Assad tries to polish image with Palmyra’s recapture
The recapture of Palmyra in central Syria from Islamic State militants puts government forces at the heart of the fight against the jihadist group — and not just geographically speaking.
For President Bashar Assad, recapturing the historic town represents a strategic political coup through which he hopes to convince the West that the Syrian army is a credible partner in combatting terrorism as it ramps up the fight against Islamic State.
It is an awkward argument that the U.S. has repeatedly rebuffed. Officials in Washington are quick to point out that it was Assad’s brutal crackdown on his own people that created the kind of vacuum that allowed extremists like IS to flourish in the first place.
An alliance between the U.S.led coalition fighting IS — similar to the assistance and training provided to the Iraqi military on the other front in the war — seems out of the question.
But with the international focus now on fighting the Islamic State group — and a partial cease-fire in place to facilitate that — there appears to be tacit U.S. approval for at least this part of Assad’s offensive in Syria to continue.