The reasons that people rose up in Syria are easy to articulate. The brutal Ba’ath regime for decades conducted state sponsored torture and murder. It was a predicable target of the Arab Spring movement. It will likely fall to historian after the declassification of the CIA file on the arming of rebel groups in Syria to explain the thinking behind the decision to arm what amounted to Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria. I suspect that the agency may have successfully made the case that its “vetted” groups could be insulated from the more radical Al- Qaeda jihadists. In any event, when the task to arm the “vetted” groups fell to Turkey, President Erdogan, a principal backer of Sunni jihadism in the region, made sure that his dream of a Turkish Califate and resurrected Ottoman Empire, prevailed over the CIA’s goal of a secular Syrian society.
Like ISIS, the Erdogan jihadist army in eastern Aleppo, believed that the forces of the Syrian Kurdish YPG and YPJ were an affront to their 7th Century ideology. So like ISIS in Kobane, Erdogan ordered the taking of the small Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsood. But, like al Baghdadi at Kobane, Erdogan misjudged the Kurds. Despite months of bombardment including attacks with chemical weapons, the poorly equipped Kurds hung on and are still standing within their small enclave.
I break the jihadist into two distinct groups. The first are the true believers who are willing to die as suicide bombers and fight ferociously but poorly. These were the types thrown at the Kobane meat grinder. The second type are the ones who seek to hide among civilians, seeking cover at the risk if women, children and the elderly. This group, for the most part occupied eastern Aleppo. Now that the Regime, with the help of the Iranian and Russian forces, has sealed them inside of the shrinking east Aleppo pocket. They seek safe passage to Idlib to presumably fight again. Reports are that the Regime is going to allow it. I remain skeptical.
What Erdogan, who I believe is principally responsible for the failed strategy in Aleppo, never could come to accept is that, as long as Russia occupies the coast and can support Assad, no regime change is likely. Al Nusra is now dug into Idlib among the civilians as it was in Aleppo. It shuns, for the most part, any heavy lifting that would be required to defeat Assad. For many months it has been clear that the only way to remove Assad is to first defeat the Russians. But to do that would require two things: Courage to take Russian forces head on in Latakia, that Al Nusra and the other Turkish backed forces lack and a coordinated battle plan that is beyond Erdogan or his field commandeers’ intellectual capacity or courage to devise.
Erdogan remains occupied by his obsession to exterminate Syrian Kurds who now field one of the largest and most capable ground forces in the Mid East. Every day they get stronger as Arabs and other groups join the Syrian Democratic Force.
So we wait for the predicable total destruction of Idlib. Every city, town, village and farm. Were dealing with Russia after all and murder of civilians is Putin’s specialty. Ask the folks in Grozny and the Donbass.