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I just read this very interesting article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/19/russia-taunts-us-with-biggest-military-offensive-since-the-cold/

And the author stated that Russia need to win Aleppo for the Assad regime before they can withdraw.

The additional military firepower is designed to drive out or destroy the 8,000 rebels in Aleppo, the only large city still in opposition hands, and to allow Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to start a withdrawal.

This doesn't make any sense. If Russia wins Aleppo for Assad and withdraws thereafter, continued support from Western Countries for the rebels would eventually lead to the war tipping over in favor of the rebels again. From all the articles I read it looks completely unrealistic to assume the conflict will end once one side wins Aleppo. Is this just to allow Russia to keep their face if they withdraw?

  • Please also consider the possibility that the author's claim could be wrong. – sampablokuper Jun 22 '17 at 22:32
7

It is a strategy and tactics question. But it is hard to answer, because it relies upon seeing the future (see below).

The answer is that it depends to what extent Russia withdraws. Think of it in terms of a bar fight or a street fight. If a fight breaks out, and the stronger man comes in with the weaker man, he might throw a few punches until his foe goes down, and then move back six or eight feet to see what happens. If the foe slinks off, then fine; but if the foe comes back, he can re-engage. In neither case would one think the stronger man has been seen off or lost face, unless (in this analogy) the rebels were to somehow deliver the knockout. Similarly, when Russia "starts a withdrawal," we have to wait and see: do they immediately steam the whole Baltic and Northern fleets back home? Or do they keep some of them in the area to wait and see what happens? It is expensive to do that (especially since Russia has only a small and underdeveloped naval station in Syria), and I think the northern Black Sea has the nearest Russian base besides that one. Given that Russia has no other foreign naval port besides Syria's (whether it is underdeveloped or not), I don't think there's a question of Russia wanting to "keep their face if they withdraw"--they have shown a bulldog's stubbornness in insisting on keeping their Syrian connection active, and they've hardly been seen off. They have consistently had more control in Syria over the last several years than the NATO powers have, for instance, dictating terms as to when cease-fires would and would not occur, and engaging in airstrikes at will.

Also, the question presumes that western countries would indeed keep giving support to the rebels after such a battle. If (as Russia hopes) they were dealt a knockout blow, there might not be enough rebels or enough rebel strongholds left for the west to be able to arm anyone, or it might no longer make sense to keep arming those who are there. Western countries might well adjust their own support, based on the success or otherwise of such Russian offensives.

I don't think Russia sees itself losing this struggle; for the moment, I can't find much evidence to disagree with that either.

10

Aleppo is generally seen as the last urban center of non-ISIS, non-Kurd resistance to the Assad regime. The conflict would likely continue, yes, but it would more manageable for Syrian regulars.

  • 9
    This is exactly what the Russians are doing. Murdering of the moderate opposition would let them enforce the false choice: "either Assad or ISIS", which, in turn, may help the Assad regime prolong its days. – bytebuster Oct 21 '16 at 6:22
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    @bytebuster - Moderate? What exactly are you smoking? – Davor Oct 21 '16 at 11:15
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    @Davor, yes, moderate. I'm not only smoking, but also asking questions sometimes. – bytebuster Oct 21 '16 at 11:35
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit, let's not confuse cause and effect. The Russian invasion is the cause, and my statement is the effect; not the opposite. Nothing can aid the “anti-Russian bias/indoctrination” better than the very actions of Russians; like massacres they have committed in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria — to count 8 years only. – bytebuster Oct 21 '16 at 11:55
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    @bytebuster - those are no doubt causes of your bias, no one is disputing that. But bias is still bias, and people Russians are fighting in Aleppo are not moderates in any sense of the word. – Davor Oct 21 '16 at 12:18
9

The idea here is that it's much easier to defend a city than to conquer it. If Aleppo were to come under full control of the Assad regime, it would free up a lot of his forces. Also the air force can target the rebels much more effectively in rural areas than in a city. The rebels would thus face a huge uphill battle to gain back control of Aleppo. Instead, what is likely to happen is that Assad will go after the rebels in Idlib province, which would cut off the rebel supply lines to North Western Syria.

3

Russia already uses air-base in Khmeimim on permanent basis due to an official agreement. Moreover, there are reports that soon Russia also gets the naval base in Tartus. So any talk about full withdrawal is just nonsense.

But it is possible that after taking Aleppo and several large enclaves elsewehere Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition won't try to assault the city of Idlib. If this is the case then Russia can (and probably will) greatly reduce the number of troops deployed in Syria both officially and unofficially.

If Russia wins Aleppo for Assad and withdraws thereafter, continued support from Western Countries for the rebels would eventually lead to the war tipping over in favor of the rebels again.

That will be quite hard to do. Remember that a few dozen of Russian jets will stay in Khmeimim air-base anyway. Preparing any major advance from almost isolated Idlib seems just impossible.

  • They could probably impose a no-fly zone that includes Aleppo by virtue of S-400 defenses installed at the Khmeimim base once Aleppo is pacified. That could discourage foreign elements from providing air support to the insurgents, foreign fighters, moderates, terrorists whatever you want to call them, and give the government a reasonable chance. – Spehro Pefhany Oct 21 '16 at 20:58

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