File - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website)
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This week's resounding re-election of Syrian President Bashar Assad cements a new phase in the war raging in his country, one that sees Washington struggling to formulate an approach based on fighting terror as other options stall, experts say.Ironically, the cementing of the embattled leader's formal legitimacy, when he coasted to victory with 88 percent of the vote in an election deemed a farce by many, has coincided with public statements by the White House's former point man on Syria, Robert Ford. Ford's statements in interviews have portrayed a U.S. administration paralyzed by a long debate over how to deal with the Syrian war, and some experts say President Barack Obama's options are coalescing around a relatively fast-track "counterterror" theme, and, a much slower set of actions designed to support "moderate rebels". The "fight terror" approach, if it is fully adopted and fleshed out by Obama on Syria, would also appear to be a bureaucratic, technical approach, but one representing the least disagreeable option of several problematic ones, and one that involves avoiding dealing with the politics of the Syrian conflict.As more and more officials speak about the need to confront the threat of terror in Syria and formulate a clear plan of action, the seeming Plan B, supporting moderate rebels, could even turn out to be a non-starter, according to Sayigh.
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