The U.N.’s plan to “freeze” the conflict in Syria is a gift to Bashar al-Assad. No wonder the rebels aren’t buying it.
"De Mistura’s New York briefing coincided with a large-scale regime offensive to fully encircle Aleppo from the north. Regular military units, the paramilitary auxiliaries of the National Defense Force, and Hezbollah fighters sought to press their advantage in the areas of Handarat and Malaah, north of the city, with the intention of seizing three important villages and breaking rebel groups’ siege of the Shiite towns of Zahra and Nubl. Controlling these villages and connecting roads would sever the links between the Aleppo countryside and the vitally important border with Turkey. But the initially rapid advance of the pro-regime forces was stopped and rolled back in several areas. Bad weather grounded Assad’s helicopters and aircraft during much of the battle — overcast weather, a rebel commander quipped to me, imposed the no-fly zone that the Americans had denied the rebellion since 2011. After capturing important territory in surprise attacks over two days, Assad’s forces were surrounded by Syrian rebels who killed well over 100 soldiers and captured dozens more, making this time among the costliest days for the regime since the beginning of the armed uprising.In reality, U.N. mediation efforts in Syria are doomed under current circumstances. Lacking enforcement mechanisms, they perversely play into Assad’s hands while not delivering the hoped-for humanitarian returns. Only when they are accompanied by a resolute effort to put Assad’s continued rule on the line will they hold a chance of success. It may well be time to reconsider the much-debated, if long-eschewed, Turkish proposal for an air exclusion zone and safe zones in northern Syria."