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Illustration of Bashar Assad by Kevin Kreneck/Tribune Content Agency

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Jane Klinger, right, chief conservator for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, talks with Mansour al-Omari, left, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, who shows scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Mansour al-Omari, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, shows scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Mansour al-Omari, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, shows scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Mansour al-Omari, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, shows scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Mansour al-Omari, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, talks about how he smuggled scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates out of Syria that he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Mansour al-Omari, a Syrian human-rights activist documenting cases of people who have disappeared under President Bashar Assad's government, shows scraps of fabric with the names of fellow inmates he is presenting to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for preservation at the conservation center, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Bowie, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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In this Feb. 10, 2017, file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Yahoo News in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)

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FILE - In this April 20, 2014 file photo, released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, talks to government soldiers during his visit to the Christian village of Maaloula, near Damascus, Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement Tuesday, April 11, 2017, that the reign of President Bashar Assad’s family “is coming to an end” suggests Washington is taking a much more aggressive approach about the Syrian leader. Taking him out of the equation without a clear transition plan would be a major gamble. (SANA via AP, File)

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FILE - In this June 7, 2016 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, addresses a speech to the newly-elected parliament at the parliament building, in Damascus, Syria. Assad's government came under mounting international pressure Thursday, April 6, 2017 after a chemical attack in northern Syria, with even key ally Russia saying its support is not unconditional. (SANA via AP)

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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)

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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State's de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)

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Little attention has been paid to Secretary of State John F. Kerry's discussion about a strategy to use the Islamic State's growing presence in Syria and Iraq as leverage to pressure Bashar Assad.

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FILE -- In this Oct. 20, 2015 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syria President Bashar Assad arrive for their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. With his victory in Aleppo, Assad appears to have survived a nearly six-year war to drive him from power, but he is now more dependent on outside powers than ever. His key allies Russia and Iran, along with Turkey, are best placed to determine Syria’s endgame, which could more closely resemble a grand bargain among great powers than a political settlement among Syrians themselves. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 photo released by the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks to The Associated Press at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria. Egypt's subtle support for Assad and close ties to Russia, for example, puts the most populous Arab nation at odds with the Saudis, who support anti-government Islamist rebel groups in Syria and sees no alternative to Assad's departure. (Syrian Presidency via AP, File)

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In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hand with Syria President Bashar Assad in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Assad has traveled to Moscow in his first known trip abroad since the war broke out in Syria in 2011 to meet his strongest ally Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Syrian and Russian media reported Wednesday. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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Syrian President Bashar Assad's fate may lie in a compromise between Mr. Putin and President Obama that would let him stay for the short term.

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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (SANA via AP)

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As the prospect grows that Damascus could fall to the Islamic State or another extremist faction — or some combustible combination of the two — officials say the hope is that Moscow and Tehran might suddenly open to Washington's yearslong attempt to assemble a "moderate opposition" against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad. (Associated Press)

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There are numerous reports of Syrian President Bashar Assad using chlorine bombs against rebel forces over the past several weeks. (Associated Press)

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