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From the perspective of September 2017, it seems that all the wrong people are celebrating the state of affairs in Syria: the country's president, Bashar Assad; Russia's President Vladimir Putin; and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Ali Khamenei top the list.The third complemented the second by introducing more than 100,000 foreign fighters to prop up a client willing to subordinate Syria to Iran and Hezbollah.Although Assad, Putin and Khamenei know all too well that their way forward in Syria will be far from easy, each has reason to feel good. This writer – a State Department official at the time – assumed with full confidence that Obama's "step aside" statement of August 2011 would ultimately drive a strategy to make it happen. It took him a year to realize there was nothing behind the Dutch Uncle advice for Assad to step aside. For Iran's supreme leader, Syria was and is a pleasant surprise.Indeed, assurances to the supreme leader in 2014 that American military strikes in Syria would be restricted to Daesh (ISIS) and would exempt Assad convinced Iran and Russia alike that their client could continue to terrorize civilians in opposition-held areas without any fear of superpower-induced consequences.If Iran and Russia are to dominate Syria militarily, they should own that which they have broken.
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