03:00 GMT +316 December 2018
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    Syrian pro-government forces hold a position in Aleppo's 1070 district on November 8, 2016, after seizing it from rebel fighters

    Damascus-Led Forces Set to Free Aleppo 'in the Near Future'

    © AFP 2018 / GEORGES OURFALIAN
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    Damascus-led forces and their allies could well free Aleppo, the largest industrial, infrastructural and logistical center in northern Syria, "in the near future," RIA Novosti political analyst Alexander Khrolenko asserted, adding that the city's fate "has been sealed" since both Russia and the US appear to be ready to tackle al-Nusra Front.

    On November 11, US President Barack Obama ordered the Pentagon to take out al-Nusra Front leaders in what marked a major policy shift for Washington in Syria.

    "Obama has fundamentally changed Washington's foreign policy priorities" in the war-torn Arab country, the analyst said. "The United States had previously viewed 'Assad's regime' as the greater evil in the Middle East, while al-Nusra Front claimed the status of a viable opposition to the Syrian government."

    Meanwhile, Russia's aircraft carrier group deployed to the Mediterranean is reported to be ready to take part in counterterrorism operations in Syria. According to the analyst, the Aleppo offensive will likely see Russian naval forces in action.

    "Sea-based aviation of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has conducted reconnaissance flights in Syrian airspace on a regular basis to study the battleground and choose priority targets," he said. In addition, "Russian surveillance ships have monitored Syria's coastal areas and inland."

    Khrolenko added that Syrian rebels are "desperate." On Thursday, some 6,000 militants led by al-Nusra Front launched an operation aimed at breaking the government siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. But the offensive was ill-prepared and badly executed, with the militants "recklessly using all means of combat available to them."

    These apparently included prohibited weapons. Earlier this week, the Russian Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense (RChBD) troops found traces of toxic agents following a militant attack on civilians and service personnel in the 1070 neighborhood of Aleppo. A snap analysis showed that they most likely used chlorine and white phosphorous.

    Khrolenko further mentioned strategic implications of Aleppo's liberation.

    Once the Syrian Arab Army frees the city, it will be able to "control northern Syria, Kurdish-populated areas on the border with Turkey and northwestern Iraq," he said. "Aleppo is located mere 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the largest Syrian sea port of Latakia, home to more than 550,000 people, and a Russian military base."

    Aleppo's liberation "will destroy the economic base of militant groups," he said. It will also sever communications with militants located in neighboring Turkey and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of Daesh's caliphate.

    Khrolenko maintained that a victory in Aleppo will "deliver a crushing blow to foreign adversaries of Syrian President bashar al-Assad."

    In addition, Aleppo's liberation will also dramatically change the facts on the ground in Syria in favor of Damascus and will significantly weaken Islamists in the Idlib province, which has served as a magnet for groups opposed to Assad.

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    Tags:
    Syrian crisis, military operation in Syria, jihadist rebels, Russian aerial campaign, Syrian conflict, counterterrorism, Al-Nusra Front, Syria, Aleppo
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