Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-V

Previous parts of the book:

Highly recommended to read them all first, before reading a fifth part.

 

Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have fifth part — subsection «Evacuation of «civil activists» and chapter «Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo«. 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).


 

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

 

Evacuation of «civil activists».

The UN tried to facilitate the life of the grouping blocked in the Eastern Aleppo, as the saying is, «to the last». Thus, on December 4, 2016, J. Egeland presented a «plan for the evacuation of civilian activists and humanitarian workers» from Eastern Aleppo (about 1,000 people) [1]. The UN workers did not even hide the fact that it was the infamous «White Helmets» who wanted to be evacuated (a non-governmental organization that worked in the territories controlled by the militants, famous for their ties with the radicals, as discussed above), and other organizations serving militants, including doctors, who treated representatives of illegal armed groups, as well as members of self-proclaimed organizations of local self-government. How else to explain that «activists and human rights defenders» wished to evacuate not  to somewhere, but to the capital of Jabhat an-Nusra — to Idlib. Apparently, at that time in Idlib there were a pretty favorable conditions for the functioning of «civil society»…

The Ministry of Defense of Russia almost immediately agreed to facilitate the evacuation of the so-called «political activists». It was understood perfectly well in Moscow that not only representatives of NGOs serving illegal armed groups can try to leave the city under the guise of «human rights defenders», but also the militants themselves. But the Russian side believed that the more people leave the city, the better.

However, these plans too were not destined to come true. The fact is that, the UN workers, as usual, formed a cumbersome plan, which implied long humanitarian «windows» and various complex procedures. In conditions when there was an active antiterrorist operation in the city, it was practically impossible to carry out such an action without pushing jihadists to provocations. Then the Russian military from the Reconciliation Center in Khmeimim, who were at that time in Aleppo, asked the UN workers the contacts of «activists» in order to directly agree on a specific place and time of withdrawal (the Russian Defense Ministry was ready to introduce a local humanitarian pause in this area). However, the UN staff flatly refused to provide such contacts. It is clear that the «activists» simply did not want to «shine» and hoped that with the help of the World Organization and its pressure on Russia they could escape from the city.

As a result, the ball remained on the UN side, and the «human rights defenders» managed to leave the city during a large-scale evacuation conducted by Russia, the UN and the ICRC in late December 2016.

Unfortunately, we must admit that humanitarian assistance in the context of the Syrian crisis, from the submission of Western countries and their partners in the Middle East, and with the connivance of the UN, has turned into a politically-propagandistic weapon. Under the pretext of solving humanitarian problems, the countries-supporters of the overthrow of B. Assad tried, in fact, to carry out a «cover-up operations». Caravans with foodstuffs under the applause of humanitarian agencies and «in front of the nose» of hungry Syrians, who lived in government-controlled territories, went to the cities held by jihadists. The sick and wounded, women and children of Eastern Aleppo, with the «mediation» of the United Nations during the «medical evacuation» were supposed to be «exchanged» for antibiotics, painkillers and other medicines to treat the militants.

As for the United Nations, it demonstrated the unconditional orientation of its leadership to the anti-Assad camp led by the United States, the readiness at the first call to take the path of servicing their interests, including playing up to the so-called «tragedies of the day» and replicating false statistics in order to exert pressure on Russia. This was multiplied by irresponsibility and populism, inability to achieve their own programs — after all the necessary requirements were met by Russia. Behind the cascades of accusations against Moscow and Damascus, the criminal role of jihadists in East Aleppo and their external curators was hidden, as well as the ineradicable desire of some UN leaders to play along with radicals and serve their sponsors in a coordinated effort to overthrow B. Assad.

 

Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo.

The blockade of Eastern Aleppo, captured by militants of various groups operating under the terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra, was a big irritant for the West and other supporters of the overthrow of B. Assad. Washington was unable to fulfill the demand put forward by Russia to separate the moderate opposition from terrorists, as the main condition for the normalization of the situation in Aleppo and the beginning of the fight against terrorism

The Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, S. de Mistura attempted to solve the problem, and he put forward an initiative to withdraw Jabhat al-Nusra from Aleppo.

He first voiced it to Russian diplomats and the military on October 5, 2016, during a private conversation. Noting that the situation in Aleppo becomes insufferable, and soon in the city, as he say, the famine will begin, S. de Mistura said about the need to take some urgent creative steps to save the situation. Russia, the special envoy continued, would hardly want to «associate» with the humanitarian catastrophe that flared up in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo. And therefore it is beneficial for Russia to settle the problem peacefully. S. de Mistura noted that in these conditions he had the idea to solve the issue by evacuating the Jabhat an-Nusra militants from the city, for example, to Idlib, which has long become the «capital of al-Nusra».

The special envoy began work on popularizing his idea, having previously received a «green light» from the Russian side. Moscow was interested in the implementation of this idea. Firstly, it allowed the Aleppo problem to be solved «bloodlessly», and secondly, it was at this time that the French brought to the UN Security Council a highly engaged draft resolution on Syria that demanded a «no-fly» zone over Aleppo and imposed a ban on any attacks against terrorists who have settled in the eastern neighborhoods of the city.

