The Associated Press reports: Aleppo’s fall to Syrian government forces is shaping up as the first major test of President-elect Donald Trump’s desire to cooperate with Russia, whose military support has proven pivotal in Syria’s civil war. The death and destruction in the city is only renewing Democratic and Republican concern with Trump’s possible new path.
Though Trump has been vague about his plans to address this next phase in the nearly six-year-old conflict, he’s suggested closer alignment between U.S. and Russian goals could be in order. His selection Tuesday of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has extensive business dealings with Russia and ties to President Vladimir Putin, fueled further speculation that Trump will pursue a rapprochement with Moscow.
Indeed, Trump was already trying to portray Tillerson’s connections with Russia as a plus. In talking points circulated on Capitol Hill and obtained by The Associated Press, Trump’s transition team said Tillerson would “work closely” with Russia on “defeating radical Islam” but would “easily challenge Russia and other countries when necessary.”
“President Putin knows Mr. Tillerson means what he says,” the talking points say.
A warmer relationship could alter U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, sanctions, Ukraine and innumerable other issues — but none so clearly or quickly as Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s defeat of U.S.-backed rebels in Aleppo is poised to be a turning point. Assad and Russia are expected seize the moment to try to persuade the U.S. to abandon its flailing strategy of trying to prop up the rebels in their battle to oust Assad. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended on Tuesday after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment that culminated in a bloody retreat, as insurgents agreed to withdraw in a ceasefire.
The battle of Aleppo, one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, has ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias.
For rebels, their expected departure with light weapons starting on Wednesday morning for opposition-held regions west of the city is a crushing blow to their hopes of ousting Assad after revolting against him during the 2011 Arab uprisings.
However, the war will still be far from over, with insurgents retaining major strongholds elsewhere in Syria, and the jihadist Islamic State group holding swathes of the east and recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra this week.
“Over the last hour we have received information that the military activities in east Aleppo have stopped, it has stopped,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a heated U.N. Security Council meeting. “The Syrian government has established control over east Aleppo.”
Rebel officials said fighting would end on Tuesday evening and a source in the pro-Assad military alliance said the evacuation of fighters would begin at around dawn on Wednesday. A Reuters reporter in Aleppo said late on Tuesday that the booms of the bombardment could no longer be heard. [Continue reading…]