I haven’t done one of these in a couple of days because there wasn’t much happening to warrant it and I didn’t want to just get into a pointless daily routine. Nobody needs that. Still, here are some updates:
Rebel forces led by, that’s right, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham launched an assault against the western side of Aleppo in an effort to break the Syrian government’s siege of eastern Aleppo. As with nearly everything else that happens in Syria, there have been conflicting reports about the attack’s success, with rebel sources claiming that they’ve captured a few areas in western Aleppo and government sources saying that the attack has been “thwarted.” Who knows, right? But it’s interesting that there have been reports that the Russian Defense Ministry asked for permission to resume bombing Aleppo in response to the attack and that Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that permission. This suggests that the attack was pretty substantial but not substantial enough for Putin to abandon his “you’ve just proved my point” tactic of appearing reasonable in order to make Washington look bad for its inevitable failure to separate extremist groups from the rest of the Aleppo rebels. Adding ammunition to Putin’s frequent charges about rebel extremism is the fact that today’s attack appears to have coincided with an ISIS attack on the Syrian army east of Aleppo. Needless to say, the Syrian government is charging that the rebels are now colluding with ISIS.
The biggest story of the past few days before this counterattack was launched was the bombing, likely by airstrike, of a school in the town of Haas in rebel-controlled Idlib province that killed almost 40 people, most of them children. It may be the deadliest attack on a school since the civil war began, and that’s saying something. As Idlib is rebel country the candidates for carrying out this attack are precisely two: Russia and Syria. The Russians quickly insisted that they had nothing to do with it, and for a while it looked like they were throwing Bashar al-Assad under the bus a little bit, but they’re now also denying Syrian involvement. They’ve even claimed to have evidence that the attack wasn’t an airstrike, which I guess is supposed to mean the rebels did it even though, hey, the Syrian army also has artillery and hasn’t shown any real interest in not killing children for the past five years. The rebels appear to have responded by shelling a school in government-held western Aleppo, which killed 6 children, and you know what? Fuck everybody.
As I was writing this piece, I saw this:
Russia failed to win re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, beaten out by Hungary and Croatia, following lobbying by rights groups against Moscow’s candidacy because of its military support for the Syrian government.
In a secret ballot by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, Hungary received 144 votes, followed by Croatia with 114 votes and Russia with 112 votes. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow had faced good competition.
“It was a very close vote,” Churkin told reporters. “Croatia, Hungary – they are fortunate because of their size they are not as exposed to the winds of international diplomacy; Russia is quite exposed.”
“We have been there a number of years, I’m sure next time we’re going to get in,” he said.
Replacing Russia on the “Human Rights Council” with these guys is not as big an improvement as you’d hope to see. But we always hear how much Moscow wants to be considered a great power and to have international prestige and, well, this is the opposite of international prestige. Is it enough to get Russia to rethink its Syria policy? No. But it is a slap in the face.
On to Raqqa, and then elsewhere, after the break.