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Opinion: Aleppo – the Aim is to Displace 250,000 People - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Eastern Aleppo is experiencing bleak and tragic days that words and pictures cannot describe. Russian fighter jets are bombing the city, and Assad’s forces and Iran’s militias are attacking the outskirts of it. In addition to this, Hezbollah’s militias have seized control of external supply routes. Five hospitals have been destroyed, the most recent of which was a children’s hospital that was bombed by aircraft using chlorine gas, and there is no longer a place to transfer the thousands of wounded to.

Most of the attacks target parts of the city where there are no fighters. This is because they want to make the tragedy bigger, pressurise the world and displace the rest of the population in the direction of the Turkish border. It is for this reason that they refused requests to let humanitarian aid through, and rejected the proposal made by Turkey and the United Nations to allow the city to manage itself, in addition to refusing any solutions to stop the tragedy. As a result, operations to destruct take place around the clock. One of the female residents of the city said that she resorts to sleeping in order to escape the tragedy.

Despite this, the regime’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem said “We will not accept the solution that involves the self-government of the city, we will not allow the delivery of aid to the city and we will not leave eastern Aleppo, with its 275,000 residents, to be the hostage of 6,000 terrorists.”

The truth is the opposite of that. Assad’s forces and its allies Iran and Russia are the ones who have taken the population as hostages. They are besieging and attacking the city, destroying houses and targeting hospitals as part of a plan to make Aleppo uninhabitable in addition to eliminating 6,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters.

Nothing is being done to stop the massacre that is taking place in Aleppo except the making of verbal appeals. This is despite the whole world witnessing what is happening. The massacre is a foundation which is paving the way for the next phase of Syria’s “wars” even if the Syrian regime manages to storm the last FSA post and takes possession of it.

We are talking about FSA fighters and not fighters of terrorist groups including Al-Nusra Front. The regime and its allies have deliberately not opposed Al-Nusra Front so that they can use them as a new excuse, as they are doing now, in order to complete the regime’s project to displace people and take control under the pretext of fighting Al-Nusra Front and ISIS terrorists. Since the fighting expanded last year, Assad’s army, Hezbollah’s militias, other extremist Shiite groups and the Russian air force have not been fighting ISIS as they pledged and have consistently declared in their statements.

It is the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Raqqa and other areas where there are clashes with terrorists. It facilitated the task of the Iranian-Assad coalition and strengthened extremist Shiite militias which devoted their time to fighting people in several areas that are mainly Sunni in order to consolidate a sectarian Alawite governance that follows a very small minority. What is happening today is actually crazy, and the implications will be deep and long lasting.

What is the next stage after Assad’s fall? The FSA, which has been the main fighting force against the Assad regime over the last five years and whose views reflect that of most citizens, will become weakened and may split up. Many of its fighters will leave its ranks to join armed, extremist and Islamist groups such as ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and others. Some may wonder what the difference between the FSA and Al-Nusra Front is considering they are all fighting Assad. There is a big difference between the two and that is their goals for fighting.

FSA fighters are Syrians with a patriotic goal; to liberate their land and country from a regime that they disagree with. Al-Nusra Front is mostly made up of Syrians as opposed to ISIS fighters who are mostly foreign. Its goals are religious and it believes that it is fighting disbelievers. It also believes that most people, including Sunni Syrians in their country, are disbelievers and it aspires to establish its extremist caliphate and wage “jihad” around the world.

The massacre that is taking place in Aleppo and in the countrysides of Idlib and Hama today will push thousands of Syrians to join Al-Nusra Front because it is the only remaining team that is prepared to fight the regime. Through Al-Nusra Front, they will be able to take revenge on their former enemies and the whole world. We are not talking about this in order to implore support for the FSA. However, what the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and the regime are doing today in terms of sowing sectarian divisions, murdering civilians and systematically displacing people, will not be forgotten.

Eastern Aleppo could fall within days and this may be followed by other cities, but the crisis will widen and double the danger that the region and the world face.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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