End Game in Aleppo: Moscow and Washington Reach an Understanding

Translated by Captain Ahab



The Turks are reinforcing their diplomatic shift towards Syria. A diplomacy that was dead for over five years of war, a diplomacy that assures a new direction in Turkey regarding Syria. In this context Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said, “we have repaired our relations with Russia and Israel”, adding “ Now, God willing, Turkey took serious steps to repair relations with Egypt and Syria”.

The Russians are moving in the same direction, they are not only coming close to an understanding with the US on Syria, most probably they have come to an understanding regarding major points, more precisely the key to the war in Syria, Aleppo.

President Putin revealed what was already known and clear months ago, that Russia and the US are on the verge of completing a deal. Putin in his interview with Bloomberg, mentioned again the hurdle that is stopping an agreement from being reached with Washington is that they “don’t object to the necessity of separating the “moderate rebels” from extremist organizations, but the Americans can’t seem to know how we can get this done”.

The Russians believe that to end the war in Syria, they need to disarm the US from utilizing Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham in a strategy to bleed Russia and it’s allies in Northern Syria. Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham are the duo that was utilized by Qatar, US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia in the battles of Northern Syria, coalitions were built around them such as Jaish Al-Fath, that dealt a heavy blow to the Syrian Arab Army, especially in Idlib during March of last year, also in Aleppo, that is still considered the cross-road of the solution in Syria, the model upon which future settlements will be written. The Salafi/Jihadist pair, and the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group Ahrar Al-Sham comprise one-third of the forces fighting the SAA, in Idlib, Aleppo, alongside the Turkistan Islamic Party, and other Turkmen armed groups in Latakia, and Aleppo’s North.

The Russians were unable to separate the pair, even though the Russian center for reconciliation in Khmeimim was established for such purposes. The Russian officers did their level best, and the Intelligence branch as well, but given that only 48 groups have agreed to negotiate and stop attacking the SAA and their allies, and it is still unclear the number of belligerents who have agreed to hold a ceasefire from within these groups themselves, tells the story of Russia’s failure to make a significant break through rebel lines, unsurprisingly, given that the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have deliberately stopped the implementation of the Vienna communique about Al-Nusra, in Vienna it was agreed that Al-Nusra is no different from ISIS, both are terrorist organizations, but even though Al-Nusra was branded as such, it was never bombed, excepting that one time when one of it’s branches “Al-Khurasan” were bombed in July of 2015 in Sarmada near Aleppo that resulted in the death of their leader Muhsin al-Fadhli.

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And it seems that finally, an understanding had started to coalesce around Aleppo. According to one Russian source located in Moscow, the Russians informed the Syrians yesterday that a Russian/American deal regarding Aleppo had been reached. The same source relates that the Russians informed the Turks regarding the new arrangement reached with the US on militant or rebel groups, the deal dictates that Aleppo will return under the control of the SAA, step by step, and ISIS along with Al-Nusra will be targeted. The deal dictates that the Russians don’t bomb any group designated as moderate, pending both sides agree on that designation, in return the Americans will partake in bombing Al-Nusra and ISIS.

The Russians refused an American request during the negotiations, that all airstrikes be coordinated, the Russians reiterated that a deal had to be in place and implemented first, and reach an understanding regarding the bombing of Al-Nusra, in order that the Russians stop bombing what is termed as moderate rebels.

The two super powers are working on separating the different rebel groups inside Eastern Aleppo, they will be given a time line to withdraw from Eastern Aleppo. The Russians started preparations for the implementation of the agreement by sending Special forces to the Eastern country side of Aleppo. And in this context, 600 of Russian’s elite forces arrived in Al-Safira and the defense factories, and started transporting offensive helicopters, and air force fighters to Kuweires Military Airbase in preparation of the upcoming operations in Aleppo.   

Russia and the US’s agreement on Aleppo, and Syria’s inevitable control over the city, is interwoven with another equally important issue, and that is the need for the US to dump Al-Joulani, especially now that the Turkish/Russian arrangement is not enough to remove Aleppo from the negotiating table, or even opening the door for a real solution in Syria.

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Turkey is no longer the only player in Northern Syria, that has been the case for the past two years, Russia cannot simply ask the Turks to close all border checkpoints in order to give Damascus the chance to reestablish control over the North of the country, the Americans are now physically in Syria and on the ground, given that Turkey refused to involve itself militarily in Syria, an offer that was made by the US a few years ago.

The US pushed towards an alliance with the Kurds in the North of Syria. Though Turkey is a heavy weight, it no longer is the sole player and the one with the decisive vote, especially that Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa’s positions and HQ’s were taken over by Al-Nusra in Idlib, late last year, expelling many of their members back to Antakya, and taking over their munition supplies of American and Russian weaponry. And there are signs that the US is increasing its presence in the North of Syria, in order that the Americans are not held hostage to Erdogan’s veto to going into Syria without US special forces tagging along in the Turkish military’s operations, as had happened three years ago.

Washington has been working tirelessly to bolster it’s presence in Syria, by bypassing the Turks, through the CIA’s deals with Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine last year, at the time the Russians were at the peak of their involvement in Syria, militarily of course, 3000 tons of equipments and weaponry were transported from Black Sea ports from October of last year to March of this year, through Jordan and The Port of Aqaba into Southern Syria, or through Turkey into Syria’s Northern borders. The equipments were used to restore many of the rebels warehouses that were destroyed by the Russians between September 2015, and February of this year, in order that Washington utilizes it’s strategy which is to bleed Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and their allies to submission, and to contain ISIS, not to eliminate them, because their presence feeds into this strategy of bleeding the Syrian’s and their allies, even tough they’ve lost control of them.

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More than that, the Americans are now de-facto occupying Syrian territory by building Air fields. Their occupation forces consist of 500 special forces combatants, and a few advisors, not withstanding their air field in Al-Remeilan and Ain Al-Arab. On the other hand they are also allied to the Kurds, in the PKK, which means the US no longer depends solely on the factions working from Turkey, they are now able to move 20 different armed militias in the North of Syria, for example “Unit 13”, and some other units in Ahrar Al-Sham, specifically the political wing of the militia (Muslim Brotherhood), and whatever is left from Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa.


Putin in his interview with Bloomberg described the negotiations around the Syrian crises as “very difficult”, and values the contributions of State secretary John Kerry’s efforts to try to move beyond the differences between Moscow and Washington.

He continued: “We are moving step by step in the right direction, and I don’t see why not that in the near future an agreement can be reached that can be presented in the UN.”

He also considered that the battle in Syria is no longer an internal issue, since the formation of rebel groups consisting of multi-national that are receiving funds, and weapons from abroad. And Putin reaffirmed Moscow and Ankara’s commitment at reaching a consensual agreement regarding various issues in the Middle East, including the Syrian problem, because “it is illegal to decide on behalf of a nation it’s political structure, and who may rule over the government”, obviously he is talking about Assad, and the claims that he must leave.

Putin also called on western powers to accept the concept of “gradual change” in Syria, instead of pushing for Assad to leave, he concluded, “let’s be patient, and wait for change to come from within the country”.

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