With the Syrian government in control of the western half and rebel forces in control of the eastern half, the city of Aleppo has been divided since 2012. As Syria’s civil war has headed into the sixth year of chaos, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is now focusing its efforts on regaining control of Syria’s largest city.
Consequently, beginning on September 23, more than 200 airstrikes have clobbered the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo. The aerial attacks were conducted by government forces and allied militias who are in support of Assad’s regime, including the Russian military.
While there are many conflicting reports of how successful Assad’s regime was in reclaiming land from rebel forces, the majoraity estimate that the heavy bombings killed 338 people, including over 100 children, according to the New York Times. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon quickly condemned the attacks as the “most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict,” according to the Washington Post. The series of bombings have left hundreds of thousands of residents trapped in Aleppo with minimal access to food, shelter or medical care.
After assessing the damage done to the city, it is evident that the bombings targeted areas heavily populated and containing resources such as hospitals, schools and a main water treatment plant. This catastrophe has sparked major concerns worldwide, especially in the United States government.
Prior to the Russian-backed assault by the Syrian government on the rebel-held territory of Aleppo, the United States and Russia came to an agreement that went into effect on September 12 in an effort to bring peace to Syria. As part of the truce, both governments agreed to put their political motives aside by joining forces in targeting jihadist fighters that both countries considered terrorists.
However, the truce quickly crumbled beginning with an airstrike on a United Nations convoy, which was followed by the raid of airstrikes on Aleppo.
In response to Russia’s escalated involvement in assisting Assad’s regime, Secretary of State John Kerry threatened that the U.S. would suspend all cooperation with Russia in their efforts to subdue the violence. Kerry emphasized, as reported by The Atlantic, that Russia must “stop this assault and allow humanitarian access to Aleppo and other areas in need.” Kerry is unwilling to work with Russia unless Russia ceases airstrikes.
With the ceasefire already falling through last week, Russia is on the brink of losing the United States as an ally. U.S. officials now remain extremely skeptical of whether the Russians can truly hold up their end of the agreement. At this point, the agreement hinges on whether Russia can prove its commitment to peace efforts. While Russia’s status with the United States is very insecure, Russia has been quick to justify their involvement in the airstrikes.
So far, Russia has been accused of barbarism and using indiscriminate weapons. In response, Russia has unconditionally defended their involvement by claiming that the airstrikes were a crucial way to defeat terrorists.