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In recent months, the diplomatic posturing in Washington about a cease-fire in Aleppo barely obscured its acquiescence in Bashar al-Assad’s winning the war before the end of the Obama administration. The fall of Aleppo makes us examine who we are. Despite generally honest media coverage, an international mobilization for the besieged city never materialized.
As soon as the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire agreement collapsed about two weeks ago, Assad’s army, supported by the Russian air force, intensified its bombing campaign and artillery shelling of the besieged areas. The Syrian government prevents humanitarian aid from getting to Aleppo, saying that this is how the rebels get arms and ammunition. The result is a bloody stalemate in which neither side is prepared to compromise and no force on the ground is overwhelming enough to claim victory and thus end the carnage. Eastern Aleppo is facing defeat by slow attrition if no political agreement is reached.
Europe’s proximity to Syria means it now has to deal with the refugees. This could have been anticipated in 2013, yet European countries choose to ignore it time and time again. More gravely, by taking a marginal role in the crisis, Europe has let Turkey, the Gulf states, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia determine Syria’s future. It has allowed the most liberal and moderate-minded rebels to be excluded from Syrian politics.
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