Syrian Armed Opposition Forces in Aleppo

The United States faces a geostrategic inflection in Syria that it has not yet fully recognized. The “cessation of hostilities” declared on February 11, 2016 permits Russia and the Assad regime to continue targeting U.S. allies in Aleppo under the pretext that the opposition in the city consists predominantly of al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra. The Russian view of the situation in Aleppo is false and deliberately distorting. There are multiple opposition groups within Aleppo that are distinct from Jabhat al Nusra, do not share its vision, and which the United States must support and strengthen. The U.S. must take steps to achieve three objectives: 1) to prevent Jabhat al Nusra from assuming leadership of the Aleppo-based opposition, 2) to avert the humanitarian catastrophe of a siege of Aleppo City, and 3) to shape the reactions of partners such as Turkey. This report assesses the opposition powerbrokers in Aleppo and their mobilization for the siege in order to help facilitate intelligent policies to achieve the first objective. It recommends that the United States, rather than pursuing a false “cessation of hostilities” that does not protect Aleppines, take three steps to secure its interests and those of the Syria people: humanitarian airdrops to Aleppo, material support to opposition groups in Aleppo distinct from Jabhat al Nusra, and a creation of a humanitarian safe-zone north of Aleppo.