As­sad tries to pol­ish im­age with Palmyra’s re­cap­ture

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

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.

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