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With Aleppo talks falling apart, US seeks alternatives to negotiation with Russia

Saying that Russia has no “seriousness of purpose” in ending the aerial bombardment of Aleppo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed pessimism about the future of U.S.-Russia negotiations concerning Syria. 

After the worst week of aerial bombardments since 2011, the war raging over Aleppo shows no signs of easing up as U.S. talks with Russia have continually faltered.

A ceasefire put in place earlier this month was brought to an end after the U.S. bombed Assad troops, prompting a renewal of violence (the U.S. claims the strike was an accident and that it was targeting ISIS fighters).

The failure of the ceasefire was a serious setback after months of talks between the U.S. and Russia. Russia, who supports Bashar al-Assad’s government forces, has been the engine behind the massive airstrikes in Aleppo that have killed over 400 and injured and more than 1,700 wounded since last week. The U.S. supports some rebel groups, notably the National Coalition, and provides some “moderate” rebel groups with military assistance.

Neither country’s role in Syria has been without controversy. The U.S. provoked international criticism, particularly from Saudi Arabia, when it failed to intervene in the Syrian Civil War in 2013 after  Assad’s forces crossed a “red line” established by President Barack Obama by launching an attack using chemical weapons. The U.S. has conducted extensive airstrikes against ISIS, who have a foothold in Syria, but have not taken a strong direct role in the conflict.syria-2

Russia has a much stronger desire for control and influence in Syria, which contains the only Mediterranean naval base for its Black Sea fleet. Russia has continually blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions that would hurt the Assad regime (only one country’s veto is needed for resolutions to be rejected).

Recent talks between the U.S. and Russia to end the conflict have occasionally shown signs of promise, such as when a ceasefire was implement earlier this month. The ceasefire’s failure, however, has only added to to the embarrassment felt by those in the international community who wish to see an Aleppo free from war.

“Aleppo is burning and the world is watching silently,” said Aleppo resident and Syrian Civil Defense minister Beebers Michal in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

“Russian warplanes have not stopped bombing us, not for a second. They’ve dropped all kinds of forbidden munitions: phosphorous bombs, cluster munitions and the powerful bunker buster. I’ve seen these bombs destroy entire neighborhoods and bury people alive. There is no food and we are running out of water. The only supply road to the city was closed. No one can afford to buy a piece of bread because the prices are too high. People are eating one meal of rice and mint, or one packet of instant noodles a day.”

On Thursday at a meeting with the Atlantic Council think tank, Mr. Kerry said the U.S. is “on the verge of suspending the discussion [with Russia] because it’s irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place”. U.S. officials have said that the U.S. may seek military alternatives to negotiations.

The wave of bombardment in Aleppo is the result of an attempt by government forces to retake the city, particularly East Aleppo, which is currently held by rebels. Assad’s forces receive ground support from Iran and air support from Russia; aerial bombardment has been the source of most of the recent devastation.

Entire buildings have been flattened and only two of East Aleppo’s eight hospitals are still functioning. Severe food and fuel shortages have been occurring since July.Attacks on water facilities by both sides have left two million civilians without water.

In total, the war has left more than 400,000 Syrians dead and displaced more than 11 million.syria-3


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