Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-I

ALAFF is going to post english translation of the new book of Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva — an acting russian diplomat, an employee (press-attaché, third Secretary) at the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN in Geneva. The book «Aleppo. War and diplomacy» has been released in June 2017, so this is new and fresh book with information of current interest.

Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva is the author of several more books. In 2015 she wrote/released a book «On the right side of the history. The Syrian crisis» (ISBN 978-5-373-07383-7), and in 2013 she wrote/released a book «Libyan lesson. End justifies the means?» (ISBN 978-5-373-05077-7). She is also a guest (not very often but still) of television and radio broadcasts, as well as an author of articles on international issues in periodicals.

Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva.

«Aleppo. War and diplomacy» is quite important and interesting book. It was written following the footsteps of recent Syrian events, in particular the liberation of the city of Aleppo by the forces of the Syrian army and Russian Aerospace Forces (as well as by other allies of course, like Iran forces or paramilitary political movement of Hezbollah, and others).

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have first part — Introduction and pre-comments from high-ranking and responsible persons. Text will be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).

>> Aleppo: War and Diplomacy. The geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transformation of the system of international relations <<

2017 | ISBN 978-5-00111-116-0


Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria — p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213



«In the monograph «Aleppo: War and Diplomacy» M.S. Khodynskaya-Golenischeva in detail and objectively set out the dramatic events associated with the liberation of Eastern Aleppo, captured by militants of terrorist organizations. It was a unique operation, during which the Russian Aerospace Forces supported the Syrian Armed Forces.

The author reveals the course of complex negotiations on the settlement of the Aleppo crisis, including the behind-the-scenes negotiations, which took place in various formats — Russian-American, as well as with participation of key countries of the region and the UN. The special value of the work is that the author personally participated in these consultations. This allows her to give objective assessments, in particular, about the role of the UN in solving humanitarian problems faced by the population of this city.

The book contains a large amount of exclusive material and can be useful to anyone who is interested in the Middle East issues and international relations, especially in the extremely difficult period of time that the Middle East region is undergoing.»

— Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, G.M. Gatilov


«A special value is that the author is not limited to the enumeration of facts, but considers it from the point of view of military-political and historical significance for the settlement of the Syrian conflict. Excerpts from the documents presented in this book, a detailed description of the non-public negotiation process involving the United States, Turkey and major regional powers, as well as the assessment of the Russian military group in Syria will be extremely interesting and useful not only for specialists in the Middle East, but for all who are interested in the history of the Syrian conflict and military-political issues in general.»

— Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Colonel General S. Rudskoy


«Dear reader!

You hold in your hands a new monograph of a young Russian diplomat and a scientist, candidate of historical sciences Maria Sergeyevna Khodynskaya-Golenischeva. This book is devoted to the recent dramatic events that unfolded in Syria around Aleppo — the second largest city in this country. Then — at the end of 2016 — the Armed Forces of the SAR with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces liberated the eastern part of Aleppo from the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra and the groups affiliated with them.

The crisis connected with Aleppo developed not only as a military operation, but also on various diplomatic platforms. It was the denouement of the «Aleppo’s Knot» that gave impetus to the search for an algorithm for the settlement of the Syrian conflict as a whole, with the participation of both the Syrians themselves and international mediators. Negotiations and consultations were conducted in an active mode in the line of the Russian-American tandem, in the Lausanne format with the involvement of the United Nations and influential regional players, in the International Support Group of Syria and its working bodies. The most important factor contributing to the unblocking of the Aleppo confrontation was the work «on the ground» of the Russian Center for the reconciliation of warring parties to save the peaceful population of the city from the terrorists who ruled the roost there, and provide humanitarian assistance to the citizens.

The result of all these efforts was the launching of successful Russian-Turkish-Iranian negotiations in Astana with the invitation of the delegations of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and armed opposition groups to introduce in the entire Syrian territory a ceasefire and a number of other measures for the political settlement of the Syrian conflict.

The book provides an in-depth analysis of the discrepancies in the positions of key states on the issues of combating terrorism in Syria. These contradictions, in particular, were clearly manifested between Russia and the United States. Washington’s line to use Jabhat al-Nusra against the legitimate government of the SAR has caused the impossibility of implementing the already achieved Russian-American agreements on uniting the efforts of the two countries to destroy terrorists in Syria.

The results and lessons of this diplomatic work are relevant even today in the light of the statements of the new US Administration that the fight against international terrorism is its most important foreign policy priority.

Russia’s position on the issues of the Syrian settlement is fully disclosed. On the example of the liberation of Eastern Aleppo and the humanitarian operations conducted there, Moscow’s principled approach is shown both in terms of an uncompromising fight against terrorism and compliance with universally recognized norms and principles of international humanitarian law.

The work also highlights in general the positive role of the UN in the Aleppo events. At the same time, the attempts of external players to put the World Organization at the service of their unsightly goals are shown, to connect UN to an unscrupulous information campaign to blacken Russia’s actions in support of the efforts of the Syrian Government in the fight against terrorism.

