Balance of Power: Putin Reaches for Prize with Syrian Victory

(Bloomberg) -- The last time Bashar al-Assad went to Russia, U.S.-backed rebels had the Syrian president on the run. Fast forward two years and it was a confident, smiling Assad who made a surprise visit yesterday to thank President Vladimir Putin for the air campaign that saved him. 

With Islamic State's forces largely routed, Putin is now in the driver's seat to set the terms of the peace.

The leaders of Iran and Turkey -- two of the main players on the ground in Syria -- fly to Sochi tomorrow to map out the next steps for a political settlement with Putin.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who only had time for a short chat with the Russian leader during an Asian summit earlier this month, appears something of a spectator in Putin's latest power play. The Kremlin said Trump will get a call from Putin today.

If Putin manages to make his deal stick -- a big "if," given all the competing parties in the Syrian civil war -- it will be a dramatic show that a country President Barack Obama dismissed as a “regional power” is back in the Middle East, just as the U.S. tries to push its own peace efforts there.

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Balance of Power: Putin Reaches for Prize with Syrian Victory

Global Headlines

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And finally... Trump used his pardon powers once already -- former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was granted a reprieve just seven months after he took office -- and the president is said to be considering the same for aides who might be ensnared in the Russia election probe. Yet today it's turkeys that will benefit from the president's mercy. As part of a 70-year-old tradition, two lucky birds will avoid becoming a Thanksgiving dinner.

Balance of Power: Putin Reaches for Prize with Syrian Victory

To contact the authors of this story: Gregory White in Moscow at, Andrew J Barden in Dubai at

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