New from me for The Century Foundation:
When opposition-held east Aleppo fell, it fell hard. Now Syria’s rebels and their backers have to piece together what happened and decide how to move forward.
Aleppo’s rebels were hobbled by their own factionalism and dysfunction, and jihadist hardliners have since keyed into these internal reasons for Aleppo’s fall. Yet the main reason rebels lost seems to have been that they were simply outmatched – facing down an assault from the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran that was unstoppable.
“I don’t think it’s really [rebels’] fault, primarily,” a diplomat told me. “They lost Aleppo. They were outgunned, and they didn’t get help. That’s a reality.”
“If they had done things perfectly, would they have held Aleppo?” the diplomat asked. “No. Would they have held it another month, maybe.”
After Aleppo, rebels have to reckon with that basic asymmetry. And as the regime and its allies train their fire elsewhere, rebels have to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice in a losing battle.