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It's Time to Engage Iran, Russia on Syria

The battle for Syria represents much more than the last days of the regime, as a regional power struggle is playing out, writes Andrew Parasiliti. The US should be mindful of steps that might affect regional considerations, which include the fragile transition in Iraq, and prioritze both diplomacy with Russia and engagement with Iran.
Smoke rises from Juret al-Shayah in Homs July 22, 2012. Picture taken July 22, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

The battle for Syria is best understood as the epicenter and early stages of a regional sectarian conflict, rather than the last days of President Bashar al-Assad.

The civil war in Syria should give pause to those who are fixated on a timeline for Assad's fall. The Syrian president has taken some hits in the past week but has settled in for a no-holds-barred fight to hold onto power. Absent a substantial military intervention by the US or others, the military balance remains with Assad, including in Aleppo, where anti-regime militias have made a major push to seize control. The security officials named to replace those killed last week are familiar hard liners and Assad loyalists. Assad's forces appear to have beaten back the rebels in Damascus. Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi acknowledged Syria's possession of chemical weapons this week, described by experts as "probably the largest and most advanced" program in the Arab world, adding that that they will not be used "unless Syria is exposed to external aggression." This threat earned a rebuke from Russia but signaled that Assad has no plans to abdicate.

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