WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) – By Genevieve Casagrande – ISW – Russian air operations in Syria bolster the legitimacy and staying power of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Russia seeks to preserve its client regime in Syria and thereby ensure its foothold in the Middle East in line with its strategic objectives. The vast majority of Russia’s air operations in Aleppo Province have targeted mainstream Aleppo-based opposition groups, despite Russia’s insistence that its intervention aims exclusively to eliminate ISIS, Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra (JN), and other “terrorist organizations.”

The agreement on a “cessation of hostilities” announced by world powers on February 11 fails to restrict the military operations of Russia, Iran, or the regime in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. The regime and its foreign backers thus remain free to continue their efforts to besiege opposition forces in Aleppo City. They have captured additional terrain on February 12 and 13, showing their intent to continue exploiting their recent gains. The ground campaign and Russian airstrike patterns indicate that the pro-regime forces intend complete the encirclement in the outer cordon northwest of Aleppo.