East Aleppo is living through tragic and bleak days which neither words nor photos can describe. The Russian air force is shelling the city, while Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Iran’s militias are attacking the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, Hezbollah militias are blocking the roads which provide supplies to the area. Five hospitals have been destroyed. The one which was most recently destroyed is a children’s hospital which jets shelled using Chlorine gas. There are no longer any places where people can transfer the thousands of injured to.
Most attacks deliberately target the areas where there are civilians and not fighters. Why do they do that? It’s because they want to aggravate the tragedy, twist the world’s arm and displace whoever is left in the residential areas towards the Turkish borders. This is why they rejected requests to allow international relief supplies through and rejected Turkey and the UN’s proposal for the city’s autonomy. They’ve refused all solutions that end the tragedy. Meanwhile, the increasing operations of destruction continue around the clock. As one woman said, she tries to sleep just to escape the tragedy.
Despite all this, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem said: “We do not accept the solution of the city’s autonomy. We will not allow aid to be delivered to the city, and we will not leave East Aleppo - with the 275,000 residents left in it - the captive of 6,000 terrorists.”
The truth is the opposite of that. Assad’s forces and his Iranian and Russian allies are the ones who have taken the city’s residents as hostages and exploited them. They besiege and attack the city through the policy of starving its people, destroying houses and targeting hospitals. This does not only aim to eliminate 6,000 members of the Free Syrian Army but it is part of a plan to make Aleppo uninhabitable.
Some may wonder what the difference between the FSA and al-Nusra Front is, since they all fight Assad. There is a huge difference and it lies in the purpose of fightingAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Aleppo’s massacre is happening before the entire world’s eyes. But despite the statements, no one is doing anything to stop it, which is the basis that paves the way for the upcoming phase of Syria’s “wars,” even if the Syrian army manages to storm the last FSA post and seize control over it.
Those we are talking about are FSA fighters, not terrorist group fighters such as al-Nusra Front. The regime and its allies have come nowhere near to the militants, but still use them to justify their tactics, like they do to justify the resumption of their plan which will displace people and seize control of the city under the excuse of fighting Nusra and ISIS terrorists.
Ever since the fighting widened last year, Assad’s forces, Hezbollah militias, the rest of the extremist Shiite groups and the Russian air force have not fought ISIS like they pledged they would. The party that is fighting ISIS in ar-Raqqah and other areas is the US-led coalition which facilitated Iran’s and Assad’s task and strengthened extremist Shiite militias which devoted their time to fight people in several areas that are mainly Sunni in order to solidify a sectarian Alawaite governance that follows a very small minority. What’s happening today is really mad and it will have deep and long-term repercussions in the near future.
The domino effect of defeat
What’s the next phase after Assad’s fall? The FSA, which represented the major power against the regime over the last five years and which represents the majority of Syrians, will weaken and may even disintegrate. Many of its fighters will leave its ranks to join armed, extremist Islamist groups like ISIS, al-Nusra Front and others.
Some may wonder what the difference between the FSA and al-Nusra Front is, since they all fight Assad. There is a huge difference and it lies in the purpose of fighting. FSA fighters are Syrians whose patriotic goal is to liberate their land and country from the regime which they disagree with. Al-Nusra Front fighters, who are mostly Syrians unlike ISIS fighters who are mostly foreigners, have religious goals such as fighting infidels as they believe that most people are infidels - including their own countrymen who are Sunnis - and they aspire to establish their extremist caliphate and pursue jihad across the world.
The current massacre in Aleppo and the massacres in Edleb’s and Hama’s countryside will push thousands of Syrians to join al-Nusra Front because it’s the only remaining party that’s willing to fight the regime. It’s through al-Nusra Front that they can get back at their enemies and the entire world. I am not talking about this for the purpose of begging support for the FSA; however. What the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime are currently doing, i.e. sowing sectarian divisions in addition to the expanded murder of civilians and systematic displacement, will not be forgotten.
East Aleppo may fall within days and other cities may fall afterwards as well. However the crisis will expand and the threat on the region and the world will double.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 22, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.