Though the international media is barely reporting the fact, today is supposed to be the day that the evacuation of Jihadis and civilians from eastern Aleppo is finally completed.
The Western media has throughout the siege of Aleppo criticised Syria and Russia for their supposedly ruthless tactics. Immediately prior to the final collapse of Jihadi resistance in Aleppo there were widespread reports – actively circulated by the UN Secretariat – that civilians were being massacred by the Syrian army and by bloodthirsty Shiite paramilitaries in league with the Syrian army.
In reality the evacuation has happened smoothly once the various Jihadi groups stopped stalling it. There are no reports of Jihadis or civilians leaving eastern Aleppo in the Syrian government’s green buses being attacked or murdered, though as was always part of the Putin-Erdogan agreement under which the evacuation is taking place, some of the ringleaders and those suspected of war crimes have been arrested.
Needless to say, once it became clear that the evacuation of Jihadis and civilians from Aleppo was progressing smoothly, with no massacres taking place, the Western media lost interest in it.
There is some uncertainty as to the precise number of people who have been evacuated by the green buses from eastern Aleppo. The Iranian news agency Fars in a report dated 21st December 2016 put the total number at 15,500. The UN however says that the total number of Jihadis and civilians who will be evacuated from eastern Aleppo in the green buses by the end of today will be 36,000.
Either figure confirms a further fact. The majority of civilians – around 100,000 – left eastern Aleppo in the 2 weeks preceding the Putin-Erdogan agreement. Moreover the Russian military authorities put the number of Jihadis who surrendered to the Syrian army during the same period at over 3,000.
In other words the Putin-Erdogan agreement covers only a minority – around a third – of the civilians who were in eastern Aleppo whilst the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis were in control there.
On the assumption that this group makes up the hard core of Jihadi sympathisers in the city, and allowing for reduced numbers caused by casualties and flight, that means that in a city which before the war had a population of 2.5 million the proportion of the population that sympathised with the Jihad cannot have been more than a few percent. This is consistent with Western media reports from the time of the protests in 2011, which admitted that Aleppo had been almost completely unaffected by them.
Whatever concerns the people of Aleppo may have about the Syrian government, the facts show that the overwhelming majority of them are loyal to the Syrian state, and oppose violent rebellion and the Jihad. Western reports that represent ‘the Great Battle of Aleppo’ as a murderous assault by the Syrian army and Russia on Aleppo’s people could not be more wrong.
As to the famous – or infamous – ‘White Helmets’, they are presumably being evacuated from Aleppo along with the other Jihadis and their sympathisers. Russian and Iranian media agencies are incidentally now saying that they and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights are essentially British intelligence projects.
Rumours to that effect have circulated about the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights for some time. To my knowledge this is the first time such claims have however been made about the White Helmets. It is testament to the cynicism that surrounds the whole Syrian war that many people when they hear these claims will assume they are true.