Amid Cease-Fire Countdown, Syria's Conflicts Deepen

(New York Times) Anne Barnard - The conflict in Syria is intensifying and growing more volatile. Turkey is laying electric wires across the Syrian border to power villages it recently helped seize, a step toward establishing the "buffer zone" it has long wanted to house Syrian refugees and fend off Syrian Kurdish militants. Syrian Kurdish groups are moving ahead with plans for a semiautonomous area. In this fast-moving chess game, an informal division of Syria is continuing to take shape: a Turkish-sponsored rebel enclave in the north, Kurds restricted to the northeast, the Iran- and Russian-backed government in control of Damascus and the coast, and Hizbullah controlling large strips of territory bordering Lebanon. The U.S. has leaned hard on rebel groups it supports not to make new advances around Aleppo, and American-backed rebels in southern Syria have been quiescent for months on the orders of American, Jordanian and allied backers because the Americans believe any offensives would upset the cease-fire talks. That has aided the Syrian government's strategy of squeezing rebels out of the suburbs around Damascus. The government is forcing surrenders from besieged rebel towns near the capital and busing residents hundreds of miles to insurgent territory, in what its opponents are calling ethnic cleansing. The way things are going, say diplomats and analysts, by the time President Obama is gone, the non-Islamic State opposition groups could be reduced to besieged or isolated pockets, with little hope of regaining enough leverage to force the power-sharing deal that is nominally the American goal.

2016-09-12 00:00:00

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