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Obama administration ends Pentagon program to train Syrian rebels
The Obama administration has ended the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels, administration officials said on Friday, in an acknowledgment that the program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on ISIS in Syria. Pentagon officials are expected to announce the termination of the program officially today. US officials said new efforts would focus on embedding recruits with established Kurdish and Arab units rather than sending them directly into front-line combat. [NYTAP, 10/9/2015]

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President Barack Obama's take on Syria is that there is the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh) in the east - an entity that must be degraded and destroyed - and the Assad regime in the west - an entity that should be negotiated out of existence. The United States will bomb ISIL from the air in the east.

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Residents in Latakia and Hama in northern Syria are preparing for Russian air strikes and potential ground attacks. Intensive reconnaissance missions fill the air with the roar of plane engines for hours on end in the rural airspace of Latakia and Hama. Russian forces have already begun bombing opposition positions in Latakia, striking the US-supported and trained First Coastal Division. Civilians fear that the Russians will continue bombing opposition-controlled areas in the coming months, ruining any chances to stabilize areas behind the front lines.

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“Ali” is a former Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fighter. Before joining ISIS, he was a university student known among his friends for his kindness and friendliness. His joining has bewildered his friends, especially since ISIS killed a close relative of his. His uncle said of him, “I was responsible for raising Ali. I know him well, he has a good heart and would never even harm a cat. I was shocked to hear he had joined [ISIS]. Ali would never take on that extremist thought and he doesn’t need money. However, the brainwashing and the violations that the Kurdish militias committed against the Arabs were major reasons for his joining.”

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Responding to reporters' questions on October 2, President Barack Obama made clear the inadmissibility in Syria of any US cooperation with "a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior."

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The Russian military carried out its first reported air strikes in Syria on September 30, targeting the northern suburbs of the strategically important city of Homs and the village of Lataminah further north. Russia insists that its mission in Syria is fighting the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), which the Russian Defense Ministry claimed was the target of the strikes.

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Four years of failed US policy toward Syria have produced alarming results that transcend the Levant. Having carefully gauged the gap between Obama administration rhetoric and action, Russian President Vladimir Putin has elected to intervene militarily to help the Assad regime defeat its non-Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) enemies.

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The recent increase in Russian military involvement in Syria is widely seen as an expansion of Moscow’s influence in the Middle East. While offensive ambitions may well be present, defensive motives also appear to have played a role in Putin’s decision-making.

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Distinguished intellectual and former Obama administration official Philip Gordon has called for a fundamental Syria policy recalculation centering on the status of Bashar al-Assad. Gordon's basic thesis is that if Washington and its partners drop their demand for preemptive victory—Bashar's immediate departure—Iran and Russia may see their way clear to shuffling their noisome client off stage within a period of time broadly acceptable to all concerned. In truth, this approach has always been on the table. It is fully operative now. Neither the regime, nor Tehran, nor Moscow have demonstrated any interest in it.

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Critics of presidential passivity really want hundreds of thousands of uniformed Americans thrust into a foreign war. The killings are horrific, but reflect age-old hatreds and grudges. The opposition is hapless, and it too does bad things: there are “no good guys” and the conflict itself defines complexity.

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