The author of the book is not just a researcher, but an acting diplomat working on Syrian issues from the very beginning of the conflict in the SAR. She took part both in bilateral and multilateral negotiations described in the monograph, and in cooperation with the UN on various aspects of the Aleppo and — more widely — Syrian «dossier». In this regard, the monograph contains not only an academic analysis of the events that took place around Aleppo, but also assessments stemming from personal experience of work on Syria, as well as practical considerations regarding the alignment of our foreign policy line on the Syrian problem, including the contours of the political process of the conflict settlement in SAR. 

I recommend reading this monograph to anyone who is interested in the development of the situation in the Middle East, modern international relations, including the Russian-American «cut», issues related to the fight against terrorism, the role of the United Nations in Syrian affairs, and the political process of resolving the crisis in the SAR.»

— Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, A.N. Borodavkin


«The book by Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva is the first analytical work in Russian scientific literature dedicated to the dramatic events of 2016 in and around Aleppo. Personal experience of the author’s active participation in acute diplomatic battles of that period, complementing her excellent knowledge of all the vicissitudes of the situation on the battlefields, makes this book a must-read for all who are professionally engaged or simply interested in the problems of the Middle East and the Syrian crisis. The author’s — a young talented researcher and diplomat — immersion in the details of the battle for Eastern Aleppo, which liberation had a special significance for the future of Syria, did not prevent her from reaching broad theoretical generalizations. They concern the regional and global context of local events, their relationship with the transformation of the modern system of international relations, new trends in the settlement of armed conflicts and countering terrorism. The book successfully reveals many aspects of Russia’s multifaceted activities to resolve the Syrian crisis.»

— Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Scientific Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, V.V. Naumkin



Aleppo, the second largest city in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), the economic capital of the country, in the past — bourgeoisie’s «bastion» located about 120 kilometres from the Turkish-Syrian border, became one of the symbols of the internal armed conflict in the SAR. The battle for Aleppo has been extensive — and not only «on the ground», but also on the diplomatic field. The opposing sides understood that setting a control of this strategically important locality by the Syrian government forces would be a major turning-point in the war. This, of course, could not have been allowed by the sponsors of the anti-Assad armed groups, who spended a large financial, political, military and propaganda resources to the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

Aleppo became the main item on the agenda of the Syrian consultations — as in the bilateral Russian-American format and as a part of the so-called «narrow group» of interested states. While active fighting continued «on the ground», diplomats and military from Russia and the US tried to solve the problem of Aleppo at the negotiating table. Later their colleagues from the countries of the region were added to them. The Aleppo issue has also become an important part of the contacts between Moscow and Ankara in the context of the gradual re-establishment of the Russian-Turkish relations after the Russian «Su-24» bomber was shot down by a Turkish fighter F-16 on 24 November 2015 and one of the catapulted pilots, Oleg Peshkov, was shot in the air by the pro-Turkish group «Firqat al-Sultan Murad».

In this regard, consideration of the Aleppo problem has an independent meaning, because it allows to reveal an extremely curious layer of the military-diplomatic activity of a number of international and regional players, as well as the policy of the United Nations and its agencies, which have manifested themselves pretty characteristic in the course of «battles» for the city.

map No. 1

map No. 1 — Situation «on the ground» in Aleppo as of April 2016.

So, the map of the situation in Aleppo at the beginning of 2016 was reminiscent of the famous eastern pictogram «yin and yang» (see map No. 1). The western regions were under the control of the Syrian government and were connected by an important transport highway (Aleppo-Hama-Homs) to the center of the country. The East was held by the militants and was populated mainly by villagers — Sunni who moved there and replaced the townspeople from among professors, the bourgeoisie, industrialists, and so on who fled the war. These areas also had their own «road of life» — the Castello track, which connected them with the terrorist’s «liberty land» — Idlib province and with Turkey, from where not only transboundary humanitarian convoys but also streams of arms and ammunition were going to the city. By the way, the name of now well-known highway was taken from the shopping center which located on the western tip of the road and having the form of a castle («castillo» — «citadel» in Spanish) before the war.

The front line passed through the central districts of the city divided the secular multicultural west (schools and university continued to work there, hospitals were functioning, churches and mosques were opened, active trade was in progress) and the Islamist eastern enclave (Sharia courts adjudicating death warrants, prohibitions on any deviations from pseudo-religious precepts, forced recruitment into the ranks of militants, etc.). In the east the masters were: Jabhat al-Nusra*, Jabhat al-Shamiya, Firqat al-Sultan Murad, Akhrar ash-Sham, Kataib al-Baz al-Islamiya, Tajamu Fastakim Kama Umirt, Nour al-Din Zenki, 16th division, and other smaller groups of Islamists. Herewith the main coordinating role belonged exactly to the terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra whose commanders were present practically in every detachment, planning their actions in accordance with a common plan.

