SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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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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Russian President Vladimir Putin is orchestrating the performance of his life, using Syria as the stage on which he proclaims Moscow’s reemergence as the third Rome and drives a spike into what he describes as Washington’s democratization and regime change jihad.  Having declared war on the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh) in Syria, he is waging it instead against the real, non-ISIL enemies of his client, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including armed elements that have received American support.  Now, to drive home the point that he stands for good order, international law, and support for legitimate governments, Putin has summoned Assad to the Kremlin to serve as an on-stage prop.  The barrel bomber-in-chief had little choice in the matter, and seems to have played his role adequately.

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President Bashar al-Assad has traveled to Moscow in his first known trip abroad since war broke out in Syria in 2011, meeting his strongest ally Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The two leaders stressed that military operations in Syria, in which Moscow is the latest and most powerful addition, must lead to a political process. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu commented on the trip saying, "If only he could stay in Moscow longer, to give the people of Syria some relief; in fact, he should stay there so the transition can begin." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Putin on Wednesday, expressing his concerns over the Syrian military’s recent strikes in Aleppo. Erdogan also stressed the importance of “fighting all terrorist groups,” underlining the link between the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Kurdish PYD in northern Syria, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). [AP, Reuters, 10/21/2015]

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Russian President Putin has decided that Syria is part of Russia’s near abroad, no less than Ukraine it seems, a territory where some vital national interests are at stake. He has predicted the fecklessness of Western powers well. Whether he is deploying his arsenal in Syria to fight Daesh or to bolster Assad, by moving massive military presence into Syria he has made himself the one player that counts and has put himself in a position to call the shots. He does not have a strategy to end the conflict. But he has one that he thinks will guarantee Russia’s influence in this pivotal country while the West has no strategy to confront him.

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