The Syrian regime regards the battle in Aleppo as a major campaign to defeat what it terms "terrorist organizations" and to thwart the Turkish efforts to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria. The regime prepared at length for this campaign. On April 6, 2016 the Syrian army announced that it had launched a major offensive in the Aleppo region "in accordance with its promise to respond firmly to violations of the ceasefire" by the terror organizations. On April 10, Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi announced that the army and the Russian air force were preparing a joint operation to liberate Aleppo. Although Russia denied this, the preparations on the ground continued, and also involved Iran, which reported in early April that it had dispatched Division 65 troops to the Aleppo area. It was also reported that six Iranian combat jets had reached Syria in order to take part in the fight against the Syrian opposition in Aleppo. On April 28, 2016 the Syrian army and the Russian Air Force launched a massive attack on Aleppo that killed hundreds.
In addition to accusing the terrorist organizations of violating the cessation of hostilities agreement that came into effect on February 21, 2016, the Syrian regime blames the escalation in the Aleppo area on Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which, it says, "sponsor" and "direct" the terrorism. Many writers in the official Syrian press also leveled harsh criticism at the U.S., saying that it is behind the Saudi and Turkish actions. One writer in the government daily Al-Thawra even called the U.S. "the head of the serpent" and advised attacking American targets and interests in order to deter it from supporting the terrorists.
Despite the temporary ceasefire that was reached in Aleppo following understandings between the U.S. and Russia, and came into effect on May 5, the Syrian regime continues to maintain its position that a military victory is the only way to restore security and stability to the city.
This report will review the regime's position on the situation in Aleppo.
President Assad: The War In Aleppo Will Continue Until Terror Is Defeated
On April 28, 2016, the Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, published an article titled "It Is Time to Launch a Campaign for Liberating All of Aleppo," which indicated that the recent escalation of hostilities in the city had been initiated by the regime. The article stated that Syria's political and military leadership had given the ceasefire and the political process a chance, but now it was time to commence military action to complete the takeover of the city. "Everyone can see that the Syrian regime has concentrated forces and is preparing, along with its allies, for a decisive battle," said the article, and added: "Last Thursday [April 21], the army sent a message to the terrorists and their supporters in the north of Aleppo and in the Handarat refugee camp that it was capable of completing the cordon of the city and its eastern neighborhoods, but that it preferred to give the political process a chance... provided [that everyone understood] that it would resume its activities if the militants and those negotiating in their name did not show flexibility." The article explained that the campaign's objectives were to put an end to the aspirations of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and to "serve as a meaningful springboard towards eliminating terror." It stated further that "this is a war that the Syrian army is waging on behalf of the entire world against Jabhat Al-Nusra, ISIS and [other] takfiri forces of darkness." The article speculated that the battle would not last long and would completely change the situation in Syria and the region."
The Syrian regime and its mouthpieces adhered to the position that a military campaign was the only way to deal with the "terrorists" even after the temporary ceasefire in Aleppo that Russia and the U.S. agreed upon on May 5, came into force. In a letter of congratulations that Syrian President Assad sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the anniversary of the Allied victory over Germany in World War II, he wrote: "Today the city of Aleppo, like all the cities of Syria, embraces the heroic city of Stalingrad and promise it that, despite the cruelty of the enemies and the brutality of the attack, and despite the numerous victims and great pain, our cities and villages, our people and our proud army, will not accept anything less than the defeat of this attack and a final victory over it, due to the positive effect this will have on Syria as a whole, on the region and on the world."
The claim that the campaign for Aleppo is unavoidable and will continue until terror is fully defeated was also made in many articles in the Syrian government press and in papers close to the regime. These also attacked the American efforts to reach a ceasefire in Aleppo, on the grounds that it would include Jabhat Al-Nusra, which the Security Council has designated a terrorist organization. Dr. Bassem Abu 'Abdallah, a political science lecturer at the university of Damascus, wrote in a similar vein in the daily Al-Watan: "In my opinion, there is no avoiding a decisive campaign in Aleppo, because the events [the attempts to secure a ceasefire] are only a distraction... The campaign is difficult, but the only option is to win it, for this will be a victory of civilization over barbarity, of virtue over hypocrisy and false prophecy, and of sovereignty over subordination..."
