For John, BLUF: Rush-roh! Nothing to see here; just move along.
Reporter Liz Sly,♠ of The Washington Post, tells us events are moving in the Middle East—"Assad’s hold on power looks shakier than ever as rebels advance in Syria". Here is how the article starts off:
BEIRUT — A surge of rebel gains in Syria is overturning long-held assumptions about the durability of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which now appears in greater peril than at any time in the past three years.So, here we are, with a foreign policy that calls for President Dashar al-Assad of Syria to go away, and we are not sure if his replacement will be better or worse. Are the current insurgents our friends or the friends of others, such as Daesh? Does the Administration have a secret plan to install someone in Mr Assad's place should the President go away? What does Iran, Assad's friend, have to say about this? Will this impact our negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons?
The capture Saturday of the town of Jisr al-Shughour in northern Idlib province was just the latest in a string of battlefield victories by rebel forces, which have made significant advances in both the north and the south of the country.
As was the case in the capital of Idlib province last month, government defenses in Jisr al-Shughour crumbled after just a few days of fighting, pointing as much to the growing weakness of regime forces as the revival of the opposition.
The battlefield shifts come at a time when the Obama administration has set aside the crisis in Syria to focus on its chief priorities: defeating the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and concluding a nuclear deal with Iran.
Yet the pace of events in Syria may force the United States to refocus on the unresolved war, which remains at the heart of the turmoil engulfing the Middle East, analysts say. Iran backs Assad, Saudi Arabia backs the rebels, and a shift in the balance of power in Syria could have profound repercussions for the conflicts in Iraq and Yemen.
Someone wrote, "I hope no one is planning to use our intervention in Libya as a model, but it can't be dismissed." Ouch.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Actually, the Beirut Bureau Chief of The Wash Post.