Andrew Lee Butters:

Often when a terrorist or violent act occurs in Syria, I feel like an astrologist watching a volcanic eruption on a distant planet for omens and portents. Today's car bombing in Damascus that left 17 people dead is a reminder that under the surface of that seemingly airless, unchanging place, there's molten fire. But beyond that, it’s hard to know what signifies...

Syria is in the middle of a delicate diplomatic moment after having initiated indirect peace talks with Israel, and the region is rife with speculation about two unsolved major assassinations in Syria so far this year: of Hizballah's military operations chief, and of the a top military aid to President Assad. Were these house-cleaning gestures by the Syrian regime to show that it would be willing to cut its ties with Hizballah and sign a peace deal with Israel, or are hardliners within the regime acting out against detente?

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