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Syrian Conflict Moves Closer to Iraq

Bottom Line: Syrian regime leader Bashir al-Assad has a tougher grip on power than he has since the start of the conflict, but it is far from over, and clashes hit a key border crossing into Iraq, the sectarian situation there is disintegrating and even fearless investment bankers are having second thoughts.

Analysis: For the first time in months, Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad appears to be enjoying renewed power in Syria, as the disparate rebel factions disintegrate through in-fighting. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has dissolved into those who have definitively joined the jihadists in the form of al-Qaeda-linked groups, and those who have now hedged their bets with the regime.  Intelligence points to talks of potential cooperation between the regime and FSA defectors. This represents a major transformation of the conflict, which is still far from over. Saudi Arabia is continuing—and even increasingly—arming jihadist groups whose ranks are swelling with a greater momentum than ever before. On another front, the Syrian Kurds are resurging to protect the territory they dominate in the north. The conflict is now being overshadowed by US-Iranian negotiations. At the same time, the conflict is moving closer to Iraq in the form of increased clashes between Syrian Kurds and al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels on the border with Iraq.

Following days of clashes with Islamic fighters, on 26 October, Syrian Kurd gunmen took control of a key border crossing with…

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