In push on Aleppo, Syria and Russia seem ready to apply their kill-all-who-resist strategy

The New York Times reports: Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours.

It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.

But in the past few days, as hopes for a revived cease-fire have disintegrated at the United Nations, the Syrians and Russians seem to be mobilizing to apply this kill-all-who-resist strategy to the most ambitious target yet: the rebel-held sections of the divided metropolis of Aleppo.

The killing and destruction in Syria, of course, has stupefied much of the world over the past five years. But it could pale in comparison with a military assault to retake all of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and still home to about two million people, roughly 250,000 of them in rebel-held territory.

A takeover battle could mean “a slow, grinding, street-by-street fight, over the course of months, if not years,” the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned on Sunday, speaking at an emergency Security Council session on Syria, in which outright confrontation replaced any effort to find diplomatic common ground.

East Aleppo would be by far the biggest and most fortified area that government forces had sought to retake with scorched-earth tactics of siege and bombardment — called “starve-or-submit,” after slogans scrawled outside besieged areas by pro-government militiamen. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “In push on Aleppo, Syria and Russia seem ready to apply their kill-all-who-resist strategy

  1. Óscar Palacios

    For all it’s brutality, this is a realistic way to fight wars. It’s only through a trick of language that our societies now imagine that war and genocide are different things. They are not. Wars have to be fought savagely, with no regard for civilian suffering. Saying that makes me shiver, because I have a family and know well the implications. But that’s how the West fought and won WWII.

    Britain bombed Germany mercilessly, with genocidal intent. The US nuclear bombed two Japanese cities and razed many more through “conventional” bombing. And even while through language games we might construe the apparent truth that Truman or Churchill are not as barbaric as Assad or Putin, from the perspective of a child losing half her face or being buried alive under the rubble there is no difference between her aggressor’s narratives. War is a terrible business. It should be avoided at all costs.

    Wars are more like street fights, but the West has tried to fight wars like boxing matches. It hasn’t worked. Putin and Assad fight dirty, and it works. They are being sensible and are consistent with their perspectives (nasty as they may be). And at the same time, they have also learned the value of steering the narrative through creating parallel channels of communication, like RT in Russia. And they’re getting better at it.

    The next president of the US and the world at large will inherit a true Gordian knot in Syria.

  2. Paul Woodward

    If brutality was the key to winning wars, I can think of several that should have had a different outcome than actually occurred. The U.S. showed little restraint in Vietnam but its dominance in military strength couldn’t overcome popular nationalist military and guerrilla forces. Germany should have been able to outgun the British in 1940, but the balance of power was shifted in Britain’s favor by a combination of superior technology (more maneuverable fighter aircraft and radar) and better tactics.

    Russia’s intervention in Syria says less about its willingness to use the required level of brutality than it says about the lack of success of Assad’s forces on the ground. It’s one thing for Putin and Assad to demonstrate their ability to destroy Aleppo but that doesn’t translate into an ability for the Syrian government to reassert state power throughout the country. The path leading to Syria’s reconstruction will be no shorter if or when Assad declares “victory” in Aleppo.

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