Syrian troops backed by Russian air support fought their way into the Islamic State-held city of Palmyra on Thursday, their biggest offensive yet against the jihadist caliphate, as Moscow and Washington discussed how to help to end the civil war.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in an atmosphere that was noticeably more amiable than past meetings, reflecting new diplomacy the two Cold War superpowers have championed in recent weeks.
Russia wants Assad to survive as a client who provides bases to Russia; and we want to avoid dealing with the problems in Syria.
So I'm sure we have a basis for common ground, eh?
When Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is smiling this broadly, you can be sure that he's taken Kerry's lunch money and given our top diplomat a wedgie:
Syrian forces are pushing into Palmyra right now.
As I've written, Russia's intervention tilted the battlefield Assad's way, but it has not eliminated the basic Assad problem of having a battle weary ground force too small to hold his territory, with a base of support already reeling from the heavy casualties endured by Assad's small base of support.
Assad needs outside developments to hold his ground, including ground taken around Palmyra and Aleppo.
That's where Kerry comes in to go along with a Russian diplomatic deal that sucks the wind out of the opponents of Assad.
Worst secretary of state ever.
UPDATE: The Syrians seem to have taken Palmyra:
Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes drove Islamic State fighters from Palmyra on Sunday, ending the group's 10-month reign of terror over a town whose famed 2,000-year-old ruins once drew tens of thousands of visitors each year.
I remain convinced that holding this territory relies more on Kerry than on Iranian and Russian military help.