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Rebels Move on Damascus to Quash Hopes of Talks

Rebel forces attacked Damascus this morning, clashing with Assad’s forces in the east of the city. A show of strength against a teetering regime? Perhaps not. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the latest rebel move is probably an attempt by hard-line elements within the splintered opposition to snuff out last week’s effort by Mouaz al-Khatib to open a dialogue with Assad.

This is not what a unified opposition sounds like:

Ahmed Ramadan, one of the opposition officials critical of Mr. Khatib, said the latest offensive has been in the works for some time, denying it was timed to quash talks. “It’s a qualitative evolution in field operations that can erode the regime,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. Khatib’s initiative appeared to be broadly welcomed by average Syrians and by many activists, who saw it providing a glimmer of hope in easing civilian suffering.

These are ultimately the wages of a confused Syria policy. Not only are Assad and his henchmen celebrating rebel disarray and Western impotence. The mullahs in Iran must also be noting that very aggressive, tough talk from Washington has been followed by waffling and bluff on the ground. This has to be shaping their thinking as the nuclear drama moves slowly to a climax.

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