The slow, painful fall of Aleppo will not, unfortunately, mean the end of
The siege of Aleppo has come to symbolize the Syrian civil war's numbing brutality. The city had served as a main base for rebel forces since just after the war began, and it became Assad's prime target after Russia entered the war on his behalf. Pro-Assad forces, including Iranian-backed militias, surrounded Aleppo in July, shut off supply and escape routes for the rebels (who were lumped together under a broad "terrorist" label), and, with the help of Russian jets, have turned rebel-held sections of the city to rubble. A Turkey-brokered ceasefire fell apart this week almost before it started. And as the pro-government forces advance, international monitoring groups say, civilians have been murdered indiscriminately.
Assad clearly shoulders the primary blame for this, but Russia bears a load as well. Russian President
The usual place to seek resolution to such conflicts is the U.N. Security Council. But each of the five permanent members has a veto, which means that Russia has been able to block the council from even condemning the atrocities in Syria, much less imposing sanctions or other measures. It similarly will be able to block any efforts to refer war crimes committed during the conflict to the
So where does that leave those who still hope for peace? It's unclear. With the fall of Aleppo, the rebel groups' bargaining position weakens even further. Whether that can lead to more fruitful peace negotiations is unknowable; as the rebels weaken, Assad has less reason to seek a political solution. But he should, if not for the sake of his own citizens, then for the sake of having a shred of a country left. International leaders should increase the pressure on both Assad and Putin to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible, with as few additional deaths as possible, so that attention can turn more fully to eradicating Islamic State.
No one knows what approach President Trump will take, but we hope that his planned re-start of diplomatic relations with Putin will not mean acquiescence. Unless Assad and Putin plan on killing every single person opposed to the Syrian regime, the only solution to this debacle remains a political one. And the longer the world lets it go on, the darker will be its legacy.
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