Syrians gather in Marjeh Square in Damascus. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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After five years of carnage, the Syrian civil war can seem poised to go on indefinitely. But the "cessation of hostilities" engineered by the U.S. and Russia may actually stand a chance, in part because of the weakness of the mainstream rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. As the clock ticks toward a truce meant to take effect at midnight Friday local time, the mainstream rebels find themselves fighting resurgent government forces, battle-hardened Hezbollah troops and a host of allied Shiite militiamen, as well as Daesh (ISIS).There have been scant parallel successes in Syria, and Daesh is still well-entrenched in Raqqa, the main city the group holds in that country. A key difference: There can be no cooperation by the coalition with Assad's army as long as the civil war goes on. For the mainstream rebels, avoiding total defeat against a force that included not just the Syrian army but also Iran, Hezbollah and Russia will be presentable as a success that should earn them a seat at a future negotiating table.The U.S. and Russia have put some credibility on the line.
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