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Syrian regime takes advantage of coalition strikes

While the world focuses on the Islamic State, the Syrian army is making significant gains in Damascus and Aleppo.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad hold their weapons as they walk in Handarat area, north of Aleppo, after saying they have regained control of the area, October 4, 2014. The Syrian army has taken control of three villages, state television said, in a campaign by Assad's forces that could encircle insurgents in the city. Although there are smaller, more indirect routes into Aleppo, taking the northern road would also allow the army to besiege areas of the city which fell to insurgents in 201

As the world’s focus remains firmly fixed on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, under assault for three weeks now by a relentless and determined Islamic State (IS) force despite airstrikes by the US-led coalition, other significant events on the Syrian battlefield have largely gone unnoticed. As the Syrian army, backed by various local and foreign militias, makes significant gains in both Damascus and Aleppo, the question being raised is whether President Bashar al-Assad is the ultimate beneficiary of the coalition's campaign against IS and other jihadist groups.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is, as always with the Syrian conflict, complicated. The regional anti-IS campaign is steadily gaining momentum, with Syria’s powerful northern neighbor under enormous pressure to join. Turkey’s involvement is crucial if the campaign is to have any chance at success, but Ankara's anxiety over empowering the Kurdistan Workers Party-linked Kurdish rebels battling IS, including in Kobani, as well as preconditions to establish border buffer areas and no-fly zones with the ultimate goal of ousting Assad likely mean Turkey will remain an ineffectual and reluctant ally.

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