Russian military and Syrian army conducted another successful mission and recaptured the villages of Nubl and al-Zahra in northwestern Aleppo province.
The Obama administration had hoped that it could forestall the onslaught by cobbling together an eleventh-hour ceasefire agreement at the Geneva peace talks. But when the news that Syrian armored units had crashed through al Nusra’s defenses and forced the jihadists to retreat, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended the negotiations tacitly acknowledging that the mission had failed.
De Mistura then announced a “temporary pause” in the stillborn negotiations which had only formally begun just hours earlier.
Developments on the battlefield had convinced the Italian-Swedish diplomat that it was pointless to continue while government forces were effecting a solution through military means.
After months of grinding away at enemy positions across the country, the Russian strategy has begun to bear fruit. Loyalist ground forces have made great strides on the battlefield rolling back the war-weary insurgents on virtually all fronts.
A broad swathe of the Turkish border is now under SAA control while the ubiquitous Russian bombers continue to inflict heavy losses on demoralized anti-regime militants.
For the last two weeks, the Obama team has been following developments on the ground with growing concern. This is why Secretary of State John Kerry hurriedly assembled a diplomatic mission to convene emergency peace talks in Geneva despite the fact that the various participants had not even agreed to attend.
The recapturing of Nubl and Zahraa leaves the jihadists with just one route for transporting weapons, food and fuel to their urban stronghold.
When loyalist forces break the blockade at Bab al Hawa to the northeast, the loop will be closed, the perimeter will tighten, the cauldron will be split into smaller enclaves within the city, and the terrorists will either surrender or face certain annihilation.
Wednesday’s triumph by the Russian-led coalition is a sign that that day may be approaching sooner than anyone had anticipated.
That means Syria’s troubles could resurface again in the future when Obama steps down and a new president pursues a more muscular strategy. A number of powerful people in the ruling establishment are as determined-as-ever to partition Syria and install a US puppet in Damascus. That’s not going to change.
The Russian-led coalition has a small window for concluding its operations, eliminating the terrorists, and reestablishing security across the country.
Ending the war as soon as possible, while creating a safe environment for Syrian refugees to return home, is the best way to reduce the threat of escalation and discourage future US adventurism. But Putin will have to move fast for the plan to work.