The last civilians and rebel fighters left the city of Aleppo Thursday, giving the Assad regime complete and total control of the city for the first time in four years.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian allies, seized control of the city on Dec. 15 after a brutal all-out assault on rebel-held areas. Russia and Assad relentlessly bombed the civilian population to exhaust rebel resolve, killing thousands. The victory is a major turning point in the Syrian civil war, and will likely launch a new phase of irregular warfare.
“Liberating Aleppo from terrorism is a victory not only for Syria, but also for those who really contributed to the fight against terrorism, especially Iran and Russia,” Assad said in a television broadcast Thursday. Aleppo is the largest city inside Syria, and was a major cultural capital before the war began in 2011.
Experts warn that Assad will likely face an ongoing insurgency throughout broader Syria, in the wake of his biggest victory.
Former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker drew parallels with the 1980s Lebanese civil war to The New York Times saying, “It was long, hot and mean, and it took 15 years to end and it only ended because the Syrians moved into Lebanon and stopped it.”
“With Syria, we’re just five years into it, and there’s no Syria to come in and end it,” Crocker continued.
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