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We learned the lesson that the ME despots (with brutal methods) were actually doing a good job controlling a bubbling morass of hatred and violent insurrection. We have to face the good possibility that Assad is the best person to hold back the tide. 

This is not what I am saying.  In the short term ISIS is the biggest problem and it demands our attentions.  In the longer term the conditions Assad established were what allowed groups like ISIS to flourish, and unless those problems are resolved, the Syrian civil war is going to become a cyclical event.

I'd argue the FSA and Assad both are bad enough actors in the long term that a meaningful solution needs to instead be some sort of synthesis, an inclusive Alawite-Sunni government but that's something the Syrians need to work out themselves.

 

Also, if it were to happen I doubt how many conscripts serving their term Russia would rely on. I expect they'd try to absolutely minimise the amount of people going who aren't professionals, making as much use of proxy fighters as possible, which in turn would lessen the effect of families complaining their young are being forced to go and get slaughtered on a foreign battlefield. In any case a ground operation seems far fetched no?

Last part first, yeah ground intervention outside of asset protection seems unlikely.  In the wider sense though military intervention would start small and grow.  Looking at past interventions it's almost a cyclical trap.  Initial military commitments are somewhat successful and a solution appears at hand....but man we could really use another Battalion.  Okay we've got this part of the country locked down, we're going to need two Brigades.  All the cities are ours, but we just can't seem to keep the roads open, with merely another Division we can keep the countryside.

But that's really the deceptive part.  It's not defeating the enemy in the wider sense.  Destroying training camps and ammo depots helps, but those can be replaced.  So long as the enemy has a permissive population to operate in whatever containment achieved by military force will last only as long as the force is applied.

Which, again is the deceptive part.  It'll look like you're doing a lot, but in reality you're just slowing and stopping the enemy, but not defeating him.  And until you defeat the enemy, you will not have that lasting victory.  

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I doubt anybody sees a ground operation of any meaningful size as a possibility. At least not at the moment.

Also, if it were to happen I doubt how many conscripts serving their term Russia would rely on. I expect they'd try to absolutely minimise the amount of people going who aren't professionals, making as much use of proxy fighters as possible, which in turn would lessen the effect of families complaining their young are being forced to go and get slaughtered on a foreign battlefield. In any case a ground operation seems far fetched no?

If you follow the US in Vietnam scenario, early on you put advisors on the ground to help the indigenous forces. Russia may or may not have done that in Syria either with their own troops or possibly Cuban troops. Then you bring in airpower and establish an umbrella over your own assets, as well as the proxy/local ground troops you are supporting. I believe that has been done by Russia already. What is still a further possibility is that Syrian FSA or ISIS fighters attack a Russian base and destroy planes and kill Russian military personnel.

Then if you continue to follow the Vietnam pattern, ground troops are sent in to protect the base(s). They maybe static at first, but then "vigorous patrolling" will be needed. Of course all of this is hypothetical, but neither the US nor Russia seem to have learned anything from the past. IMO of course.

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I just found a 2005 Naval Postgraduate School Master's thesis which seems germane to the thread topic. The first specifically addresses Russian attack helicopter doctrine, original tactics, combat experience and tactical adaptations made as a result in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that's where it ends. Though I was initially concerned, based on early footnotes, there was no Russian source coverage, this was incorrect, and there are some good ones cited. 

Andrew S. Groenke June 2005

Also, War Is Boring published a nice piece which separates Rostec factory hype from the truth--and does so engagingly and with great pics! It's called "A Short History of the (Eventually) Awesome Hind Helicopter."

 Regards,

John Kettler

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I hope for a meaningful, lasting peace. My personal belief is this is impossible with Assad remaining in charge based on prior bad acts, and his existing policies.  The legitimacy of his government is pretty much shot regionally, and internationally he's got Iran and Russia and that's about it.  

The real trick of course would be keeping things from Libyaing into the ground.  In a lot of ways it's Not Our Problem.  Historically imposing external controls on establishing a government have been just as ineffective as simply letting anarchy and chaos sink in.  

Some sort of cease fire and power sharing agreement between the FSA and existing government would likely be best for all Syrians.  We're only really in this mess because Assad's responses to when this was simply protests was gunning folks down in the street.   

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I think Assads responses and uses of chemical weapons on his own people basically mean he.s never going to be able to revert to pre 2011 Syria. Or basically what ^ he said ^

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>They would be arming terrorists

FSA, which Russia bombs in 85 % of strikes is not terrorists.

 

85%? are you going by the colors on that nice map?

