Donald Trump Jr. held talks on Syria with Russia supporters

The Wall Street Journal reports: Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings.

Thirty people, including Donald Trump Jr., attended the Oct. 11 event at the Ritz Paris, which was hosted by a French think tank. The founder of the think tank, Fabien Baussart, and his wife, Randa Kassis, have worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict.

Ms. Kassis, who was born in Syria, is a leader of a Syrian opposition group endorsed by the Kremlin. The group wants a political transition in Syria—but in cooperation with President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s close ally.

The disclosure of a meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and pro-Russia figures—even if not Russian government officials—poses new questions about contacts between the president-elect, his family and foreign powers. It is also likely to heighten focus on the elder Mr. Trump’s stated desire to cooperate with the Kremlin once in office. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Syria’s army said Tuesday that it had formed a new volunteer corps to join its five-year war effort, an announcement that underscored the extent to which its once-sprawling armed forces have crumbled.

In a statement, the army encouraged men 18 and older to register for the newly minted Fifth Legion at recruitment centers across the country.

It said the volunteers would work alongside forces allied with the Syrian government, “eliminating terrorism” and returning “security and stability” to the country.

As Syria’s war grinds on, President Bashar al-Assad’s army is increasingly reliant on conscripts and even prisoners. It also receives heavy support from Russian and Iranian forces and Iran-backed Shiite militias, as well as powerful Syrian paramilitary groups. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: Almost 150 civilians have been killed in a week of intense violence in the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, activists said as violence continued to grip Syria’s former industrial capital.

The latest casualty figures cap two months of unprecedented violence in Syria’s largest city. More than 800 people have been killed since forces loyal to the regime of Bashar al-Assad announced a campaign to crush the opposition in the rebel-held eastern districts.

“This ferocious campaign is a war of extermination,” said a doctor in eastern Aleppo, who was wounded earlier this month in an airstrike. “Everything is a target, whether human or tree or rock. Everything is being exterminated with the collusion of the United Nations. They all see and hear, but they will not answer, and they cannot stop this war machine.”

He added: “We have nobody but God,.” [Continue reading…]

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