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In recent months, there has been a flurry of diplomatic movement in the Syrian conflict, but unlike previous years, the United States is strangely absent. Instead, Russia and Iran, the two main allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, are trying to seize the initiative and pave the way for a new political deal. Two Syrian delegations, from opposite political camps, have also visited Moscow.In mid-November, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem became the first Syrian official to personally meet Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who reiterated his support for the Assad regime. In launching and overseeing its "intra-Syrian dialogue," Moscow seems keen to also keep Iran in the loop, not least because the Russians realize that the Assad regime will ultimately be more responsive to Tehran's injunctions than to their own. While the Russian relationship is important, it is not as deep as the Syrian government's dependence on Iran. According to the Lebanese journalist Sami Kleib – who is widely considered close to Damascus' media office – both Iran and Russia have now dramatically extended their material aid to Syria's regime by providing it with a new combined credit line worth $6.4 billion, two-thirds of that sum being offered by Iran. If this turns out to be correct, it is in addition to the enthusiastic support that both countries have given to de Mistura's freeze project and to the Russian proposal for intra-Syrian talks that aims to re-legitimize Assad and his regime.
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