By Patrick BAHZAD
As readers will probably be aware by now, huge developments have taken place in rebel held Eastern Aleppo over the weekend. In a matter of 48 hours, the rebels have lost some 40 % of the urban territory that was under their control. Adding insult to injury, several thousand residents of those areas started moving over to government or Kurdish held areas in the West of the City.
SST has always forecast such an outcome and stuck by its judgement despite the circumstantial developments that media outlets and expert groups with far larger means considered testimony to the "impossible military victory" in Aleppo.
Well, it turns out, they were wrong and probably out of their depth. The pipedream of the moderate opposition and the propaganda BS that was being sold 24/7 both online and on our TV networks do not necessarily make up for a solid military background and real-life experience … What has just happened over the weekend is the classic example of a strategic breaking point being reaching in a case of attritional urban warfare.
You can debate all you like about the specifics of the case, but there is no denying that the principles of war apply in the same way they do for any other theatre of operation. People just tend to forget that there are means and ways to "prevail" in urban warfare, which is not – and never has been – an "unwinnable" battlefield.
Considering the high operational tempo of the current SAA offensive, it is likely that there will soon be a pause in the advance, in order for troops to regroup and prepare for the next phase, unless it appears that the so-called "moderates" are in such a state of disarray that the Southern part of the East-Aleppo pocket might be taken quickly through keeping the pressure on and just keep on going.
From what has trickled through so far however, it looks like the rebels chose to retreat from the Northern part of the territory they controlled, in a way not to be cut off from the main body of their forces and command centres. They might still have a fight in them, but now more than ever, they will have to fight with their backs against the wall. Whether or not a new offer at leaving the city or facing the consequences will be offered to them is up for debate.
What is looking more and more like a decisive victory for Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies does not put an end to the civil war in Syria however, let's be clear about this. But if Aleppo is won over by the SAA, this will definitely change the dynamics of the conflict in Northern Syria and shape the next phase of the war in a way much more favourable to the regime. The "moderates" would lose the last urban stronghold they have in Syria and would be left fighting a guerrilla war in inhospitable and backward areas of the country, where they will be much more vulnerable to R+6 airpower and ground operations. The similarities with the fate possibly awaiting IS, if and when it loses Mosul, are quite striking.
We shall elaborate on such issues in a SITREP to be published soon about the Aleppo and Mosul situations. For now, feel free to comment and share your opinion