Aleppo then, and now: What the future holds for the Ancient City

A general view of damage in the Umayyad mosque of Old Aleppo, December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT RELIGION) – RTX16JX2

As the Syrian Administration slowly assert their claim over Aleppo after freeing it from the clasps of ISIS, they still are far from restoring civilian normalcy in the city, let alone re-establishing political stability to the entire country. The Syrian equation still continues to be in conflict between the three parties – the Assad Administration, ISIS and the Syrian Rebels along with their affiliates.

The fall of Aleppo hints at the fact that now the rebels have very little chances of scoring victories against the Assad Regime, their support from their foreign allies is expected to continue. Hence, even as the ISIS threat subsides, the Assad government will still continue to spend a sizeable amount of resources in their offensive against the rebels. Many officials from Damascus have even agreed to the fact that the re-capture of Aleppo and the ousting of ISIS from major strongholds don’t signal the end of the war. However, there has been optimism after the re-capture as much of Syria’s fertile farmland lies in the Aleppo region.

Yet there remains a catch in this seemingly optimistic victory. Just like most of the military successes that have occurred in Syria so far, the Aleppo victory was secured not by Syrian military forces but by the Russian Air Force and Shia militias backed by Iran. Assad’s strained and poorly organized military continues to rely on Moscow and Tehran’s support to regain more territory. Hence, his ambitions have to be in constant agreement with the relations he shares with his foreign allies.

At the same time, the insurgents that continue to operate on the ground are expected to move away from their conventional tactics of warfare and move towards guerrilla warfare or other tactics of fourth generation warfare. Hence, the threat of terror attacks continues to loom over normal citizens.

What was once a city rooted with deep history and culture has faced a significant toll from the damage caused by the reign of ISIS in the region. There have been a lot of efforts to spread awareness about the past of Aleppo. This includes efforts by international media who have written articles and even created picture slideshows to compare how the city used to be and how it stands today. Clearly, the reign of ISIS has left a grave impression on the historic city.

Hopes for the reconstruction of the city currently largely depend on initiatives the Assad government takes and any international support the city may get from the United Nations or other foreign donors. However, with the rampant corruption, human rights concerns and looming political instability, what the future holds for Aleppo is what unfortunately seems to be highly uncertain.

 

 

*Rayan Bhattacharya is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti

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