Aleppo Taken: Russia Spins Crisis, U.S. Increases Troops, and Trump?

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Bombing resumed in Eastern Aleppo, despite a ceasefire agreement on Wednesday. The Syrian Army with help from Russia and Iranian military have captured the city. At this point, activist are asking that civilian lives be spared. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Saturday the U.S. is sending an additional 200 troops to Syria, increasing the total number of specialized U.S. troops in the region to 500.

Russia is not acknowledging the humanitarian toll. Russian government led news source — Sputnik International — in today’s article claims that “independent humanitarian organizations do not confirm reports about atrocities committed in eastern Aleppo by Syrian government troops.”

Sputnik International:
Independent humanitarian organizations do not confirm reports about atrocities committed in eastern Aleppo by the Syrian government troops, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. “Actually, I do not know any firsthand assessments of independent humanitarian organizations, which have their representatives in eastern Aleppo. None of them confirms reports about committed atrocities, kidnapping of service-aged people, who are escaping from eastern Aleppo,” Lavrov said.

Trump, who has refused regular intelligence briefings, is expected to scale up the war. “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS,” he said during the second Presidential debate. As the Obama administration continues to work with opposition forces, the Trump camp’s continual muddling of facts falls in line with Russian propaganda. What will closer ties with Russia under the President-elect and Secretary of State Tillerson mean for the future of Syria and the refugee crisis?

The reality:

  • Opposition forces backed primarily by the United States and Turkey are there to deny sanctuary to the Islamic State (ISIS). Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. is sending 200 additional troops to recapture Raqqa, which has “the de facto capital of the extremist group’s self-styled caliphate, and to deny sanctuary to IS after Raqqa is captured,” PBS reported Saturday, December 10th.
  • “These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 U.S. special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organizing, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL,” Carter said. He also called out Arab nations for not aiding.
  • The U.S. is fighting to uproot Islamic State groups, while Assad’s priority is to hold on to power in Syria’s ‘civil war‘, which The Washington Post aptly points out as a mischaracterization. (Well worth reading-click ‘civil war’ link.)
  • Aleppo–Syria’s largest city and economic hub prior to the civil war–used to be part of Turkey. For hundreds of years the territory was ruled by Turkey and was cut off after WWI and the Turkish War of Independence. Turkish nationalist hold Aleppo close to their hearts, almost as a part of Turkey. President Erdogan of Turkey has taken in two to three million refugees, while facing sanctions for humanitarian violations after a failed coup attempt in July, for which he blames the United States.

Assad’s next move is expected to broaden the war in Syria’s northeast, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. The move is not going to sit well with the Turkish.

“Aleppo’s northern countryside is of critical value to Turkey, given the impending possibility of a de facto Kurdish federation emerging there,” said Charles Lister–the author of The Syrian Jihad and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute–during an August interview with The Intercept. The city is of “immense emotive value” for Turkey as well as Syrian opposition forces, he added.

Over the past six years, Assad and Putin with the help of Iranian military have been responsible for:

  • The deaths of hundreds of thousand of civilians.
  • Displacing half the countries population.
  • Forcing millions of civilians to seek refuge elsewhere.
  • Creating fear and increased Nationalistic sentiment throughout Europe.
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