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Russia's decision to send troops into Syria in defense of its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, is now at the center of a major diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West. But the move by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send military support to combat ISIS insurgents is also a sign of concerns at the military "shortcomings" of the Hezbollah militia and Iran's revolutionary guards, which have been fighting alongside Assad since 2011.

As regional powers and the West mull over a possible political solution to nearly five years of civil war, Russia's "immediate" concern was said to be for "Tehran's evident military incapacity to protect" the Assad regime, writes Philippe Abi-Akl, a columnist in Lebanon's L'Orient Le Jour.

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Hezbollah flag in Lebanon. Photo: OpenDemocracy

According to Abi-Akl, Hezbollah — a militia that Iran created in Lebanon in the 1980s — and Iran's own revolutionary guards, had "failed" to beat Syrian rebels and secure key regime positions on the Golan Heights.

Western observers believe Russian entry was subject to "prior coordination between Moscow and Tehran," the columnist reports.

Russia's enhanced standing as a key mediator, if not the principal foreign actor, in the Syrian war, Abi-Akl has "blatantly eclipsed Iran's role." Beside winning the "trust" of the Syrian regime, he concludes, Russia had "deftly" managed to "weave" ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two powers keen to see Iran as absent in Syria.

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Society

Jehovah's Witnesses Translate The Bible In Indigenous Language — Is This Colonialism?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.

A Mapuche family awaits for Chilean President Gabriel Boric to arrive at the traditional Te Deum in the Cathedral of Santiago, on Chile's Independence Day.

Claudia Andrade

NEUQUÉN — The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun".

The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition. The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile.

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