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Trump and Putin

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Last week, writing in these pages, I noted that any encounter between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that would take place at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, would have to address two critical questions if there was to be any clarity in U.S. -Russia relations. We’ve now gotten a first draft of answers.

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You can’t understand any of the world’s crises without understanding petropolitics

by Michael Lind

Is international conflict really just a fight over oil? It sometimes seems that way. In Syria and Iraq, the militants of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ sell captured oil while battling to establish a puritanical Sunni theo-cracy. From Central Asia to Ukraine, Russia is contesting attempts (backed by the US) to minimise Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ allows the US to threaten the choke points through which most of China’s oil imports must pass.

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By VICE News

At least seven people died in rebel shelling of a neighborhood of the Syrian city of Aleppo held by the Kurdish YPG militia at dawn on Saturday, a monitoring group said, as rebels took territory to the south. More than 40 people were also wounded in the attack on the Sheikh Maqsoud area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, a district next to the only way in and out of rebel-held parts of the northern city, the Castello road.

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By Adam Johnson / AlterNet

Council of Foreign Relations resident skeptic Micah Zenko recently tallied up how many bombs the United States has dropped on other countries and the results are as depressing as one would think. Zenko figured that since Jan. 1, 2015, the U.S. has dropped around 23,144 bombs on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, all countries that are majority Muslim.

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At least 17 people were killed and 30 wounded by explosions in three restaurants in the northeast of Syria on Wednesday, a monitoring group said, in attacks claimed by the Daesh terrorist group.

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By Stephanie Linning for MailOnline

A terrifying propaganda video released by a jihadist group with links to Al Qaeda purportedly shows Iranian forces fleeing from jihadists as they advance on a stronghold town in northern Syria. The Nusra Front released the three-minute clip made up of footage taken from GoPro cameras attached to a tank and a drone.

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by Blake Stilwell

The territory controlled by the ISIS is vast and spreads across wide areas of Iraq and Syria. To date ISIS has proved resilient in the face of American airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iranian-backed Shia militias, battle-hardened Syrian rebels, Asad regime forces, and even other jihadist groups.

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By Reuters and VICE News

The European Union (EU) today approved a plan to share out 120,000 refugees across its 28 states, overriding vehement opposition from four ex-communist eastern nations. Diplomats said interior ministers meeting in the Belgian capital of Brussels had voted to launch the scheme, backed by Germany and other big powers, in order to tackle the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

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By Reuters and VICE News

Russia has positioned several tanks at an airfield in Syria, two US officials said on Monday, adding that the intentions of Moscow's latest deployment of heavy military equipment were unclear. Moscow has come under some measure of international pressure in recent days to be more transparent about its moves in Syria, where the Kremlin has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a 4-½-year war.

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By Danny Gold

On December 19, VICE News entered the besieged Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane with the help of smugglers and the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG). The city was preparing to enter its 100th day of fighting a fierce siege by the Islamic State (IS). Fighters with IS had been pushed back by a combination of US airstrikes and heavy artillery from a small contingency of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. Surrounded by IS on three sides, and a Turkish military hostile to Kurdish forces on the fourth, Kobane has become a symbol of resistance for those fighting IS.

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