'Imad Salem, who writes for the government daily Al-Ba'th, wrote: "The campaign in Aleppo with take place and there is no avoiding it, even if this compromises the cessation of hostilities [agreement]. Its outcomes will determine the contours of the world's new geopolitical map..."
Al-Thawra editor 'Ali Qassem wrote: "...We are not against a lull [in the fighting]; we even believe that it constitutes a spark of hope that could alleviate the suffering of the Syrians. At the same time, it will be difficult, or even impossible, to convince us that violating [international law] will serve [the objective of] a lull, and that ignoring the presence of Jabhat Al-Nusra and the alliances that [other] terrorist organizations are forming with it [is the way to] maintain this lull... A lull with Jabhat Al-Nusra, its proxies and its allies is a violation of international law and of international resolutions, and a wanton act that, in our opinion, the world should not disregard, even for the sake of preserving the cessation of hostilities agreement or preventing the lull from collapsing. [The lull] has no future and no hope of lasting if terrorism and its organizations continue to exist..."
Syrian Foreign Ministry: Saudi Arabia, Turkey Are Orchestrating The Activity Of The Terror Organizations
As expected, the Syrian regime pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which head the camp that opposes it and support the Syrian opposition, claiming that they directed the terror organizations to escalate their attacks in Aleppo in light of the numerous defeats they had sustained on other battlefronts, as well as in the negotiations. In a May 3, 2016 letter to the UN Security Council, the Syrian foreign ministry stated: "While local and international [elements] are engaged in efforts to consolidate the agreement for the cessation of hostilities and for a lull in Aleppo, the terror organizations, under the direction of those who operate them in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have launched a comprehensive offensive along several routes into the city..." Syrian Information Minister 'Omran Al-Zou'bi said, in a similar vein: "Every time the terrorist organizations and those who operate them fail in their attempts to achieve a military victory in some area, they try to create an explosion in some other area... We hold the governments of the Turkish and Saudi regimes responsible, from a legal, political, moral and criminal point of view, for every drop of blood spilled in Aleppo in the recent days... and for everything that is happening in Syria." Al-Zou'bi stated further: "The truth about the information and the photos that they [Turkey and Saudi Arabia] are falsifying in order to cover up their terror and crimes in Aleppo has been exposed and it emphasizes their impotence and frustration."
Basma Hamed, a columnist for the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan, wrote: "The Qatari-Saudi-Turkish triangle is trying to prevent any harm to its future role, and that is why it is acting to prevent the Damascus axis from scoring a new victory [in Aleppo]... and to thwart the advance of the Syrian army and its plan to purge Aleppo as a preliminary step before advancing on Idlib, Deir Al-Zor and Al-Raqqa with the help of the Russian air force..." She added: "The Aleppo arena has become a complicated arena of local and international struggle. All the warring parties have concentrated their forces [there] in an attempt to take over the city. [Our] rivals understand the implication of the events and is preparing for a confrontation. This, because a victory in Aleppo, coming after the victory in Tadmor, means that the Saudi-Qatari terrorist arm will be amputated, the Syria-Turkey border will be closed to the extremists, and the illusory Ottoman [dream] to build a buffer zone in northern Syria will be shattered..."
Syrian Columnists: The U.S. Is 'The head Of The Serpent; It Should Be Attacked In Order To Deter It
Though the Syrian regime blames Saudi Arabia and Turkey for the escalation of hostilities in Syria, it places the main responsibility for this on the U.S., saying that it allows and even instructs them to do this. 'Ali Nasrallah, a columnist for the government Syria daily Al-Thawra, called to "deliver blows" to the U.S. and its interests, because it is the source of terror. He wrote: "There is no doubt that the escalation occurred against the backdrop of the latest round of talks [between the regime and opposition delegations] in Geneva, and was accompanied by inflammatory statements by various elements, including [former] Turkish [Prime Minister] Davutoglu. Naturally, the statements of the other hostile elements are not uncoordinated, because Washington issues instructions to all its proxies, without exception. It is noteworthy that the American administration continues its hypocrisy and lies... Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are central factors in the aggression, and they do not [even] hide [the fact that] they manufacture, fund and arm the terrorism ... But the U.S. thwarts even the calls to supervise the transfer of funds and weapons and the calls to close the [Turkey-Syria] border... So the struggle is mainly against the U.S. not against its minor proxies, for the U.S. is the exclusive sponsor of terror... Attacking the manufacturers [of terror] is effective and attacking the mercenaries is necessary. [But] the correct course of action is to address the operator and planner, the serpent's head , in order to deter it by delivering the right kind of blows to it and to its interests in order to make it withdraw..."
