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Aleppo 2016: The waiting is over for those who pinned their hopes and fears for the next phase of the Syrian conflict on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. But whatever approach is eventually adopted by the incoming administration of Donald Trump once it picks up the foreign policy reins in the early months of 2017, the fate of Aleppo will not wait. While the opposition perseveres in trying to lift the siege of the eastern part of the city, the arrival of Russian air and naval reinforcements in the Eastern Mediterranean and start of a bombing campaign by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad heralds a new military escalation.

But rather than seek to enable regime forces to fight their way into opposition-held neighborhoods, a more likely interpretation is that Russia hopes to avoid a drawn-out and costly battle by bludgeoning the opposition into agreeing to evacuate the city. This poses a major dilemma for the opposition: holding on in Aleppo remains feasible for it militarily, but the election of Trump, who has made clear his unwillingness to raise the stakes for Russia in Syria, means that the possible political rewards of holding on may diminish sharply. Conversely, the political costs of evacuating Aleppo may well outweigh any possible gains for the opposition.

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Aleppo 2016: The waiting is over for those who pinned their hopes and fears for the next phase of the Syrian conflict on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. But whatever approach is eventually adopted by the incoming administration of Donald Trump once it picks up the foreign policy reins in the early months of 2017, the fate of Aleppo will not wait. While the opposition perseveres in trying to lift the siege of the eastern part of the city, the arrival of Russian air and naval reinforcements in the Eastern Mediterranean and start of a bombing campaign by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad heralds a new military escalation.

But rather than seek to enable regime forces to fight their way into opposition-held neighborhoods, a more likely interpretation is that Russia hopes to avoid a drawn-out and costly battle by bludgeoning the opposition into agreeing to evacuate the city. This poses a major dilemma for the opposition: holding on in Aleppo remains feasible for it militarily, but the election of Trump, who has made clear his unwillingness to raise the stakes for Russia in Syria, means that the possible political rewards of holding on may diminish sharply. Conversely, the political costs of evacuating Aleppo may well outweigh any possible gains for the opposition.

Aleppo 2016: The waiting is over for those who pinned their hopes and fears for the next phase of the Syrian conflict on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. But whatever approach is eventually adopted by the incoming administration of Donald Trump once it picks up the foreign policy reins in the early months of 2017, the fate of Aleppo will not wait. While the opposition perseveres in trying to lift the siege of the eastern part of the city, the arrival of Russian air and naval reinforcements in the Eastern Mediterranean and start of a bombing campaign by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad heralds a new military escalation.

But rather than seek to enable regime forces to fight their way into opposition-held neighborhoods, a more likely interpretation is that Russia hopes to avoid a drawn-out and costly battle by bludgeoning the opposition into agreeing to evacuate the city. This poses a major dilemma for the opposition: holding on in Aleppo remains feasible for it militarily, but the election of Trump, who has made clear his unwillingness to raise the stakes for Russia in Syria, means that the possible political rewards of holding on may diminish sharply. Conversely, the political costs of evacuating Aleppo may well outweigh any possible gains for the opposition.