For a host of reasons, the counteroffensive was hugely important. More important than that is the aftershocks, and they are devastating too:
1- The towns near the Turkish border had been surrounded by Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other terrorist goons for years. Their liberation puts the Syrian military in full control of key supply routes into those important nearby cities.
2- The terrorist groups and their patrons were fuming at the Geneva talks. They condemned the Syrian gains and left the talks. Even UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura criticized the surprise offensive, claiming it displaced “hundreds of civilians from towns near the area. This is while the offensive ended up freeing an estimated 60,000 civilians from siege conditions. The regime changers cannot spin this as “a major humanitarian blow”.
3- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius likewise termed the offensive that broke the siege “brutal” and accused it of “torpedoing peace efforts”. This is while it was the UN which declared a pause in the talks – that all sides argued never started.
4- The United States insisted the pause was wholly Russia’s fault, a function of them continuing airstrikes in Syria during the talks. Again, there was never a ceasefire agreed to beforehand, while US warplanes too continued airstrikes throughout the period.
5- True, the Syrian gains is a blow to the terrorist groups’ efforts to keep contesting the city of Aleppo. Yet the biggest loser has to be Turkey. In taking back the area around the towns, the Syrian military also regained the supply line between the Azaz border crossing and Aleppo, meaning Turkey can no longer use that border crossing to throw weapons at the terrorist goons in Aleppo. Turkey can no longer declare a “no-fly zone” over the area either.
6- In addition to the Shiite communities, other big beneficiaries are Kurdish forces and civilians. Without the crossing at Azaz, Turkey is in less of a position to arm terrorist groups to attack the Kurds. True, the Turks have threatened direct intervention, but that’s just cheap talk.
7- The Syrian gains are not just against the terrorist groups, but also against their patrons, mainly the US, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It will pave the way for greater military gains in other parts of Aleppo, while giving the upper hand to Syrian government negotiators at future talks.
8- And the talks are in no way about the Syrian government making a deal with the Devil or allowing the terrorists partition the country into ethnic-sectarian lines. It is about dialog with the Syrian opposition – not terrorists. Simply put, the terrorists are wasting their times at any such talks.
Peace talks notwithstanding, the alliance of Iran, Syria, Russia and Hezbollah will continue the real and nonselective fight against Takfiri-Salafi terrorism until the country is fully liberated and safe. To this end, the liberation of Nubl and Al-Zahra is just the beginning, yet more than sufficient to establish that commitment on the part of all Alliance members.
As the slow demise of ISIL, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups suggests, the anti-terrorism campaign by the Alliance is working and will certainly gather pace in the coming months. The Alliance made it absolutely clear in Geneva that in 2016 there should be no future and certainly no place for the foreign-backed murderers, mutilators and rapists in Syria.