Why is the Syrian and Russian attack on Aleppo significant?
The Assad (Syrian Government)/Russian Alliance is part of Russian aspirations of being a world power again. The Assad Government is gaining some initiative against its enemies not just in Aleppo.
The war in Iraq knocked out the Baathist power in Iraq. Shia factions began to dominate the new Government in Iraq. Left over Baathist connected with Sunni extremists to create ISIS. Kurds dominated the North. ISIS has also spread into Syria during the Civil war. Al Qaeda associated groups also appeared in Syria and Iraq.
President Assad of Syria is an Alawite, a Muslim sect, and the Syrian state and army has significantly been dominated by Alawites since French controlled period post World War 1. They are neither Sunni nor Shia but have been persecuted by Sunnis. Any defeat would be hard on the Alawites and Assad. Although Alawites comprise only 11% of Syrian people they are a solid base for the government to draw on.
Russia under Putin has pursued a confrontation strategy against the US in recent years. Putin's power base would like to see Russia be a great power again but are pretty soft on actual warfare regardless of the conflict in the Ukraine. The war in Syria allows Russia to flex its muscle without exposing its armed forces to unnecessary losses.
Arab Spring was a movement that was successful in toppling many regimes in the Middle East but did not the manage to shift the Assad regime or the Alawite Bloc. The Arab Spring participants were often educated urban young people and some secular elements. With fall of Governments they lost ground to the more numerous Islamist groups. The result was increasing violence and chaos. The United States financially assisted the Arab Spring groups.
The major players in Syria then were: US backed rebel groups, ISIS extremist group (Sunni), Assad Alawite group backed by Russia, and a bunch of minor players split every way.
The Assad Government success in Aleppo is reflective of the Russian support connecting in a significant way. Rebel counter attacks are the US ramping up aid. There are indications that the government is making some progress but it is still a long road ahead. How it plays in the American elections is important.
The Russian Fleet moving to the Mediterranean is a significant escalation. Putin's commentary on the US elections is interesting. After the US election there may be changes.
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