Syrian govt claims victory in Damascus as Aleppo battle rages

 A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on July 25, 2012, shows forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fighting in the al-Qadam district of Damascus. The Syrian army and rebels on July 25, sent reinforcements to Aleppo to join the intensifying battle for the country's second city, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the world "to stop the slaughter." (AFP Photo / Sana)
The Syrian government has declared victory in Damascus while the fierce struggle for control of Aleppo continues. Meanwhile, the country’s Foreign Minister is in Iran, seeking support from the Islamic state.

According to Reuters, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said, "Today I tell you, Syria is stronger… In less than a week they were defeated (in Damascus) and the battle failed. So they moved on to Aleppo and I assure you, their plots will fail."

The comment was made during his visit to Tehran, where he met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi.

Fighting between rebel and government forces escalated in Aleppo on Sunday, just as Salehi expressed doubts that a managed Syrian power transition would ever work. According to Reuters, he called the very idea an “illusion.”

“Thinking naively and wrongly that if there is a power vacuum perhaps in Syria and if there is a transition of power in Syria, simply another government will come to power, that I think is just a dream," Salehi said.

According to reports from Al Arabiya, Muallem said, “We believe that all the anti-Syrian forces have gathered in Aleppo to fight the government…and they will definitely be defeated.”

Intense fighting continued in Aleppo on Sunday, as government troops aimed to regain control in the southwestern neighborhoods of Salaheddine and parts of Saif al-Dawla, which were seized by rebels last week.

Aleppo is Syria’s commercial hub, and is seen as a critical city for both the regime and the opposition.

Rebels are believed to control between a third and half of the neighborhoods in Aleppo.


Armed rebels stand on top of a destroyed tank in Aleppo. (AP video shot)
Armed rebels stand on top of a destroyed tank in Aleppo. (AP video shot)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy fighting and explosions there, including fighting in the Bab al-Hadeed, al-Zahraa and al-Arqoub neighborhoods.

Sarkis Kassargian, a local reporter for Al-Khabar TV, told RT, “The rebels were controlling the area of Salaheddine. They’ve moved out of the area, and the Syrian army is in control of the region now.”

Aleppo-based opposition activist Mohammed Saeed told AP that around 200 fighters entered the city early Sunday to join the 1,000 fighters who poured into the city over the past few days.

Saeed also said rebels have received “a new batch of weapons and ammunition,” but declined to say from where.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has called on regional powers to stop supporting the Syrian opposition, arguing that the power vacuum which would open up should the government in Damascus fall would result in dire consequences for the whole region.


A local Aleppo mosque stands amongst rubble after being heavily damaged. (AP video shot)
A local Aleppo mosque stands amongst rubble after being heavily damaged. (AP video shot)

But while the Iranian government calls on other countries to stop supporting the rebels, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council is sending a different message.

According to AFP, Abdulbaset Sayda urged “Arab brothers and friends to support the Free Syrian Army.”

"We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters. That is what we want," Sayda said in a news conference. 

But according to author and journalist Afshin Rattansi, supplying rebels with weapons comes with serious consequences.

“The blow back for Turkey aiding fighters on its own border is astounding. Parts of northern Syria are already under the control of Kurds. And as for the US, the last time they armed jihadists, we saw the 9/11 attacks,” Rattansi told RT.

During his visit, Muallem said that Syria was committed to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to end 16 months of violence in the country.

The plan calls for a ceasefire – something that has been widely ignored by both sides – as the first stage in the transition to ending the violence.

It also calls for access to aid, the release of detained people, freedom of movement for journalists, and the freedom to protest peacefully.

A child stands in front of a destroyed tank and mosque in Aleppo. (AP video shot)
A child stands in front of a destroyed tank and mosque in Aleppo. (AP video shot)