The situation on the ground is a lot more complicated and confused:

1) The FSA is a loose collection of groups, most of which are Sunni fighters who want to establish an islamic state/republic.

2) Next to those, you also have allied islamic groups, most of which are also Sunni and also want to establish an islamic state/republic;

3) Then you have ISIL where, you guessed it, most are Sunni and also want to establish an Islamic state/republic.

It's all very nice to say "we back the FSA because they are freedom fighters", but at the end of the day there is not that much of a difference between the ultimate goal of all the groups.

the West condemns Russia for not attacking ISIL, but the West has not laid out any plan other than repeating the mantra "Assad must go." If the ultimate aim is to turn Syria into an islamic state/republic or another failed state like Libya, how will that be an improvement?

and what happens to the 2,000,000 Alawites who back Assad and who most "freedom fighters" consider to be at best, Shiites, at worst "godless heretics"? death or exile?

before turning this into yet another exercise of arguing who is right and who is wrong, all parties need to come up with an actual workable plan, hopefully better than Libya this time.

Edited by Sgt Joch

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Or we could just talk about Russian attack helicopters and how they're now used in combat!  Frankly, I'm really hoping one of our Russian colleagues unearths something useful from one or more Russian language military periodicals or publications. Surely something must've been written in one of them  on the topic since the Russo-Afghan War?

Regards,

John Kettler

 

Edited by John Kettler

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ok, but one last point to make things even more complicated, I presume everyone knows that the Turkish Air Force (a NATO ally) is spending most of its time bombing the Kurds and not ISIL. Funny how that gets so little play in the west:

Turkey is currently waging a two-pronged "war on terror" against both IS and the PKK, although so far air strikes have overwhelmingly focused on bases of the Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-launches-overnight-air-raids-against-pkk-army-003648366.html

http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-warns-us-russia-over-support-syrian-kurds-102133071.html

Edited by Sgt Joch

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ok, but one last point to make things even more complicated, I presume everyone knows that the Turkish Air Force (a NATO ally) is spending most of its time bombing the Kurds and not ISIL. Funny how that gets so little play in the west:

http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-launches-overnight-air-raids-against-pkk-army-003648366.html

http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-warns-us-russia-over-support-syrian-kurds-102133071.html

Not sure what news you go by, but it is all over the front page here.  Turkey's mis steps, the politicization and focus on the Kurds to keep Erdogan in power etc...

Just one example

http://news.yahoo.com/ankara-bombing-did-turkey-misread-perils-islamic-state-214440348.html;_ylt=AwrXgiNz6CdWM00AOTLQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByb2lvbXVuBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

 

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85%? are you going by the colors on that nice map?

 

Lawl.  If you set up any more strawmen, you ought to be able to corner the scarecrow market by Q4 2016.

Of course then you say:


 

before turning this into yet another exercise of arguing who is right and who is wrong, all parties need to come up with an actual workable plan, hopefully better than Libya this time.

Which is pretty much what I've been saying.  As the case is the Russian plan is fairly clearly Assad forever which is not all parties, or a workable plan.  Which makes bombing the FSA a silly act especially in light of the danger presented elsewhere.  The FSA nor Assad offer a reasonable choice in terms of going forward.  However the FSA is likely the only not-ISIS group for the Sunnis of Syria to fall under, so perhaps it's best if we foster "less crazy" instead of killing it and dumping the survivors into "crazy and now really embittered" camps.

As the case is, the WTF Turkey stuff as gotten more than some airwaves, and it's rather led to more than a little ill will on the part of Turkey's NATO allies.  And their constant refrains of trying to tie the actually totally ISIS operations inside their countries to some sort of bizzaro Kurdish-ISIS tagteam has worn very thin.  

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Err Turkeys not a NATO ally its a NATO member..

I don't think  he was saying they weren't, but rather referring to them more as peers.  Sort of like saying the US called on it's NATO allies in Afghanistan - it doesn't mean US is not NATO, but that the other members are purportedly it's allies.  Just an expression.

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The situation on the ground is a lot more complicated and confused:

1) The FSA is a loose collection of groups, most of which are Sunni fighters who want to establish an islamic state/republic.

2) Next to those, you also have allied islamic groups, most of which are also Sunni and also want to establish an islamic state/republic;

3) Then you have ISIL where, you guessed it, most are Sunni and also want to establish an Islamic state/republic.

It's all very nice to say "we back the FSA because they are freedom fighters", but at the end of the day there is not that much of a difference between the ultimate goal of all the groups.

