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In Aleppo, a potential turning point for Syria

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Aleppo, Syria’s commercial powerhouse and a symbolic rival to the capital Damascus, has been under siege for most of a civil war that is well into its sixth year.

But the intense fighting there now, where the rebels that once dominated the city are fighting to stave off the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, is of a different order.

The outcome, many regional experts say, likely won’t end the complex and devastating war that has cost more than 300,000 Syrian lives, displaced millions, and spawned an epic flow of humanity to European shores. But it is likely to determine both the course of the war and the political prospects of both the regime and Syria’s opposition.

“If the regime is unable to retake Aleppo, that will demonstrate that they are unable to retake all of Syria,” says Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and United States policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “If the opposition suffers defeat and is routed from the city, it’s a sign the revolution has lost.”