A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Endgame Coming in Northwest Syria as US Preoccupied with Primaries?

At the very moment the United Nations is putting the Geneva peace process on Syria on hold until February 25, the military situation on the ground is evolving so rapidly in favor of the Asad regime forces on the Idlib and Aleppo fronts that the issue may prove moot. Meanwhile the US, which has failed for years to articulate a clear policy in Syria, is so caught up in domestic political navel-gazing in this caucus and primary season, that the media is largely oblivious to the dramatic shifts of fortune on the Syrian battlefield.

With the Syrian Arab Army's success in lifting the siege of the Shi‘ite towns of Nubl and al-Zahra after four years has cut a major supply line between the Jabhat al-Nusra and allied forces in Idlib and key supply areas along the Turkish border, isolating Idlib, regime forces have also been closing the pincers on rebel and ISIS-held territory in eastern Aleppo and also northwest of that city. Supported by heavy Russian airstrikes, recent advances have dramatically shifted the balance in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Now, with fuel and food supplies threatened, the goal of cutting off Idlib from the outside world is nearly complete. The rebels could quickly wither on the vine.

Meanwhile as the pincers close around Aleppo, it seems even more unlikely that the Syrian opposition will be in a position to demand concessions when (if) the suspension on the talks is lifted at the end of the month. the endgame may be near in Idlib and Aleppo. If it comes, the rebel threat to the ‘Alawite heartland will be eased and Asad and his allies will have little incentive to negotiate.

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