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Are major players shifting strategies in Syria?

Russia and the US find themselves in a complex situation in Syria, with plenty of doubt to go around.
People inspect a site hit by airstrikes in Idlib city, Syria June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah - RTX2FR1Q
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As last week’s “dissent cable,” signed by US State Department officials, criticized President Barack Obama’s Syrian strategy for not being very strategic, the mood in Moscow seems quite different. Recent low-intensity diplomatic spats between the two states over whose patience is running thinner in Syria signal more-profound grievances in both capitals regarding their respective strategies, as well as one another.

Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry said US “patience is not infinite” and is “in fact, very limited with respect to whether or not [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad is going to be held accountable.” That statement spurred strong reaction from the Russians. Immediately afterward, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov advised Kerry to be “less impatient,” especially since Obama has repeatedly stated that his administration is “carrying out a policy of strategic patience.” Russian military officials were — quite predictably — even harsher. “If anyone’s patience on Syria is waning, it is ours, not the United States',” said Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s general staff.

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