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The latest on Syria (Summaries of 4 articles from Daily Alert, with links)

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Aug. 14, 2015

  • U.S. Believes ISIS Used Mustard Gas on Kurds – Adam Entous
    Islamic State militants likely used mustard gas against Kurdish forces in Iraq this week, senior U.S. officials said Thursday. The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, though it is possible it came from old stockpiles that belonged to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The attack took place on Wednesday, about 40 miles southwest of Erbil. A German Defense Ministry spokesman said about 60 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters suffered injuries to their throats consistent with a chemical attack while fighting Islamic State. (Wall Street Journal)
  • See also Assad’s Stockpiles Weren’t Destroyed, and the Jihadists Have Them – Editorial
    Recently U.S. intelligence has said it believes the Assad government hid some caches of chemical weapons from international inspectors. Don’t expect arms control to stop the spread of WMD in Syria or Iran. The only effective arms control is deposing those who would use the arms. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Rockets Hit Assad’s Alawite Heartland – Louisa Loveluck, Nabih Bulos, and Magdy Samaan
    Syrian rebels launched a deadly rocket attack on Latakia, the coastal heartland of President Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday. Two people were killed and 14 injured in the attack, which hit Latakia’s city center and waterfront. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iranians Calling the Shots in Syria – Hugh Naylor
    Forces battling for control of three Syrian towns were observing a temporary cease-fire Thursday after a push by Iran to explore diplomatic solutions to end Syria’s civil war. The truce was a product of talks in Turkey between Iranian officials and Ahrar al-Sham, a Syrian rebel group. Iran negotiated on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
    “These negotiations with Iran show that the Iranians are calling the shots, 100 percent, in Syria,” said former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi. On Wednesday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, visited Syria for talks with Assad.
    The diplomatic initiative reflects fatigue among Assad’s allies in the four-year-old conflict. It also may reflect a growing recognition by Hizbullah and Iran that Syria’s rebels cannot be defeated militarily and, in particular, that Hizbullah cannot sustain its engagement in Syria indefinitely. The group has suffered significant losses in recent fighting.
    “As Hizbullah deaths mount, it becomes ever clearer that Shiites and Alawites are too few to hold the line against Sunni-Salafist rebel groups that are becoming ever more lethal, organized and well-armed,” said Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies. (Washington Post)
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