Well you are right about it being complicated on the ground.  But I do not think that it is fair to say that all those groups want to "establish an Islamic state / republic" as if they are all the same because that would be like saying that Pakistan, Indonesia and Iran are the same (or Canada, Britain and Germany are all the same).  I think you are correct in saying we need some workable plan - I personally just cannot see one.  About all I know is that Assad is a really bad choice and ISIS is a really bad choice and the others are at best unknown and at worse also pretty bad.  The problem is that so many regional actors, both states and non states, have their fingers in this mess (Iran, Hesbola, Saudi Arabia, Quatar, Russia, Turkey, ISIS and the US).  None of which really have the same goals even if most of them can agree that ISIS is a common enemy. None of them seem to be able to focus on one thing.  I suppose that is not a surprise given how confusing things are.

I honestly do not have a workable solution either but I really do not think that the Russian focus to save Assad is one either.  His government lost its legitimacy a long time ago.  Simply lumping all the other forces that are against the Assad government together is not really a workable plan either.  Like I said sorry I don't have much to offer that might work - and by work I mean for the benefit of the people in Syria.  If I though for a moment that a foreign invasion force would actually help I would advocate but I think that will actually make things worse.  Honestly my thought was that creating a no fly zone over the entire Syria would allow the Syrian people some space to find relative safety (just relative to a ground war and being bombed from the sky) and not have to flee to Europe at least that would help a small amount. Now I do not even see how that would work.

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  But I do not think that it is fair to say that all those groups want to "establish an Islamic state / republic"

well...

 

The al-Nusra Front membership are primarily Syrian Sunni Muslims.[65][66] Its goals are to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria and to create an Islamic emirate under sharia law,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Nusra_Front

The Islamic Front's charter rejects the concepts of representative democracy and secularism, instead seeking to establish an Islamic state ruled by a Majlis-ash-Shura and implementing sharia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Front_(Syria)

The Army of Conquest[11] (Arabic: جيش الفتح‎, Jaish al-Fatah, JaF) is a military operations coalition in the Syrian Civil War that consists of numerous Syrian Islamist rebel factions mainly active in the Idlib Governorate,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_Conquest

The Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union (Arabic: الاتحاد الإسلامي لأجناد الشام‎, al-ittihad al-islami li-ajnad al-sham, "Islamic Union of the Soldiers of the Levant") is an alliance of some of the Islamist groups that have been active during the Syrian Civil War.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajnad_al-Sham_Islamic_Union

Jabhat Ansar al-Din[3] (Arabic: جبهة أنصار الدين‎, The Supporters of the Religion Front) is a jihadist alliance that announced itself on 25 July 2014 during the Syrian Civil War.[1]

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabhat_Ansar_al-Din

 

Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) is an operations room of Islamist Syrian rebel factions that operate in Aleppo, Syria. Their aim is to take Aleppo then work with other groups to govern the city according to sharia law.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansar_al-Sharia_(Syria)

notice a trend?

btw...

The Taliban (Pashto: طالبانṭālibān "students"), alternately spelled Taleban,[26] is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan.

While in power, it enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban

while the Taliban were fighting the Soviets, they were "freedom fighters", now they are "terrorists", while the same groups fighting in Syria are "moderate rebels".

What happens after they take Damascus, impose Sharia law, massacre Alawites, let Al-Qaeda set up bases in Syria, etc.?

Assad is not a long term solution, but refusing to look at reality and hoping for the best is not a plan.

The only way Washington gets the "moderate" government it is praying for is if they send in U.S./NATO combat troops to impose one.

 

Edited by Sgt Joch

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OK clearly I phrased that poorly.  What I meant was that each group's idea of what an Islamic state means is different.  The level of freedom and flexibility that a member of society has living in the various states that consider themselves Islamic states currently varies considerably.  Ranging from pretty restricted and dictatorial to quite free and open.  And we in the West are far to quick to think that Sharia law is the same no matter who is interpreting it.  It is not.  Look I get it many people here reading this forum, myself included, do not like the thought of living under any form of Sharia law any more than we would like to live under some draconian interpretation of Christian Law or Halakha.  If the people running the country are mean spirited then their implementation of the law will be too - no matter what religion they happen to believe.  My point is that an Islamic Republic run by ISIS will not be a happy place to live and their neighbours will likely not have a good relationship with them.  Other groups might also be ungood but some of them are likely to be much better than ISIS or Assad.  As you and others point out how are we supposed to be able to tell - which is the basic problem.  But lumping all the Islamists into one bucket is the same mistake that the Russian government is making.  That might be OK for them because they picked their side but make no mistake Assad is no better than ISIS is likely to be.

