Back in October, we brought you “Syrian Showdown: Russia, Iran Rally Forces, US Rearms Rebels As ‘Promised’ Battle For Aleppo Begins,” in which we detailed Russia and Iran’s preparations for an push north towards Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city that’s held by a hodgepodge of militants, rebels, and jihadists (if one is inclined to differentiate between the three).
As Reuters noted at the time, "the assault means the army is now pressing insurgents on several fronts near Syria's main cities in the west, control of which would secure President Bashar al-Assad's hold on power even if the east of the country is still held by Islamic State."
In other words, we said, if Assad can secure Aleppo, Iran and Russia will have successfully restored his grip on the country for all intents and purposes.
To give you an idea of how critical the battle truly is, Quds commander Qassem Soleimani personally called thousands of Shiite militiamen over from Iraq to fight alongside Hezbollah in the ground operation. In fact, Soleimani showed up on the frontlines to rally the troops and according to a number of reports, was injured two weeks ago while commanding his armies near the city (no one knows his current status).
The fight for Aleppo rages on today and in the lead up to the assault we brought you a series of stark images from 2012 depicting the struggle facing those who remain trapped in the violence. Here are few representative samples:
We also highlighted the following image which shows nighttime light emissions before and after the war began:
Here’s a recent account from Reuters which summarizes where things stand in what has become a protracted, grinding offensive for Assad, Iran, and Russia:
Syrian government forces backed by Iranian troops edged closer to a major rebel-controlled highway south of Aleppo on Tuesday, pushing further into insurgent-held areas supported by heavy Russian air strikes.
After seizing a series of villages including Zitan, Humaira and Qalaajiya, the army said it had thrust to the outskirts of Zirba and encircled the town of Khan Touman, an advance rebels said had left them outgunned from the air and ground.
The aim of government forces appeared to be to cut the main Aleppo-Damascus highway that fighters use to transport supplies from rebel-held Idlib province to the north.
Two months of Russian air strikes twinned with army ground offensives backed by Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces have shored up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his western heartland.
And here's an account from Newsweek which gives you an idea of how desperate the situation is in the city:
Dr. Rami Kalazi (a neurosurgeon) and his colleagues work in a building that, to most people, isn’t recognizable as a hospital. Seen in a photograph sent via messaging service WhatsApp, the hospital has worn metal bars covering two holes at the front of the beige three-story structure, where glass windows are supposed to be. Wires dangle down past exposed brick and around a dozen barrels containing concrete debris that are lined up outside. The sidewalk in front of the hospital has mostly been destroyed and the two-story clinic next door is in a similar state of disrepair.
It’s hard to imagine these buildings as places that could save someone’s life, yet this is the reality for the remaining hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Syria, where roughly 80 doctors remain, down from 1,500 in 2010. Nearly all the doctors—95 percent—in the eastern part of the city have fled, been detained or been killed, according to a startling report from international humanitarian organization Physicians For Human Rights.
It's against that rather depressing backdrop that we present the following photos (courtesy of Reuters) which depict "A night in Aleppo" (click on the images to enlarge and observe how clear the stars are in the absence of any and all light emissions from the city; the last two images are of graveyards):
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Congratulations, Washington. This is what "democratic regime change" looks like.