REUTERS, BBC NEWS, THE GUARDIAN (UK), HURRIYET (Turkey)

Worldcrunch

Troops loyal to Syrian president Bashar al- Assad converged on Aleppo on Wednesday as fighting between rebel and governmental forces intensified, signaling a shift of the uprising against the regime that began last year to a full-blown insurgency.

BBC News and Reuters reported that the regime is moving thousands of troops as well as armored vehicles away from the Turkish border to focus on Aleppo, a commercial hub and Syria's second city, where violent clashes broke out five days ago. Turkey sealed its border with Syria in response to worsening security conditions after several border checkpoints were captured by rebels earlier this week.

The Syrian regime appears to be consolidating its stretched out troops in an effort to concentrate on fighting insurgents in Aleppo and capital city Damascus, as the holy fasting month of Ramadan started last week.

Activists and residents who spoke with Reuters said gunship helicopters were firing missiles in Aleppo, where the fighting is now the heaviest after government forces repelled a rebel assault on Damascus.

This video published by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purports to show police headquarters in Aleppo set on fire by rebel forces. The BBC also reported that government fighter jets were strafing and bombing rebel positions in the city.

Hürriyet and Reuters reported that an official from the Turkish Customs and Trade Ministry announced that all border gates with Syria were closing on Wednesday. Only three were still open before the announcement. Trucking has become increasingly dangerous along the trade routes that link the two countries and the closed border could cripple Syria's economy. . Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Yesterday, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a senior regime official who defected earlier this month, offered to lead a transitional government in a video statement on Al Arabiya, according to The Guardian. "Allow me to serve Syria after President Bashar al-Assad's era. We must all unite to serve Syria and promote stability in the country, rebuilding a free and democratic Syria," he said.

The new head of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria also arrived on Wednesday. The mission was extended for 30 days last week.

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Geopolitics

Taliban And Iran: The Impossible Alliance May Already Be Crumbling

After the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban rulers retook control of Afghanistan, there were initial, friendly signals exchanged with Iran's Shia regime. But a recent border skirmish recalls tensions from the 1990s, when Iran massed troops on the Afghan frontier.

Taliban troops during a military operation in Kandahar

The clashes reported this week from the border between Iran and Afghanistan were perhaps inevitable.

There are so far scant details on what triggered the flare up on Wednesday between Iranian border forces and Taliban fighters, near the district of Hirmand in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Still, footage posted on social media indicated the exchange of fire was fairly intense, with troops on both sides using both light and heavy weaponry.

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