In the Syria chess game, did Putin outwit Obama?
Russian President Vladimir Putin's sudden move to withdraw Russian forces from Syria, and declare the putative end of his country's main military operations there, once more caught many international observers by surprise. As my colleagues report, the pullout coincides with renewed diplomatic efforts to stop the ghastly five-year conflict and places the onus on the Kremlin-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reach a deal with its opponents.
It also raises more questions about the approach taken by the White House, which had earlier warned that Moscow would get embroiled in a "quagmire," only to see pro-Assad forces make considerable gains at the expense of rebel militias backed by the United States and its allies.
There's no question that Russia's intervention in Syria had real game-changing effects. Initially premised on aiding the fight against the jihadist Islamic State, Putin's ensuing campaign has instead targeted mostly other rebel groups, including some factions supported by the CIA.