The Significance of the Battle for Aleppo

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Aleppo is a city populated by more than 4 million people (Largest in Syria). Lately, the Assad regime has underestimated its importance and size to underestimate its fall. Its significance to Syrians battling the Assad regime is multi-tiered.

Traditionally, Aleppo is a bastion of Muslim Sunnis. Unlike the more cosmopolitan Damascus, Sunnis in Aleppo represent the clear majority living harmoniously with other minorities like the Armenians,

At one point, the Jewish community in Aleppo was a prosperous and vibrant community (Sarina Roffé has a page on the history of the Jews of Aleppo worth reading). Upon my visit to Israel in 2007, one of the first people I met was a Jewish restaurateur from Aleppo. Needless to say the food was exquisite. A book on Jewish Aleppian recipes, given to me by a dear friend, constantly reminds me of the glory of my city of birth.

But of significant importance are two vital components the reason for which the battle of Aleppo is raging today.

First, Aleppo is Syria’s commerce and financial hub. The city is the food processor and wholesale distributor capital of Syria; our own Archer Daniels Midland.

Second, those who control commerce are all the Sunni traditional families who have supported Assad in the past either to protect their interests or in pursuit of a secular State not beholden to an extreme Islamic ideology spinning for its own concentrated power and able to shift, over time, the industries of Aleppo to its loyal base. Assad needs the Sunnis already in control of commerce but new Sunnis in power can shift the commerce effortlessly to other Sunnis.

When Aleppo falls, the merchant families will immediately proclaim and herald a new era for Syria by rallying behind a new central figure they deem can protect their vast financial interests. It would not surprise me if these families attempt to force the powerful head of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce Rateb al-Shallah to abandon the regime in favor of a new order.

The rebels will carve a “Benghaziesque” geographic element should they win the battle of Aleppo; one that is necessary to supply and launch attacks against the regime. Controlling Aleppo will also sever the umbilical cord between Assad and the wealthy merchant families. No regime hack organizations or individuals. riddled with sanctions they wear like medals of honor, will be able to capture or re-arrange the centrality of Aleppo.; even under the best of circumstances.

Further, if Aleppo falls, the Kremlin will be persuaded of the folly of their actions. When that happens, I suspect its majestic hallways will echo the sound of a Berlin Wall falling.


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