April 11, 2016 | Quoted by Natasha Bertrand - Business Insider

Assad has taken Russia ‘hostage’ — and what comes next could be ‘the worst the war has seen’

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is only growing more defiant as negotiators prepare to descend on Geneva once again in an attempt to broker the terms of a political transition and end the five-year civil war.

The opposition's central demand heading into the negotiations is that the embattled Assad relinquish his hold on power and cease bombing rebel-held territory.

Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that “if an offensive on Aleppo is in the works, there is no reason to believe that Russia could not add the man- and air-power to help conduct such an operation.”

He continued:

It was clear, at least to me, that Russia was scaling down but maintaining the capabilities to keep the status quo and pivot to a higher-tempo operation. The Russians have shown time and again complete and utter disregard for mass civilian casualties and collateral damage as part of their aerial operations. I expect that if Putin and Assad do as they say, those in Aleppo might yet experience some of the worst this war has seen.

Zilberman, of the FDD, added that the threat of an impending offensive also gives both Assad and Putin valuable leverage over the US at Geneva, where a new round of peace talks is set to begin on Friday.

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