On the next day, October 6, S. de Mistura voiced his initiative during a press conference. It implied the withdrawal of the Jabhat al-Nusra militants from Eastern Aleppo, who held 275,000 people in hostage. They could go to Idlib or any other place that they choose. Moreover, the special envoy expressed his readiness to personally escort the terrorists to their destination, where they would be evacuated «with dignity». In exchange, Russia and Syria had to commit themselves to stop the bombing of Eastern Aleppo, and also to agree to the preservation of the opposition «local council» as the governing body in the city [2].

One moment is characteristic: S. de Mistura determined the number of al-Nusra militants in the city in 900 people [3]. However, on September 25, speaking at the UN Security Council, the special envoy said that Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists number is more than 50% of the total number of militants [4] (8 thousand) — that is, at least 4,000 bayonets. It is not clear where more than 3 thousand militants from UN statistics mysteriously «disappeared» in 10 days.

pic_-_s_de_mistura_from_4000_to_900

Naturally, such an experienced politician as S. de Mistura would never take such a step as manipulation with facts. Of course, it’s not about him, but about his team, which consisted entirely of Westerners connected with their «like-minded people» in the UN Secretariat in New York by powerful ideological ties. They — or rather, their curators in Western capitals — could not allow that it was said with reference to the UN that half of all the militants in East Aleppo are terrorists who need to be taken out of the city. If 4,000 al-Nusra militants would left the eastern quarters, the supporters of the overthrow of B. Assad would have remained without an armed «fist», which would make it impossible for the remaining groups to organize the defense of the east of the city in case the storming of city would nevertheless followed. Therefore, there is almost no doubt that S. de Mistura simply received from New York a new, «correct» statistics.

The very next day — October 7 — the special envoy reported on his initiative to the UN Security Council. The idea consisted of 4 points:

  1. The immediate cessation of the bombing of Eastern Aleppo.
  2. The evacuation of the Jabhat al-Nusra militants «with dignity» and with their weapons — to Idlib or another place.
  3. Preservation of «local authority» and giving it the opportunity to continue its work without hindrance.
  4. Ensuring the international presence [5].

It seems the mistake of S. de Mistura was that he didn’t dare to undertake active independent actions on the UN line in favor of implementing his initiative, hoping that it will be another states interested in using his concepts to solve the problem of Eastern Aleppo who will «pull chestnuts out of the fire» for him. Apparently, the special envoy considered that the UN would not have enough political resources for the implementation of his initiative. In spite of the fact that there was a certain logic in this approach, in our view, the role of the locomotive in the implementation of the initiative should have been assigned exactly to the World Organization, so that it would not «disperse» across the capitals, but would remain consolidated. S. de Mistura went the other way, making it clear that in order to realize the idea he needed to achieve the «appropriate agreement» between Russia and the United States. Then — the «appropriate agreement» between Russia and Turkey. Then — the «appropriate agreement» between the participants of the «Lausanne format» (Russia, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar). As a result, the UN lost leadership in this issue, giving it to the countries that took responsibility for promoting the initiative.

map5_eng


map No. 5 — A scheme for the evacuation of terrorists from Eastern Aleppo along two routes (the roads of Castello and Ramouse) in the framework of realisation the initiative of S. de Mistura // Original map in Russian here.

Indeed, Russia has independently worked on the implementation of the ideas of S. de Mistura. During the negotiations between V.V. Putin and Turkish President R.T. Erdogan in Istanbul on October 10, 2016, the parties agreed to support the idea of a special envoy and for this purpose intensify contacts through military departments and special services [6]. A scheme of evacuation along two routes was developed: the roads of Castello and Ramouse (see map No. 5).


[1] The necessary requirements for the evacuation of civilian activists and humanitarian workers from the besieged part of East Aleppo. UN Working Paper of 4
December 2016

[2] Transcript of the Press Conference by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and UN Senior Adviser, Mr. Jan Egeland, Geneva, 6 October 2016 //

http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/transcript-press-conference-un-special-envoy-syria-mr-staffan-de-mistura

[3] De Mistura to SvD: «Very Bad Guerilla War If Aleppo Collapses» //

https://www.svd.se/de-mistura-to-svd-very-bad-guerrilla-war-expected-if-aleppo-collapses

the current version of the SvD site does not allow you to read the article, requiring either registration, or subscriptions (with mandatory involving of a debit card) — in general, in every way prevents free access to information. But it’s possible to find old (very first) version of the article, available for free — take a look here.

[4] 25 September 2016. Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Syria, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura //

http://www.un.org/undpa/en/speeches-statements/25092016/syria

[5] Staffan de Mistura. Special Envoy for Syria. Briefing to the Security Council on the Situation in Syria. 7 October 2016 //

http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/chronology/syria.php

[6] Meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 10, 2016 //

http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53065

english version here.

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