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Russia’s European Game in Syria

PARIS – This much is clear in Syria: There is no good solution.

There has not been a good solution since that black Wednesday in August 2013, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war machine, by using chemical weapons, crossed the “red line” that US President Barack Obama had warned would trigger an American military response. The moderate opposition still stood, and the Islamic State had not yet emerged from the shadows. Yet, in a shocking last-minute about-face, Obama declined to intervene.

That lapse cannot be undone. But in the hell of bad solutions on offer for Syria, some are worse than others. And the one devised by Russian President Vladimir Putin is probably the most infernal of all.

Russian airstrikes have been concentrated on targets around the cities of Idlib, Homs, and Hama – areas where, according to independent observers, jihad watchers, and other groups that scrutinize the videos placed online by the Russian authorities themselves, the Islamic State is not established. This means that the primary objective of the Russian attacks is to weaken the entire opposition, including the democratic opposition, fighting the Assad regime.