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while the Taliban were fighting the Soviets, they were "freedom fighters", now they are "terrorists", while the same groups fighting in Syria are "moderate rebels".

Well just like now the Taliban were not the only group in the fight.  There were actually many many groups - might even have been more than there are now in Syira.  The CIA worked with many of them.  The experience of the Taliban rise in Afghanistan is likely why the US administration was very reluctant to pick a group to back in Syria when the civil war broke out.

What happens after they take Damascus, impose Sharia law, massacre Alawites, let Al-Qaeda set up bases in Syria, etc.?

Nothing good.  But note ISIS hates Al-Qaeda so they will do their own dirty work to destabilize their neighbours.

Assad is not a long term solution, but refusing to look at reality and hoping for the best is not a plan.

I agree but I think people that think there are two sides and Assad is the best choice are also not looking at reality.  The level of brutality that the two Assad regimes have imposed on their citizens is pretty horrific.  In my opinion just as horrific as anything ISIS is likely to do.

The only way Washington gets the "moderate" government it is praying for is if they send in U.S./NATO combat troops to impose one.

Except we all know that will also not work either. Right now we have multiple groups viaing for power and control backed by a bunch of outside governments.  If the US or Russia or any coalition does as you suggest they will just become the focus of those groups until it is forced out and then we will be right back here.

Even a grand scheme that included redrawing the borders of the entire region (which arguably is part of how we got here) to allow for as many nations to have their own territory would probably fail.  Mainly because who are we to tell anyone other than ourselves where their borders should be?

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1.  It's worth noting that the Taliban as an organization did not exist during the Soviet-Afghan War.  It was a movement borne of the chaos after the conflict.  

This is especially worthy of discussion simply because it shows the simplicity and ultimately failure to comprehend the relation between different parties in the region.  There was a wider umbrella of anti-Soviet resistance.  We supported some of those with weapons and training, either directly and indirectly.  So if you're going to lump blame for supporting the Taliban, and then declaring them terrorists, it's equally valid to laud us for preparing the Northern Alliance to resist the Talbian.

2. In regards to the various Sunni extremists, it's a two fold matter of discussion:

 a. It is all Assad's fault.  By design he ruled over a state that suppressed and eliminated any sort of resistance through coercive measures.   Whatever middle ground there was, or elements that might have been interested in talking it out were thrown into jail/gassed/gunned down in the streets years ago.

Ultimately this lead to a polarized system in which broadly you either have "I am an Alawite stooge" or "I support hanging all the Alawites from lamp poles by their intestines."  The various Sunni extremist groups best answer the call for the dead Alawite society.  

  b. Here's effectively our choices should we choose to be involved in Syria at all:

     i. Alawites: Effectively a hereditary dictatorship that has employed chemical weapons against civilians, and supports a return to a minority lead state where any resistance to the state was met by disappearing into a dark hole in the ground.

     ii. ISIS: A Islamist group with global domination type goals.  Thinks slavery is a moral imperative.  Pretty rapey.  

    iii. FSA: A collection of dudes, some pretty terrible, others merely unpleasant, with some being actually kind of okay.  Sometimes effective, sometimes not, sometimes corrupt, sometimes not.  

It's fiction to believe that again, we can simply pick something (except to stay out and accept the outcome, whatever it may be) that avoids the risk of Libya part 2, pretty much worst time ever for the middle east, or supporting a state that believes chemical weapons are an acceptable response to social disorder.  I believe the Assad regime is done, it's just a question of if they leave when things finally break down for exile in Russia, or it ends with a shouts of allah akbar.  It has lost the effective control of much of Syria and has little remaining legitimacy.  ISIS is strictly speaking, totally unacceptable.  The FSA, and Syria as Libya pt 2 to me is more acceptable than Assad funtimes or ISIS control.
 

Which is to say I desire a better outcome, but part of owning your position is understanding the likely outcome, and frankly a broken chaotic Syria with short of total warfare is superior to the status quo or the kingdom of ISIS.  

3. We may have to accept "lawful evil" sometimes.

We really don't have the ability to force a choice politically short of the Russian style "prop up Assad until infinity."  We eventually have to accept some manner of popular choice on the ground.  And if that popular choice is a somewhat Islamic society, well damnit booze taps are off for now.  

Anyway.  Own who you're supporting.  At least somewhat.   This whole sitting on the fence and wailing thing is sort of tiresome.  

