Syria’s war has entered a new phase as President Bashar al-Assad extends his grip in areas being captured from Islamic State, using firepower freed by Russian-backed truces in western Syria.
Backed by Russia and Iran, the government hopes to steal a march on US-backed militias in the attack on Islamic State’s last major Syrian stronghold, the Deir al-Zor region that extends to the Iraqi border. Damascus hailed the capture of the town of al-Sukhna on Saturday, August 12, as a big step in that direction.
The eastward march to Deir al-Zor, unthinkable two years ago when Assad seemed in danger, has underlined his ever more confident position and the dilemma facing Western governments that still want him to leave power in a negotiated transition.
The war for western Syria, long Assad’s priority, has shifted down several gears thanks to the ceasefires, including one organized by Moscow and Washington in the southwest.
But there is no sign of these truces leading to a revival of peace talks aimed at putting Syria back together through a negotiated deal that would satisfy Assad’s opponents and help resolve a refugee crisis of historic proportions.