"The Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy," President Obama said at the height of eastern Aleppo's bombardment a few weeks ago, during his last press conference of 2016.
But that's precisely what the Syrian president and his allied forces did in the battle for Aleppo and throughout much of the nearly six-year Syrian civil war, with incessant and indiscriminate bombings and "medieval" siege tactics. The brutal approach required a consistent and blatant disregard for human rights and international law, and the countless warnings from the international community, the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and over 200 other human rights groups and NGOs.
Assad and ally Russia dismissed dire diplomatic warnings and independent reports as "unfair and dishonest," "hoaxes" and "propaganda," and regularly pointed to crimes committed by opposition rebel groups during the battle. But the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that Assad's allied forces were "responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties" in Aleppo.
"The Assad playbook now is that you can crush your people; you can destroy cities; you can attack with chemical weapons; you can enable extremists—and the international community will stand by and not do anything," resident fellow Hassan Hassan, of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy , told the New York Times earlier this month.
Bashar Assad is now starting to wear his newfound inevitability, recently taking some time away from his various battlefronts to pose for some cynical, well-crafted holiday photos. And as he reintroduces himself to the world as Syria's immovable object—with help from allies Russia and Iran, who with Turkey have organised a cease-fire while they undertake broader peace negotiations—it's worth taking a look back at the many dire international warnings during the final months of the battle for Aleppo that were either rejected or ignored on the way to this once unthinkable outcome.