By Manish Rai:
After reclaiming almost all of Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial capital, President Assad has got his biggest prize of the war. It puts his forces in control of the country’s four largest cities as well as the coastal region, and cap a year of steady government advances. It should be remembered that more than half of Syria’s population lives in its four great cities – Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo. And Aleppo used to its biggest city before the uprising. So by gaining control of Aleppo, the Syrian regime got total control of urban Syria which means control of the heart of the nation. It should also bolster the Syrian government’s position and momentum just as a new U.S. administration is taking hold, freeing thousands of Assad’s troops and allied militiamen to move on to other battles around the country. Eastern Aleppo was the last urban stronghold of the Syrian moderate rebels. With the fall of eastern Aleppo to regime forces and allied militias, the backbone of the non-Jihadist opposition to Assad has been broken. With the loss of Aleppo, the opposition has lost control of its only lifeline for resupply. Aleppo represents the essence of the conflict between the regime and the Syrian armed opposition.
The collapse in Aleppo is a devastating blow to the morale of rebels in other parts of Syria. With Aleppo secure, Assad will be able to turn his attentions to the Damascus countryside and Idlib, the province next to Aleppo. When eastern Aleppo falls, it’s only a matter of time before the remaining pockets of resistance will fall, either by fire or capitulation. And it may mark the end of the uprising against the Assad regime which the Syrian moderate opposition called a revolution. The opposition, always a hodgepodge of often mutually hostile groups united only by their enmity to the regime, hold only scattered and shrinking pockets of territory around Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Aleppo, with the only sizable area still under their control in Idlib province. Turkey supports factions of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ along Syria’s northern border, and the United States backs the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ in the northeast, but both those groups are focused on fighting ISIS, not the regime. The rebel groups that emerged from the popular uprising against Assad’s dictatorship in 2011 now face an existential threat after losing the key territories. The Syrian revolution which was started by the moderates has since its beginning lacked strategic vision because it began without any objective beyond reforming or replacing a regime that had nurtured as many allies as enemies. Because of deep resentment against the repressive Assad regime, the opposition had success in the initial phase of the uprising and was able to take Aleppo. But now, following the loss of this city which was considered as the heart of the Syrian revolution, the moderate opposition which positioned itself as the mascot of the revolution has been vanquished.