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The Syria War Will Not Be a Quagmire — Because Putin and Assad Are Winning

Alastair Crooke 08/02/2016 BEIRUT — Late in the night on Feb. 2, the news hit: “all communication and supply line[s]” between Turkey and Aleppo had been severed, according to a Elijah Magnier, a renowned Arab war correspondent with Alrai Media Group. It seems to be so: the Syrian army and allied militias, backed by Hezbollah and Russian air power, took control of a tendril of territory that cuts off Aleppo-based rebels from the Turkish border. See the map below. Eastern supply lines for the so-called Islamic State appear to have also been cut. Of particular strategic importance is the village of Murassat Khan and adjacent towns north of Aleppo: by taking control of the area, Damascus ended the main Turkey-Aleppo insurgent supply line. The tourniquet around Aleppo can be pulled off the city — and at the same time, one of the main ISIS oil corridors to Turkey is cut. If things proceed as they have been, with the regime advancing further into rebel-held territory, the red swathe of Syrian government forces will shortly expand to encircle all opposition forces (predominantly Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS), who themselves have been encircling Aleppo in the east.   Edward Dark, a pseudonym for a respected commentator on Syrian affairs living in Aleppo, tweeted on Feb. 3, “This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war & terror, people can...

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Obscure Chinese Firm Dives Into $22 Trillion U.S. Market

Fox Hu, Annie Massa and Brian Louis February 5, 2016 — 7:26 PM BRST When Cromwell Coulson heard that an obscure Chinese real estate firm had agreed to buy the Chicago Stock Exchange, he was shocked. “My first reaction was, ‘Wow, that’s who they’re selling to?”’ said Coulson, the chief executive officer of OTC Markets Group Inc. in New York. “These new buyers have no connection to Chicago’s existing business. They’re completely disconnected from the current business of supporting the Chicago trading community. So wow, that’s out of left field.” While the world has gotten used to seeing Chinese companies snap up overseas businesses, the purchase of a 134-year-old U.S. stock market by Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group — a little-known property and investment firm from southwestern China — raises a whole host of questions. For starters, why does a provincial Chinese business with no apparent ties to the securities industry have any interest in buying one of America’s smallest equity exchanges? And will U.S. regulators sign off? So far, Casin Group’s intentions are unclear, with calls to the company’s Chongqing headquarters going unanswered on Friday. If the deal does pass muster with American regulators, it would mark the first-ever Chinese purchase of a U.S. equity exchange, giving Casin Group a foothold in a $22 trillion market where even the smallest bourses have room to grow if they can provide the best price for a stock at...

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Why Kerry Blames The Opposition For The Continuing Bombing In Syria

07/02/2016   According to this report from Middle East Eye U.S. Secretary of State blamed the opposition for the continuing bombing in Syria: US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo. “‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye. … “He said that basically, it was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away,” the second of the aid workers told MEE in a separate conversation and also on the basis of anonymity. “‘What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?’” the aid worker said Kerry told her. The hapless State Department spokesperson claimed that the story was wrong: John Kirby Verified account @statedeptspox @Charles_Lister Story wrong. @JohnKerry didn’t blame oppo for collapse of talks, doesn’t have comms w/regime & hasn’t wavered on Asad. But this lets me believe that the report of...

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US position on Syria tilts in favour of Russian intervention

   Gareth Porter Monday 8 February 2016 10:58 UTC     The major developments on the Syrian battlefield in recent months have brought a corresponding shift in the Obama administration’s Syrian policy. Since the Russian military intervention in Syria upended the military balance created by the victories of the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and its allies last year, the Obama administration has quietly retreated from its former position that “Assad must go”. These political and military changes have obvious implications for the UN-sponsored Geneva peace negotiations. The Assad regime and its supporters are now well positioned to exploit the talks politically, while the armed opposition is likely to boycott them for the foreseeable future. Supporters of the armed opposition are already expressing anger over what they regard as an Obama administration “betrayal” of the fight against Assad. But the Obama policy shift on Syria must be understood, like most of the administration’s Middle East policy decisions, as a response to external events that is mediated by domestic political considerations. The initial Obama administration’s public stance on the Russian air campaign in Syria last October and early November suggested that the United States was merely waiting for Russia’s intervention to fail. For weeks the political response to the Russian intervention revolved around the theme that the Russians were seeking to bolster their client regime in Syria and not to defeat ISIS, but...

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