13:30 Nov. 29, 2016
Intelligence and Middle-East expert Michael Horowitz in his article for 'International Business Times' says Russia has been dependable, forceful, and ruthless where America has been incoherent
Vladimir Putin and his Syrian and Iranian allies are not waiting for Trump to step in this coming January to create new "facts on the ground" in Syria, even if Trump has expressed willingness to work with the Russian president. On the contrary, the Russian-backed regime is pushing ahead with an anticipated offensive against opposition-held areas of eastern Aleppo, "the mother of all battles".
During the past two days, the Syrian regime, alongside Iranian-backed militiamen and Russian air power, scored a critical victory over the Syrian insurgency by capturing almost a third of opposition-held Aleppo. The rest of the city will likely follow in the coming days or weeks.
This latest offensive is a turning point in the bloody civil war that raged in Syria since 2011. Aleppo was the country's most populated city, as well as the industrial heartland, and is now reduced to rubble. Pro and anti-Assad fighters fought and died in offensives that often resulted in only minimal changes to the battlefield.
Yet the consequences of what's unfolding in Aleppo will go beyond Syria's borders. The swift offensive is as much Assad's victory as it is Putin's. The West may be silent but, in the capitals of the Middle East and beyond, regional leaders are listening and observing. Five years after the wave of freedom and hope that swept into the region, it is now clear that revolutions can be crushed, they can be buried, they can be bombed into oblivion.
Where America has been hesitant, incoherent, and unreliable, Russia has been dependable, forceful, and ruthless. The deployment of the Russian naval fleet to the Mediterranean and indications that better access to the region is a strategic goal for Russia suggests that Syria is just the beginning for Moscow. Putin will use this clear military success to cement new friendships with the region's autocrats, who seek reliable partners to consolidate their power.
Leaders of the region will remember that Russia intervened at a time when its naval base in Tartus was threatened and its ally slowly losing ground. Having a Russian naval base might be the new and improved "nuclear program" for dictators: A safeguard against revolutions and foreign influence. Strongmen and autocrats of the region afraid of their own populations will remember: Aleppo is where the Arab Spring died.