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Recent reporting gives the impression that Moscow and Tehran are parting ways in Syria.Moscow knows that without Iran and its Shiite militias the Assad regime is bereft of ground combat forces. The point of this supposed contretemps may be to lull Washington into complacency; to consign Syria to Russia, to implement U.S. President Donald Trump's stated desire to leave quickly, and to secure Syrian President Bashar Assad in his place indefinitely.It is understandable that American officials want Moscow to play a positive role in ending Syria's internal violence, encouraging Tehran to withdraw its Quds Force personnel and foreign mercenaries, and somehow putting the country on the path to a post-Assad future. Moscow and Tehran both understand a properly resourced and executed post-Daesh stabilization of Syria east of the Euphrates River would be a real threat to the one thing they agree on completely: the indefinite preservation of Assad as the titular president of Syria.Now Assad is threatening to take eastern Syria militarily, as he tries to recast sectarian family rule as Syrian nationalism.In the end, however, Moscow knows Iran's departure from Syria would leave Assad with a ground military force more adept at looting from United Nations humanitarian convoys than firing and maneuvering professionally. It hopes to manage both Washington and Tehran in Syria.
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