"The Assad regime's recent successes are by no means sweeping -- its offensive operations sometimes progress very slowly or fail altogether, and in some places it has lost ground. But it is having incremental success on key fronts in Aleppo and the Damascus area. If it prevails there, the war's real and perceived direction would shift strongly in its favor -- Bashar al-Assad and his allies, buoyed by success, would press their 'military solution' harder and become even less inclined to negotiate," writes the Washington Institute's Jeffrey White.
"In the unceasing warfare between rival camps all around Israel's borders, Israel is a secondary player, and conventional wisdom has been that the main players are too busy battling each other to attack Israel. But the ongoing instability is gradually wearing down the security bubble in which Israelis have been living in recent years," writes Amos Harel in Haaretz.
"The best case for Syria and for the credibility of the United States would be one in which the president upholds the operational relevance and directive nature of his August 2011 step-aside language and permits the interagency national security system to go back to the drawing board in creating options for his consideration. The worst case would be one that continues to permit the strategic communicators to broadcast the inadmissibility of what is happening in Syria, but coupling that message with operational inaction justified by excuses ranging from someone else's civil war, to the purported failure of mass murder to achieve the definition of genocide, to the all-or-nothing argument that anything with a military dimension amounts or leads to the invasion and occupation of Syria," writes former ambassador Frederic C. Hof.
China Dismisses Uighur Connection in Missing Plane
Iran Talks Not Hurt by Ukraine Crisis, U.S. and EU Say
U.S. and European officials said that the P5+1 negotiating bloc remained united in nuclear talks with Iran despite divisions within the camp sowed by Russia's move to annex Crimea. The talks in Vienna are slated to conclude on Wednesday (NYT).
SPAIN: Some five hundred migrants, many from Senegal and Mali, jumped the barbed-wire border fence dividing the Spain's North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco early Tuesday. The monthly average of migrants attempting to enter Melilla in the first two months of 2014 is triple that of the year prior (El Pais).
Militias Seize Ukraine Naval Headquarters in Crimea
Pro-Russia militias backed by Russian forces seized Ukraine's naval headquarters in Sevastopol on Wednesday morning, the day after Russian president Vladimir Putin moved to annex Crimea. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed on Tuesday, but no other exchange of fire has been reported (Kyiv Post).
This Backgrounder explains origins of the crisis in Ukraine.
GUATEMALA: Former president Alfonso Portillo pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in New York on Tuesday on money laundering charges, saying he took $2.5 million from the government of Taiwan in exchange for continuing to recognize it diplomatically (WSJ).