Syrian Columnists: The U.S. Supports Terrorism; Cannot Take part In Resolving Syria Crisis
Ahmad 'Orabi Ba'aj, a columnist for the government Syria daily Al-Thawra, wrote: "It is true that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the most aggressive countries that are negatively intervening in Syria, but this aggression would not have continued had the U.S. not done everything in its power to prevent [achieving] a political solution to the crisis in Syria... [These] countries would never have dreamt of doing what they are doing without unreserved American support, and without the American-Zionist coordination, division of labor and approval of the terror that is being perpetrated in the region..."
Al-Ba'th columnist 'Ali Salem called for excluding the U.S. from the efforts to resolve the Syria crisis: "What is happening in Aleppo today cannot be separated from what is happening in the rest of Syria and around the negotiations table in Geneva. [Everything] is part of a precisely-formulated Western plan. The latest [move in this plan] was the immense effort that the American administration invested in preserving what remains of the terrorist [organizations] and ignoring the takfiri organizations' daily violations of the [cessation of hostilities] agreement and their withdrawal of their delegation from the Geneva talks... after all this, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry, who has never spoken the truth, makes declarations and blames the Syrian state for all the attacks, in a way that corresponds to America's history of hypocrisy and aggression... From now on, the party who has killed, destroyed, expelled [people] and fanned the flames of the crisis [i.e., the U.S.] should not be relied upon to resolve the Syrian [crisis], even if he presents himself as a savior - for behind the good manners and smooth words there hides a cowboy who understands only the language of force and [aims] to achieve his goals, no matter how many people die, and even if this is done by means of cooperating with the takfiri organizations..."
Ba'ath Party Member: The International Community, Which Was Horrified By The Terror In Paris, Is Indifferent To The Terror In Aleppo; The U.S. And U.N. Are Plotting Against Syria
Shahnaz Fakoush, a member of the national leadership of Syria's ruling Ba'th party, criticized the international community that was shocked by the terror attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo but did not lift a finger on behalf of terror victims in Syria. She wrote in Al-Thawra: "After the flames of terror struck the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France, it took less than 24 hours for the world's leaders, and even the robed kings [i.e. the Gulf states], to convene and for condemnations and anti-terror resolutions to start forming in the UN corridors. This happened while terror had been striking Syria for five years but the world remained blind and mute [to this]. Despite this, we [still] hoped for the best and that the West would start getting serious about the anti-terror struggle... But it seems that [the outrage following the Charlie Hebdo attack] was a disease that vanished once the temperature dropped. They called it a massacre, while it was [merely a limited] incident, and forgot the acts of massacre that the terrorists had been committing in Syria for five years...
"[Staffan] de Mistura, you and your ceasefire and your cessation of hostilities [agreement] and the Geneva talks and the files that you carry with you - get away from us, we do not need you. De Mistura is not innocent of the Syrians' blood... After 10 sweltering days [of battle] we hear him talk about the need for a ceasefire in Aleppo. The U.S., de Mistura, the West and even the U.N. are all plotting against Syria and Aleppo... Does a terror attack like Charlie Hebdo have to occur in Aleppo for the world to be shocked?..."
 Champress.net April 6, 2016.
 Syria-news.com April 10, 2016.
 Tasnim (Iran), April 4, 2016.
 Mizanonline.ir, April 27, 2016.
 For responses by the Syrian opposition and by Arab writers to the situation in Aleppo, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6420, Syrian Opposition, Arab Writers: The U.S. Has A hand In Aleppo Situation; The Syrians Are Being Slaughtered While The Arab World Does Nothing, May 9, 2016.
 Al-Watan (Syria), April 28, 2016.
 SANA (Syria), May 5, 2016.
 Al-Watan (Syria), May 5, 2016.
 Al-Ba'th (Syria), May 6, 2016.
 Al-Thawra (May 5, 2016).
 SANA (Syria), May 3, 2016.
 Al-Watan (Syria), May 2, 2016.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), May 2, 2016.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), May 4, 2016.
 Al-Ba'th (Syria), May 6, 2016.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), May 5, 2016.