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Syria'n President Bashar Assad


Once frozen out, Bashar Assad is back in

Over the past decade, few Arab leaders have been willing to go anywhere near Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Sure, he managed to hold on to a few friends – like Iran and Russia – but for the most part, the Syrian president, broadly dubbed “The Butcher” for waging a war on his own people, has been considered persona non grata by regional bigwigs.

But Assad is now being embraced by many who had once vowed to continue treating him as a pariah. In recent weeks, Assad enjoyed the royal treatment when he attended an Arab League summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the first time in over a decade, while a top Syrian official also rubbed shoulders with international diplomats at a World Health Organization summit in Geneva last week.

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A woman reacts while embracing another person, near rubble following an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Tragedy upon tragedy in war-torn Syria

Days after a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria, the window for rescuing victims buried in the rubble is closing. Rescue efforts – and survival prospects – are being further challenged by freezing weather conditions.

The death toll has now surpassed 11,000 – and that number will certainly rise. Thousands remain missing, and nearly 400,000 have been moved to government shelters or hotels. Some 4 million Syrians in northern Syria alone were already displaced and relying on humanitarian support.

Tragically, this crisis compounds existing regional calamities, particularly for war-torn Syria, that make recovery efforts extremely difficult.

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Annie Gugliotta

Will Israel be forced to choose between Russia and Ukraine?

Israel, the only country with close ties to Russia and Ukraine, is trying to delicately balance relations with both states. But as things continue to heat up on the Ukraine-Russia front, that's becoming much harder for Israel to do.

In a rare move Thursday, Kyiv summoned Israel's ambassador to Ukraine for a telling off, demanding an explanation following reports that Israel had reached out to Russia for help coordinating the evacuation of its nationals should Moscow escalate.

Why does Israel appear to be playing both sides, and how might things turn out if Russia invades?

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Gabriella Turrisi

What We’re Watching: Russia vs US/NATO, Twitter back in Nigeria, Syrian war crimes verdict

US/NATO-Russia talks. Did this week’s flurry of high-level diplomacy in Europe make any significant progress to stop war in Ukraine? Depends on who you ask. The Russians say the talks were unsuccessful, insomuch as Washington has not agreed to the Kremlin’s demands for NATO to not further expand into former Soviet territory. What’s more, Moscow is now threatening to send Russian troops to Cuba and Venezuela — two of its allies in Washington’s own geographical sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere — if the Americans don’t cave. The US and NATO admit “significant differences” remain between both sides, but want to keep talking. Meanwhile, Poland has warned that the risk of war in Europe is the highest it’s been since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

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