As Obama dithers, Syrian rebels in Aleppo brace for Putin’s onslaught

Roy Gutman reports: When Russia dropped its bombshell announcement of a plan to bring “stabilization” and “assistance” to rebel-held Aleppo by emptying it of its inhabitants and its defenders, the U.S., the UN, and any number of countries working to end the war in Syria were taken aback.

Gen. Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, announced that President Vladimir Putin had issued a decree ordering a “large scale humanitarian operation” in Aleppo, which has been under siege for three weeks.

But there was no advance consultation on the decision to set up four corridors — three for civilians and one for armed combatants — to leave the city. Western diplomats said it amounted to imposing a military solution on Syria’s biggest metropolis as well as a violation of international law.

A top official of the Syrian opposition said he’s convinced Russia’s intent is use the methods it deployed to destroy Grozny. The capital of the Chechen Republic was the scene of bloody combat in 1994-95, and then again in 1999-2000, early in Putin’s first presidency. At that point leaflets were dropped offering people safe passage out of the city, and after a brief pause the real devastation began. In 2003, the United Nations reportedly called Grozny “the most destroyed city on earth.” The war was over, and on Putin’s terms. [Continue reading…]

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