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VladimirTarasov,

I appreciate your offer, but I guess I wasn't clear enough in terms of what I meant. What I was trying to say is that I was hoping one of our Russian or Russophone CM Members could dig something up from Russian military and/or military-technical writings. Was thinking in terms of things like the Russian Air Force journal, Standard Bearer, Red Star, think tank pieces and such. Even with my very limited understanding of military affairs there these days, it's clear to me there is a wealth of sources, as seen, for example, in the deluge of military-technical and military-historical TV shows. I'd think that if they pull that sort of fabulous material together, then there must be something available in the literature (perfectly happy with videos and drawings, too) on modern Russian use of attack helicopters.

Regards,

John Kettler

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This is really quite off topic, but the discussion is civil and interesting so far and therefore I've let it stay open.  Provided the discussion can remain productive and responsible it will remain so.

I do find it a little funny that the people who like to point out how complicated and fraught with peril the situation is regarding Syria then proceed to make points which are overly simplistic and as unrealistic as anything else being said.  Kinda like pointing out how complex global climate change is and then saying it can be fixed by doing X.  There is no option X to fix global climate change nor even slow it down at this point, just like there's no way to fix Syria or prevent a period of time where things are as bad, if not worse, than they are now.

The reason nobody has come up with a plan for Syria is that there is no plan to be had.  As said above, there are too many parties on the ground fighting for their own reasons to achieve their own ends.  There are too many outside parties involved in trying to get their own selfish ends through manipulation of those forces, sometimes seemingly at odds with their stated goals.  Even if there were a way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, why would anybody bother?  He'd just fall off the wall again sooner rather than later and we'll be right back to where we are now.

I look at Syria as I did the Balkans.  Hundreds of years of ethnic, religious, and national tensions were the underlying cause of that bloody mess.  No dictatorship, no matter how strong, could suppress that indefinitely.  When the dictatorship failed, as they always do at some point, those negative forces were released.  No amount of diplomacy, military action, or outside influence could stop them from going ballistic.  What the outside forces could do, however, was try to mitigate the carnage and infrastructure damage while allowing the fundamental reasons for it to burn themselves out.  At which point the outside forces could help rebuild a new region based on more sustainable borders and politics.

The best we can hope for in Syria is the five primary groups (Assad, ISIS, El Nusra, FSA, and Kurds) retain control over their respective territories and then burn out trying to fight each other.  That would produce an opportunity to find a new way forward for the people of what used to be Syria.

This could take another 10 years to happen and tens of thousands will die along the way, but I don't see a realistic alternative.  Not even a "boots on the ground" operation by a strong outside force can.  In fact, that's pretty much the best way to make the situation worse, which is why nobody is looking to take on such a role.

Steve

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Steve... "When the dictatorship failed, as they always do at some point, those negative forces were released.  No amount of diplomacy, military action, or outside influence could stop them from going ballistic.  What the outside forces could do, however, was try to mitigate the carnage and infrastructure damage while allowing the fundamental reasons for it to burn themselves out.  At which point the outside forces could help rebuild a new region based on more sustainable borders and politics."

Excellent summary Steve of what some "outside force" could do but has / will not.... so "another 10 years ... and tens of thousands will die along the way". Count one's blessings and luck as to where you live ... every day.

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sorry JK, but a few more points:

1. it does not make much sense to keep talking about the "Free Syrian Army". According to most observers, after 4 years of civil war and internal strife, it is no longer a player. The two main non-ISIL rebel groups are Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. A good summary here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/who-is-russia-bombing-in-syria-the-groups-set-for-fight-to-the-death-isis-al-nusra-a6675751.html

Now if you drill down and take a hard look at both groups, you will see there is not much of a difference between them and ISIL. Do you really want to give them advanced SAM/AT systems? If you do, don't be surprised if 6 months from now those same weapons are being used against U.S. assets.

2. It really is time for the U.S. to step up and send in ground troops as part of an international force to restore order and set up a transitional government. Yes, Iraq was a mistake, blah, blah, blah, but if ever there was a case for international intervention, Syria 2015 is it. The U.S. has to realise that since the end of the Cold War, it "owns" the Middle East. If the U.S. is not going to step in and restore order as required, then don't be surprised if Russia or China are more than willing to fill the void.

3. The U.S. has to take a page from French foreign policy. France has taken responsibility for North/Central Africa for over 50 years and has no problem sending in gound troops as required to kick butt and restore order, like they did in Mali in 2013. French foreign policy is consistent, no matter what party is in power and it is not driven by domestic political considerations as is so often the case in the U.S.A.

4. how you deal with Islamic militants:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Serval#French_Army

 

Edited by Sgt Joch

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