In a major breakthrough, Syrian army frees Aleppo air base from ISIS control

The National reports: Syria’s army broke ISIL’s siege on a military air base in northern Aleppo province on Tuesday, scoring its first major breakthrough since Russia’s air campaign began.

Troops, backed by pro-government militia, broke through the extremist group’s more than year-long siege of the Kweyris military airport in the country’s north.

A group of soldiers penetrated ISIL lines west of the airport and reached government troops inside the base, firing into the air in celebration.

Experts said the base could be used by Russian planes in their air war against rebels fighting the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, aiding their efforts to retake Syria’s second city of Aleppo. [Continue reading…]

Aron Lund writes: Assad has long claimed that he is an indispensible ally for any state seeking to contain international terrorism. The growth of Sunni-sectarian radicalism within the Syrian opposition and the Islamic State’s near-destruction of the Iraqi state in 2014 have been of great help to him. For the first time in years, there now exists a sizeable Western political constituency advocating resumed cooperation with Assad. Not only on the hard-right and hard-left fringes of politics, these whispers are increasingly heard among security officials and diplomats too. There’s a long way to go still, but that sort of international shift represents the Assad regime’s only real chance of longtime survival, if not exactly victory.

By helping Assad score points against the Islamic State in places like Kweiris, the Russian government hasachieved a dual goal: it makes Assad’s government appear more viable and useful as an ally, and it lets Russia boast of progress against the Islamic State after weeks of having to explain its choice to bomb other groups instead. [Continue reading…]

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