Robert G. Rabil: The Battle for Aleppo

Roundup: Media's Take

Robert G. Rabil served as a chief of emergency for the Red Cross in Lebanon during the country's civil war. He is associate professor of political science and the LLS Distinguished Professor of Current Events at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of Syria, United States and The War on Terror in the Middle East and most recently Religion, National Identity and Confessional Politics in Lebanon: The Challenge of Islamism.

Notwithstanding the destruction and staggering loss of life as the raging battle for Syria's commercial capital of Aleppo continues, the battle for both the regime and the opposition has taken on a multidimensional strategic aspect. The battle for Aleppo confirms that the first phase of the Syrian civil war has ended, and the battle for consolidating sectarian cantonization has begun. And it has initiated a process with far-reaching implications for Syria and the region.

The descent of the Free Syrian Army on Aleppo is tactically and strategically motivated. The opposition has succeeded in taking the battle against the regime to the country's commercial hub, a city that not long ago was a bastion of support for the regime. Moreover, timing the battle for Aleppo on the heels of the deadly strike against the regime's senior echelons in the capital's national-security headquarters undoubtedly is meant to tear down the regime's psychological power over its loyalists and supporters.

Strategically, however, the battle is about reconnecting Aleppo and its environs to its historic hinterland in Turkey, much as Homs and Hama had been historically connected to Northern Lebanon. This reconnection enhances the influence of Turkey over the opposition, represented mainly by the Syrian National Council, and provides the Free Syrian Army with a strategic route for receiving armaments from Ankara. Heavy weaponry from Turkey reportedly has already begun to be transported to the rebels in Aleppo, signifying that the attack on the city was no less a Turkish than a rebel decision....

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