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Assad's forces gain ground in Syria

Buildings lie in ruins in a deserted section of the besieged city of Homs, Syria, on Saturday, July 13, 2013.

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Saturday, July 13, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A month after the Obama administration pledged stepped-up support for Syria's armed opposition, the government of President Bashar Assad's position has improved, with U.S. assistance to the rebels apparently stalled and deadly rifts opening among the forces battling to topple the Assad regime.

Government forces appear close to forcing rebels from the key city of Homs as a result of a 10-day offensive, while an al-Qaida-linked rebel group on Thursday assassinated a top commander from the more moderate, Western-backed Supreme Military Council, signaling what one British newspaper dubbed a “civil war within a civil war.”

And that's only some of the setbacks for the Syrian opposition's two-track struggle toward improved fighting capabilities and greater political legitimacy.

In the United States, political and logistical snags are preventing the distribution of promised military aid, while in Turkey, the exiled civilian Syrian Opposition Coalition remains mired in organizational turmoil.

The coalition's prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized American citizen, resigned days after the group elected a new chairman, Ahmed Assi al Jarba. Hitto and Jarba represent different factions in the organization, one backed by Qatar, the other by Saudi Arabia, with Jarba's election representing a Saudi victory.

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