Starting from July 2016 and until the city was completely liberated on December 15, 2016, the «Aleppo» plot was one of the core issues of the Syrian settlement. It was the solution of the Aleppo problem that became the main item on the agenda of diplomatic negotiations, both during the Russian-American consultations and in the pentagonal «Lausanne format» (Russia, the United States, Turkey, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar). The «Aleppo knot» became a stumbling-block in the negotiations between Moscow and Washington on establishing cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the creation of a joint executive center for the coordination of air strikes on ISIS* and Jabhat al-Nusra. Russia and the United States failed to agree on launching joint strikes against jihadists in Syria in many respects because of the successes of the Syrian army and the pro-government forces in the city, and the constantly produced requirements from the Americans to Damascus and Moscow to make concessions «on the ground» in the Aleppo area.

Concerning Aleppo, Russia was subjected to unprecedented pressure. Western and some regional media, as well as non-governmental organizations controlled by the states which sought to overthrow B. Assad, literally broke loose criticizing the counter-terrorist operation in Aleppo which was carried out by the armed forces of the SAR with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces. So-called human rights activists and journalists with no hesitation disseminated faked information that the result of airstrikes was annihilation solely of civilians, social infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, they reprinted each other with fabricated information provided either by «civil society activists» who were outside of Aleppo, and frequently outside of Syria at all, or by NGOs (Non Government Organisations) such as «White Helmets». Later they became «famous» for the whole World with a staged video demonstrating the staging of the rescue of «victims of the bombing by the SAR’s Air Forces or the Russian Aerospace Forces».

ALAFF remarkThis is quite noteworthy that, for example, Mark Taliano — a well-known author and critic of criminal Western politics — in his new book «Voices from Syria» also used exactly this word — unprecedented. This word is not very common (neither in the expressions of world politicians and businessmen, nor in the articles of journalists, nor in the statements of various experts and political scientists), so if this word is used, it means something really important and going beyond the ordinary. In particular, in the Preface of the book Mark Taliano notes:

«The invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya were all based on lies; likewise for Ukraine. All of the post-9/11 wars were sold to Western audiences through a sophisticated network of interlocking governing agencies that disseminate propaganda to both domestic and foreign audiences.

But the dirty war on Syria is different. The degree of war propaganda levelled at Syria and contaminating humanity at this moment is likely unprecedented«

Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva used this word. Mark Taliano used this word. Two different, absolutely unrelated people on the opposite sides of the planet Earth used the same rare word in relation to the same topic — Syrian war conflict. UNPRECEDENTED. Remember this word.

Western countries and some regional players have tried to turn Aleppo into an «alternative capital» of Syria. To this end, a massive financial, political and media assistance was provided to the self-proclaimed «local authorities» formed by militants and the opposition, in order to consolidate them in the eastern quarters, to legitimize them maximally and then form a «rebel stronghold» on their basis that could be brought to power in case if the goal of overthrowing Assad would be achieved.

US National Security Strategy 2015

Extract from the US National Security Strategy 2015.

All this was built into the strategy of restraining Russia, openly proclaimed by the US and supported by Washington’s Western allies. Liberation of Aleppo would be not only a success of the Syrian government forces, but also a great image victory for Russia which in this case would demonstrate its increased military capabilities, strengthened potential in the field of fighting terrorism, and also the fact that its position is not falling under conjunctive fluctuations, that it is consistent and non-convulsive: nevermind someone likes it or not, but if Moscow has an ally in the Middle East then she does not abandon it (by the way, this is noted by the Western experts [1]).

Le Temps magazine, january 2017

Extract from the article in «Le Temps» magazine dated of January 2017.

Unfortunately the Western countries managed to integrate the UN and first of all its humanitarian agencies into the campaign aimed at preventing Aleppo’s liberation. As well as the UN deputy secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, the British S. O’Brien, they played an unseemly role in the Aleppo issue using the pretext of the need «to save the civilians and to provide them with assistance» to freeze the counter-terrorist operation and create a comfortable conditions for the militants who seized the East Aleppo. UN staff workers who designed such a dubious schemes, in many ways discredited — at least in the eyes of Russian diplomats — the work of the UN in the humanitarian field and undermined the credibility of the humanitarian «segment» of the World Organization, at the same time undeservedly casting a shadow on hundreds of truly committed, selfless employees of humanitarian agencies who work «in the field» and who — unlike their colleagues in the Secretariat — in practice save the population afflicted with conflicts in various «hot spots».

Special attention should be paid to what kind of methods were used eventually to «close» the Aleppo issue (the evacuation carried out as a result of the Russian-Turkish agreements reached after the failure of the dialogue between Moscow and Washington). These methods reveal extremely curious moments associated with the reconfiguration of negotiating formats which can be used for settlement of regional crises. They also shed light on the possible solution tools of the certain aspects of conflicts that may be in demand in the framework of the modern transforming system of international relations, which is increasingly becoming more polycentric.


* organisation banned in Russia

[1] Lema L/ Sur Son Porte-Avions, la Russie Fait la Fete a «l’Homme Forte» de la Libye / L. Lema // Le Temps. 2017. 14 Janvier.


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