The New York Times reported on Sunday that Syrians, particularly in the embattled city of Aleppo, are facing a food shortage as since November, “bread has been scarce, with a lack of fuel and flour shutting most bakeries.” The Times reported that extremist groups like Jibhat al-Nursa, a group with close ties to al-Qaeda that the U.S. just recently designated a terror group, are stepping in to fil the void. “The so-called terrorists are the ones who have been giving us bread and distributing it fairly,” said Tamam Hazem, a spokesman in Aleppo’s news media center, reached via Skype. “Free Syrian Army battalions have been trying to help, but they just don’t have the same kind of experience.” Local council members pleaded for more outside help to counter the jihadits’ efforts. “They are offering bread to people to obtain their sympathy and respect,” said the Aleppo council president. “Prolonging the Syrian crisis will allow the extremist cells in Syria to grow and become more difficult to remove in the future.”
In other news:
The Washington Post reports: Syria’s vice president called Sunday for a negotiated end to the war that has raged for almost two years, saying neither the regime nor the rebels battling it can win on the ground. Farouk Al-Sharaa, in an interview to be published Monday in the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, suggested that keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power is not necessarily a prerequisite for ending the war.
Iran’s economic minister reportedly told an Iranian newspaper that the country’s oil revenues have been cut in half, as compared to last year. Meanwhile Reuters reports that Iran’s foreign minister said on Monday that “the two sides (Iran and world powers) have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current stalemate.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday: The U.S. military in Afghanistan is shifting its focus next year from fighting the Taliban to advising and enabling Afghan forces, senior U.S. officials say, noting that this could allow sizable cuts in the 66,000-strong U.S. troop contingent over the spring and the summer.