s aerial assault.

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