Syrian government press in their offensive on Aleppo

Bassem Mroue
Associated Press

Beirut — Forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad pressed their offensive Tuesday on Aleppo’s rebel-held zone from the south, after capturing areas on other fronts in recent days. As reinforcements arrived, including Shiite fighters from Iraq, the strategy appeared to be to retake rebel-held areas bit by bit, backed by massive Russian airpower, rather than risk a potentially costly all-out ground battle.

Tuesday’s offensive on the city’s besieged rebel-held eastern neighborhoods came a day after Washington suspended direct U.S.-Russian talks on a Syria cease-fire — a move U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed on Russia’s rejection of diplomacy in favor of helping Assad’s government achieve a military victory over the rebels.

The latest tactic of whittling away at rebel-held areas of Aleppo rather than launching an all-out offensive has proved successful in the past: The government reasserted control of the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, and most of the central city of Homs using the strategy.

“The Syrian army and its allies are in a sustained offensive to recapture rebel-held eastern Aleppo,” wrote Robert Ford, a veteran diplomat and former ambassador to Syria.

“Unless the balance on the ground drastically shifts, the Assad regime will eventually retake from opposition fighters all of Aleppo and the outlying districts of Damascus,” wrote Ford, a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “This may take months, but the balance is certainly in the Syrian government’s favor.”

Syrian troops and their allies have laid siege to rebel-held parts of Aleppo since July 17.