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Russian air attacks on U.S.-trained and equipped Syrian rebels aim to sustain an Assad regime whose atrocities have made much of Syria safe for ISIS.On its face, the president's formulation does indeed seem to indicate that the United States will concentrate on bombing ISIS targets in eastern Syria while leaving Russia and Iran free to boost the recruiting prowess of ISIS by sustaining Assad's program of collective punishment and mass homicide in the west.They know what senior administration officials know: There are fully baked alternatives to leaving Syrian civilians at the mercy of Syria's barrel bomber-in-chief. What they – along with U.S. allies and partners – cannot fathom is the failure of the American president to connect the dots operationally between Assad's impunity, the prosperity of ISIS and Syria's hemorrhage of humanity. What U.S. allies find particularly perplexing is the president's disciplined self-denial of leverage that could mitigate the Assad regime's contribution to ISIS and perhaps even open a path to the Syrian political process he earnestly wishes to encourage.
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