Posters of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and of Russian President Vladimir Putin adorn a kiosk at a border crossing in eastern Idlib province. Russia's involvement in the conflict has cemented its influence with al Assad's government.
The Syrian civil war has entered a new phrase since the government takeover of Daraa and Quneitra in the country's southwestern part. Now for the first time in the conflict's seven-year history, all meaningful territory in Syria either is under the direct control of loyalist forces or includes a significant foreign presence. The Syrian Democratic Forces and allied U.S. troops control the northeastern portion of the country, while Turkish troops are embedded in northern Aleppo province and Idlib province, where the last of the rebel forces are holding out. It is President Bashar al Assad's government, however, that controls most of Syria, with help from allies such as Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. Each of these partners has a different vision for the country's path forward. But Moscow -- having already achieved its primary goal of securing its position, and that of al Assad's government, in the country -- is eager...
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