Syrian civil war enters new year more fragmented than ever

BEIRUT - Deep into its fourth year of conflict, Syria looks less and less like a state than a patchwork of warring fiefdoms, making outside powers more reluctant to intervene even as it becomes more destabilizing for the region.
The United States finally entered Syria's war this year, three years after President Barack Obama said Bashar Assad must leave power. But it did so only reluctantly, to staunch advances by Islamic State fighters in neighboring Iraq, and without challenging Assad.
With over 200,000 now dead and millions displaced, Syria's disintegration may worsen even further due to the surprising drop in oil prices in December. Added economic pressure may make it tougher for any faction to gain a decisive advantage.
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