On October 19, 2016, a convoy of buses left the besieged al-Nusra dominated eastern enclave in Aleppo, Syria, and made its way through the government-controlled portions of the city. Hundreds of Syrian soldiers lined both sides of the street as they passed. The windows of at least some of the buses were blacked out.
Who were in the buses? Although many residents of Aleppo reported seeing the convoy, no information was forthcoming from official sources on either side. Some speculated that they were covert advisors from the US and other NATO countries, Saudi Arabia, and possibly even Israel. The only report in the western media came from Finian Cunningham, published in Sputnik News.
Some said that these suspected advisors had been providing support to the thousands of Nusra-led (al-Qaeda) fighters in the besieged area of the city, and were now leaving before the final push by Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air support, to retake that area. It would be extremely embarrassing for them to be caught working with the same terrorist group accused of bringing down the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2002, with a loss of nearly 3000 mostly American lives.
NATO and other covert support for al-Nusra has been an open secret. Fars News reported that on September 20, 2016, Caliber missiles launched from Russian warships in the Mediterranean attacked an operations room in the mountains near Aleppo and killed thirty operatives from Israel, the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Although never denied, the news blackout has been nearly total, as with the Aleppo buses. In addition, a Nusra commander revealed in an interview that his group was receiving arms directly from the US.
Less than 24 hours after the buses left, Syria and Russia implemented a previously announced unilateral ceasefire. Its announced purpose was to evacuate all who wished to leave the area. In accordance with its standard policy, Syria offered shelter and social services to all civilians wishing to leave, with encouragement to return after the end of the fighting. They also offered amnesty to fighters willing to lay down their arms and end anti-government operations. For fighters who wanted to continue fighting, they offered safe passage to other parts of Syria under the control of anti-government forces.
If this seems far-fetched to readers accustomed to western media bias against the Syrian government, it is quite familiar to most Syrians, who have witnessed dozens of amnesties and safe passages implemented throughout Syria in recent years, notably in Homs, Ghouta, Moaddamiya, Daraya, Madaya and many more. It is a logical way to retake territory, when possible, with a minimum of casualties. The anti-government fighters know from experience that the government offers are sincere. I personally witnessed a small part of the negotiations in Homs, in the presence of several civilian negotiators, including Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a leader in the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) movement in Syria.
So what has happened since the ceasefire took effect on October, 20, 2016?
Nothing. Nothing at all. Government forces opened six checkpoints for civilians and two more for fighters. They brought buses to transport whoever came, but no one came. Finally, after three days, they announced that the ceasefire was closing.
Why did no one take advantage of this offer? Unfortunately, the al-Nusra fighters and their allies have been killing everyone trying to leave. Families in the government areas are at their wit’s end trying to extract members still in the enclave. Snipers have been firing on anyone on the streets that mark the shifting and shrinking boundaries. The fighters are, in effect, making hostages of the entire civilian population of the enclave, variously estimated at 40,000 to 250,000 people.
The meaning of this is potentially enormously tragic. If the fighters know that they are going to lose, they also know that many civilians will be lost in the fighting. But perhaps that is their intention. Or worse.
Propaganda has been a large part of the western effort to overthrow the Syrian government and create a theocratic takfiri state or simply a failed state and perpetual war. Millions of dollars and possibly direct technical assistance have been provided to the “Aleppo Media Center” and the White Helmets to create Hollywood-quality productions and false flags. In 2013, such efforts brought the US to within a hair’s breadth of full scale bombing, despite the UN reporting no evidence of Syrian government involvement in the use of chemical weapons.
What, then, would be the effect if the fighters slaughter hundreds or thousands of civilians in their enclave as the Syrian army and Russian air force close in? Their false flag propaganda machines, wedded to the western press, would be ready to claim a Pearl Harbor level provocation. Would President Obama resist the demand to take on Russia? Is this what some have in mind?
And how does this relate to the US election? What will Aleppo look like on election eve? Can it affect the vote? Will Hillary be calling for all out war, as expected? Will Trump, Stein and Johnson be demanding that the US stay out of the conflict? Israel will undoubtedly be encouraging war. Does this mean that the US Congress will be demanding the same?
It doesn’t have to be this way. The US can tell its allies in Syria that it will block such a plan, and effectively order the fighters to accept the Syrian government offer. The US can even guarantee the evacuation and take credit for the peaceful resolution, by working with Syria and Russia, as it did with the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Will cooler heads prevail? Sadly, sanity, statesmanship and cooperation are in short supply in Washington these days. A career in foreign policy seems to depend on advancing the most violent and destructive means of crushing opposition to US global domination. Let’s hope that we have reached the upper limit of this way of thinking.