Problem with researching ongoing conflicts is this: even if having first hand sources, usually it’s next to impossible to get an insight into official documentation.
That means: all the information is limited to what can easily be declared for ‘subjective’, personal opinions’ — i.e. nothing supported by facts (which, at least in disciplined militaries, should be clearly provided in official documentation).
While the Russian (and former Soviet) military had a history of applying counter-value strategy (in Afghanistan of the 1980s and in Chechnya of the 1990s-2000s), there is no definite confirmation for somebody issuing corresponding orders: conclusions about application of such strategy are based on its obvious effects and results (see: massive destruction, thousands of civilian victims, millions of Afghan- and hundreds of thousands of Chechen refugees). For obvious reasons — see: such actions represent war crimes - nobody in Moscow is keen to publish documentation that would confirm that such orders were not only issued, but followed too.
Means: while certain conclusions can be drawn on obvious effects, usually, most of evidence is ‘circumstantial’ by nature.
However, sometimes — and that’s what I pointed out in this article — the evidence is plain clear, even without official documentation.
Next point, re. decapitation strikes: as you correctly observed, these have nothing to do with counter-value strategy. So, why would one allocate intelligence resources to this task?
Precisely that _is_ the point. Namely, cross-examination of available data is showing that the Russians are not allocating intelligence resources to their stated aims. This in turn means: Moscow is not only lying all the time. It is neither seeking for not bombing the Daesh, it is neither seeking for not bombing the ex-Nusra/now-JFS… and its entire intervention in Syria is not aiming to ‘destroy terrorists’. Indeed: if its intervention in Syria is aiming to ‘ascertain survival of the Assad regime’, then the Russians seek to reach this aim through mass murder and ethnic cleansing — both of which are war crimes.
Whether the ‘Russian strategists have rightly decided not to follow this (‘counter-force’) strategy’…? Gauging by long-term consequences of the Russian application of counter-value strategy in Afghanistan and Chechnya (felt almost everywhere around the World, meanwhile, and in Russia too), sorry: I do not think so. ‘Exporting’ some conflict through mass murder and ethnic cleansing might appear a sound short-term solution, but is none at all (except one is perfidly mischievous, of course).
Regarding ‘allowing JAF reinforcements to move on Aleppo unharassed’ and if it’s likely that Aleppo is going to fall into government hands* ‘in a short period’ (*’IRGC’s hands’ would be more appropriate, considering who is representing the majority of troops there): mind that most of ‘pockets’ in Eastern Ghouta are besieged since more than three years. Only the smaller ones have given up so far. The Ra’astan-Talbiseh-Pocket (northern Homs) is besieged since July 2012, and there’s no chance anybody might force it to give up any time soon.
Thus, even if we approach this topic from the standpoint of those IRGC-officers who say something like, ‘ah, it’s OK if it takes time, we’re in no hurry… money and time don’t matter…’ etc., sorry, but: I would really like to see and hear somebody stating for the record (and with straight face)something like, ‘longer, ever bloodier, and ever more extreme wars (involving ever more troops too) are “cheaper” or “more cost-effective”’.