It’s hard to imagine conditions in Aleppo getting any worse. But in the past few days, the rebel stronghold has been subjected to attacks from Syrian government forces who surround the city, aided by Russian air strikes. Gas attacks have been reported in Aleppo and the city of Saraqeb, which Syrian and Russian media blamed on rebels.
Humanitarian corridors have been created, but just a handful of Aleppo’s quarter of a million besieged have used it, fearful of a worse fate in the hands of the Syrian government.
In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set an August 1 deadline for a political transition in Syria. On Monday, Kerry put the onus on Syria and Russia to stop the cycle of violence in order to negotiate.
Is there an end in sight?
Stop Trusting Putin on Syria
Editorial Board – The Washington Post
For more than a month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been pressing the regime of Vladimir Putin to accept what, for Moscow, would be a sweetheart deal on Syria….
Rather than settle for the partial victory offered by Mr. Kerry, Russia has joined with the Assad regime in a new campaign to drive all anti-regime forces out of Aleppo, the country’s largest city — a feat that would essentially win the war….
Time and again, the secretary has declared that Russia must deliver or suffer consequences, such as a U.S. “Plan B” for Syria. Each time, Moscow has disregarded the jawboning — and Mr. Kerry has responded not with consequences but with new appeals for cooperation and more U.S. concessions.
WATCH: John Kerry discussing the next steps after the August 1 deadline for political transition in Syria was missed.
The Case for (Finally) Bombing Assad
Dennis B. Ross & Andrew J. Tabler – The New York Times
The administration’s initiative with Russia is driven by either hope or desperation, but surely not by experience. During the partial truce, Russia took advantage of similar loopholes that permitted it and the Assad government to keep fighting the non-Nusra and non-Islamic State opposition. Such violations have allowed Mr. Assad and his allies to gain territory and besiege Aleppo.
The Obama administration appears to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin is looking for a way to limit Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. We doubt it. Mr. Putin is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing. He will not alter his approach unless he becomes convinced that it has grown too expensive.
There is an alternative: Punish the Syrian government for violating the truce by using drones and cruise missiles to hit the Syrian military’s airfields, bases and artillery positions where no Russian troops are present.
Why America Gets Blamed in Syria
Frederic Hof – Real Clear World
It is unlikely that President Obama would be in the position today of not having defended one single Syrian civilian from the Assad regime’s brutal tactics were it not for Iran’s involvement in the war. Fear that complicating Assad’s murderous rampage with modest military means would offend Tehran and nix the nuclear negotiations stayed the president’s hand. Keeping Iran on board with the deal reached last year continues to do so….
Would Iran bolt from the nuclear deal if Syrian rebels received the means to protect populations from air attacks? Would Tehran really spurn the economic benefits of nuclear détente if an occasional volley of cruise missiles against regime air bases dissuades the dictator from mass murder?
U.S. Is Letting Putin Win in Syria
Leonid Bershidsky – Bloomberg View
Three days past the deadline set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for President Bashar al-Assad to being a political transition in Syria, fighting is raging in Aleppo, the last urban stronghold of the rebels opposed to the regime. The U.S., however, is not coming to their rescue, because the wrong kind of rebels are involved in the battle….
The group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra attempted to rebrand itself as Fatah al-Sham at the end of July, ostensibly distancing itself from its mother organization, al-Qaeda. It now appears to be the driving force behind a rebel attempt to break the Syrian army’s siege….
For its part, the U.S. hasn’t bought the al-Nusra rebranding and still considers it a terrorist group. That means it cannot defend it.
What if a U.S.-Russian Deal in Syria Goes Exactly as Planned?
Faysal Itani – War on the Rocks
A successful Joint Implementation Group (JIG) would likely weaken or eliminate a strong component of the insurgency without compensating for the lost capacity, further tilting the military balance in the regime’s favor. Unless the United States can prevent that, the JIG would make a lasting negotiated settlement in Syria more difficult than it already is, setting the stage for open-ended civil war and further radicalization….
Those wanting to fight extremists and end the Syrian war must concede that any counter-Nusra plan should not strengthen the regime, whose military confidence remains the main driver of radicalization and obstacle to a negotiated settlement. An isolated military effort against al-Nusra would greatly improve Assad’s military position. Al-Nusra should be destroyed of course, but the JIG as currently conceived would very likely sabotage broader U.S. counterterrorism and strategic interests in Syria.