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The Mess in Syria
Russia Gains Ground in Syria, U.N.

As Russia makes gains on the ground in Syria, the U.S. gave ground at the U.N. Security Council. On Friday, the U.N. passed for the first time a resolution on peace negotiations in Syria. But there was a big omission, via the NYT:

The resolution makes no mention of whether Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, would be able to run in new elections, which it says must be held within 18 months of the beginning of political talks. That process will begin sometime in January at the earliest, Mr. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, conceded. Privately, officials believe it may take significantly longer.

The remaining gap between the Russian and American sides became obvious at the very end of a news conference Friday evening that involved Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov. Mr. Kerry noted that 80 percent of Russian airstrikes were hitting opposition groups fighting Mr. Assad, not the forces of the Islamic State extremist group. Mr. Lavrov shot back that for two and half months, Russia had asked the United States to coordinate military operations.

Meanwhile, Russian- and Iranian-aided Syrian government forces seem to have made significant gains in the country’s west. There are reports that the rebels have retaken an important mountain in Latakia, but, on balance, the government seems to have indeed made progress on the ground. In the absence of a coherent U.S. policy, Russia continues to lead in Syria.

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  • Re

    Huh no Russia didn’t gain ground in Syria, Assad didn’t gain territory in 3 months. A mountain? There’s nobody there…If leading is to be in a quagmire by supporting a bloodthirsty regime I will take Obama’s strategy anytime.

    • Jim__L

      Would it benefit Russia more to win this one quickly, or to draw it out? I wouldn’t be surprised if Russia’s calculations include trying to get strongmen sympathetic to his type of governance into power in Europe, driven by the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

      It is absolutely in the interests of the West to stop the flow of refugees and to deny ISIS any territory. (Shattering all Islamic countries’ laws against apostasy would be a very good long-term bonus, too.) At this point that means using actual military force and policing the region.

      If the Obama administration is making it a priority to diplomatically unite Europe and the US (so that Europe will pay its own way for a change) in advance of a military operation, that’s about the only reason I could see for holding back for a time or (temporarily) depending on diplomacy.

  • johne843

    It’s hard to escape the feeling that TAI is in a partisan bubble with posts like this. There have been several articles (including from TAI favorite Eli Lake) in the last week, which have been conveniently overlooked, that suggest Russia has made little-to-no military progress; that up to half of Iran’s elite Quds force have called it quits; that Syrian loyalist army is limping; and that all of these stakeholders are having trouble coordinating with each other.

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