Rebels in north-western Syria buckle under Russian bombardment

Aron Lund writes: Syria news right now is all about the peace process that is set to start on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, despite its limited chances of success. But even as they talk, the parties continue to fight and the Russian-Iranian military intervention continues to wear down Syrian rebels. On September 30, the Russian Air Force dropped its first bombs in Syria. The government of Iran joined in by raising an expeditionary corps of Iranian, Iraqi, and Afghan Shia Islamists for the front south of Aleppo.

In a recent article for Vice News, the American freelance writer and Syria expert Sam Heller notes a flurry of desperate-sounding calls for outside support from rebels in northwestern Syria. Though most frontlines have held with little or limited change, four months of relentless Russian bombardment and offensives by the Syrian Arab Army and its Shia allies seem to have left the insurgents exhausted.

In early December, I tried to evaluate the extent of government progress in a post on Syria in Crisis. As far as I could tell, it was clear then that Assad stabilized his positions, but overall progress seemed underwhelming and the picture was mixed. We would have to wait and see.

Since then, however, the wind has continued to blow Assad’s way. General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently noted that “the regime is in a better place now” compared to before the intervention. Indeed, after four months, the effects of the concerted Russian-Iranian-Syrian campaign have begun to surface. [Continue reading…]

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