In Syria, The Battle For Aleppo Traps Some 2 Million People Roughly two million people are trapped by fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo. As conditions on the ground worsen, Russian warplanes based in Iran launched bombing runs against targets in Syria.
NPR logo

In Syria, The Battle For Aleppo Traps Some 2 Million People

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490251796/490251797" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Syria, The Battle For Aleppo Traps Some 2 Million People

In Syria, The Battle For Aleppo Traps Some 2 Million People

In Syria, The Battle For Aleppo Traps Some 2 Million People

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490251796/490251797" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Roughly two million people are trapped by fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo. As conditions on the ground worsen, Russian warplanes based in Iran launched bombing runs against targets in Syria. NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks to Ambassador Dennis Ross, currently with The Washington Institute and author of Doomed to Succeed.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to the civil war in Syria. The battle for the biggest city, Aleppo, has trapped around 2 million people. They are stuck between rebels and pro-government forces who have the support of Russian warplanes. When an attack damaged a major power station at the end of July, the electrical grid went down. That cut off access to clean, running water in the middle of a heat wave. We've reached Ingy Sedky via Skype. She is a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Damascus. Thanks for being with us.

INGY SEDKY: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: What are conditions like in the city right now?

SEDKY: Well, it's a total nightmare. The humanitarian situation in Aleppo is getting worse and worse every day. The fighting doesn't stop. There is constant bombing and shelling on populated areas. There are over 2 million people who are trapped inside the city with no guarantee whatsoever to get food or water or even access and health facilities and medical care.

SHAPIRO: If it's impossible to get aid into the city, how are people surviving with no clean water, no electricity and temperatures above a hundred degrees?

SEDKY: Well, so far the conditions are very (unintelligible). The majority of the population is relying on boreholes to...

SHAPIRO: Boreholes meaning people just drilling into the ground to try to get water out of the ground.

SEDKY: Yeah. It's deep wells that are well-equipped and very safe to use. However we don't know for how long these boreholes will sustain the whole population. And in some parts of the city, people are digging shallow wells which are very unsafe and could pose many diseases and water-transmitted diseases like cholera or hepatitis A, which is very, very concerning.

SHAPIRO: What is the hope of a cease fire in the near future?

SEDKY: Unfortunately until now, nothing has been implemented on the ground, and honestly without the consent of all the parties who are fighting in Aleppo, there is little hope that this fighting will stop.

SHAPIRO: Ingy Sedky is a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Damascus. Thank you for joining us.

SEDKY: Thank you so much. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Those Russian warplanes we mentioned have been taking off from a base in Iran. Both countries strongly support the Syrian government. To talk about what this means, I'm joined by Dennis Ross. He's a former senior Middle East adviser to President Obama. Ambassador Ross, thank you for being with us.

DENNIS ROSS: Nice to be with you. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: What does it tell you that Russia is using Iran as a base from which to launch these airstrikes?

ROSS: Well, first it's noteworthy that Iran is allowing another country to use its bases to carry out military strikes. That has not happened before. That tells me that there is a very strong convergence of strategic objectives as it relates to Syria and wanting to preserve Assad in power.

I find it striking at the very moment when the Russians have been talking to us about trying to coordinate and share intelligence and airstrikes, that the Russians at that moment are also doing all they can to strengthen Assad's hold on Syria, to strengthen specifically his ability to take Aleppo back.

SHAPIRO: Now, the Russian defense minister has said that the U.S. and Russia might work together to attack ISIS targets. The Russian foreign ministry says it had discussions today with Secretary of State John Kerry. But it sounds like you're saying this coordination with Iran suggests that interests are aligning against the U.S. goals in Syria.

ROSS: Well, let's put it this way. The Russians are focused right now not on attacking ISIS. They're focused right now on carrying out strikes against the opposition, the Syrian opposition in the Aleppo area. If in fact the agreement with us is supposed to change what's going on in Syria, reduce the level of violence in Syria and produce a political process in Syria, strengthening Assad's hold, choking off the opposition in the Aleppo area is actually sending a signal that suggests that the Russians are more interested in cementing Assad's hold than they are in reducing the level of violence in Syria, opening up humanitarian corridors, which is supposed to be part of the broader understanding we have with the Russians, or even focusing on ISIS at this point.

SHAPIRO: If we assume that the end of the civil war in Syria will come about by an international negotiated settlement, do you see this development as getting us closer to or farther away from that goal?

ROSS: I don't see how it can get us closer to that. Assad has produced so much blood in Syria that the idea that he would be the one who remains in power and you could put together some kind of political settlement in Syria I think is a complete illusion. I think what this makes more likely is a partition of Syria.

SHAPIRO: Ambassador Dennis Ross is a former senior Middle East adviser to President Obama and longtime U.S. diplomat. Thank you for coming into the studio.

ROSS: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: And Dennis Ross is also the author of the book "Doomed To Succeed."

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.