SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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Whether or not Iran will accept an invitation to Syria-related discussions in Vienna this Friday with the United States, Russia, and others remains unknown, at least to the Department of State spokesman. Clearly Iran is a "stakeholder" in the Syrian conflict and a party vitally interested in that conflict's outcome. Given its deep and abiding interest in the political survival of Bashar al-Assad, expectations of Iranian cooperation in a stabilizing political transition should be minimal. If it wishes, however, Tehran can be of some service to the people of Syria without abandoning that which it defines as a paramount national security interest in Assad's preservation.

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With well over four-million refugees and roughly double that number internally displaced, Syria is an apt subject for the question, ‘How much worse can it get?’ The answer is much worse. With Russia now engaged militarily in an attempt to create for Syrians and the world a purely binary choice between two horrific criminal enterprises—the Assad regime and Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Da’esh)—it is hard to understand why any Syrian with a modicum of means and motivation would wish to stay in a country set upon by wolves. At least the otherwise idle West can no longer comfort itself with the illusion that the Syrian crisis can be “contained.” But what can be done? Should, for example, a no-fly zone be imposed?

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Russia’s recent intervention in the Syrian crisis will create new circumstances to which the Kurdish forces must respond and adopt a position. Whatever the Kurds decide will alter the current equation and ultimate outcome of the Syrian crisis.

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Two of the top foreign policy minds gracing the American scene—Henry Kissinger and Richard Haass—have weighed-in thoughtfully on Russia’s military intervention in Syria: what it means, where it may go, what (if anything) useful might be made of it.  One need not agree with all of their respective observations and prescriptions to appreciate fully the intellectual heft they bring to the debate.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry opened talks in Vienna on Friday with his Russian, Saudi, and Turkish counterparts aimed at reviving a moribund effort to end Syria's civil war. Kerry began a day-long series of meetings in the Austrian capital by consulting with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu, both of whom share the US view that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go for the conflict is to be resolved. Kerry then met separately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose country is one of Assad's prime backers. On Thursday in Berlin, Kerry said one focus of the talks would be to consider "a broader participation of very necessary countries, all of whom need to be at the table" to discuss the way forward in Syria. Russia is keen to bring Assad's other main supporter, Iran, into the talks, but Saudi Arabia in particular is opposed. Lavrov was quoted as saying that the Russian and Jordanian militaries have agreed to coordinate actions on Syria via a special working mechanism in Amman. [AP, 10/23/2015]

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Aircrafts hover over the Syrian opposition-controlled territories in northern Syria, easily visible to the naked eye. Witnesses to the missile strikes shout “God is great,” expressing their feelings of shock, fear, and anxiety.

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Despite repeated attempts to take the towns of al-Shaddadi and al-Hool, located fifty kilometers south and forty kilometers east of Hasaka, respectively, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been unable to advance towards either of these strategically important locations. Notwithstanding sustained air support from the international coalition to combat missions in and around Hasaka, both al-Shaddadi and al-Hool will remain in the Islamic State’s (ISIS) hands.

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Leaders from Syria's Kurdish community on Wednesday held talks in Moscow with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov over the conflict in Syria. Bogdanov hosted the co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Asya Abdullah and the head of the administration in the town of Kobani Anwar Muslim, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Turkey last week warned Russia and the United States against supplying arms and support for Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). [AFP, 10/22/2015]

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