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Geopolitics

Israel Befriends Rebels As Hezbollah Leads Syria's Pro-Assad Offensive

Syria's tangled web grows even more intricate. Hezbollah is key to Assad's strategy, moderate rebels avoid ISIS and al-Nusra at all cost, and Israel helps the Free Syrian Army.

IDF soldiers in the Golan Heights in January 2015
IDF soldiers in the Golan Heights in January 2015
Benjamin Barthe

AMMAN — After having helped the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain ground in northern part of the country around Aleppo, and in the west along the Lebanese border, Hezbollah, an invaluable ally, launched an offensive in the south. The Shia organization is at the vanguard of this month's incursion by government forces against the Daraa province, one of the rebellion's strongholds on the border with Jordan. "It's the biggest attack against the region," says former Syrian Air Force Colonel Assad al-Zoabi, who is now exiled in Amman.

The immediate goal of the pro-Assad fighters is to rebuild the security buffer zone southwest of the capital that the opposition managed to break, which would allow them to send weapons as far as the Damascus suburbs. But Hezbollah probably has more foresight than that. It could advance to the edge of the Syrian Golan Heights, to the great displeasure of Israel, which occupies this area.

In a rare fit of frankness, Syrian state television acknowledged that it wasn't just Hezbollah fighters who were taking part in the new offensive — but also Iranian officers. The assailants quickly conquered two villages overlooking the countryside around Damascus. The rebels responded by taking Garfa and Namer, two localities along the Damascus-Amman highway, a crucial route for providing Syrian troops with supplies. More than 100 men have been killed in the fierce fights. The end of the sand storm that hit the region last week could enable the Syrian regime to intensify its airstrikes, making it easier for its ground troops to advance.

Deraa is one of the last strongholds of the non-jihadist opposition, the biggest and the most coherent. Since ISIS and al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda's Syrian branch) have taken large swaths of northern Syria, and the regime has regained control of the city of Homs, the rebels' only hope of a break lies on the southern front.

Over the last six months, the Free Syrian Army rebel fighters and their Islamist allies have been edging forward, so much so that two-thirds of the Hauran, the region around Daraa, is now under their control, as well as the southern half of the Golan. At the same time, different squads of the Free Syrian Army have regrouped in military alliances, the strongest of which have 10,000 men.

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Economy

The Bogus Concept Of "Carbon-Neutral" Oil

The Colombian president recently said that the country had exported one million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset oil. But in an unregulated carbon market, such a claim is pure greenwashing.

People walk in the streets of Bogotá

María Mónica Monsalve Sánchez

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ - In March this year, various national and corporate leaders met in Houston, Texas, for CERAWeek, an annual conference to discuss the world's energy challenges. Colombia's President Iván Duque took the opportunity to remind participants that his country produced just 0.6% of the world's carbon emissions even as it had raised crude production to one million barrels a day.

He said oil should not be seen as an enemy, since the fight was really against greenhouse gas emissions. He also revealed at the event that the country's national oil firm, Ecopetrol, had sold the Asian market its first million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset crude, consisting of the entire extraction, production and exportation chain.

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