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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 29th, 2013
07:08 PM ET

Analysis: Syria is a political game of chess

The crisis in Syria has spawned a global game of chess with diplomatic gymnastics, dangerous weapons, and potentially deadly consequences. There has been political and military maneuvering everywhere from London, to Moscow, to Paris, to Washington, to Tehran, to Jerusalem and beyond.

The White House told reporters that President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday, the latest in a growing list of world leaders he has reached out to on Syria. One of those leaders likely on Obama's speed dial is British Prime Minister David Cameron, who spent Thursday in Parliament trying to ease the political anxiety over intervention in Syria.

"The question before the House today is how to respond to one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century," Cameron said. "I am deeply mindful of the lessons of previous conflicts, and in particular the deep concerns in the country caused by what went wrong with the Iraq conflict in 2003. But this is not like Iraq. What we are seeing in Syria is fundamentally different."

Time magazine has a cover story on Obama's dilemma in Syria, dubbing the president, "The Unhappy Warrior," saying he is not pleased with the decisions he has to make.

Russia, Iran, and China are completely opposed to action, "that part we're particularly clear on," said Bobby Ghosh, editor at Time magazine. "As the president tries to pull together a coalition of the willing, that's a little more complicated."

"In Britain the government seems ready to go, the opposition not so much. The French government seems ready to go, we believe that the Turks, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia are also willing it go, but we haven't quite heard from them," said Ghosh.

The Arab League signed off on the U.S. operation in Libya a couple of years ago, but there stance on Syria is, said Ghosh, "not so clear at this point. They would like something to be done about Bashar al-Assad, they are not his friends, they have kicked him out of the league, but at the same time they're not sure that a military operation against him is the way to go."

That is the international landscape – but there is also the situation inside Syria. Al-Nusra is the most effective force inside Syria fighting against the government. The group sympathizes with al Qaeda.

"Their goal is to overthrow Assad and install a Taliban-like regime in Syria. And in fact, they in April of this year they actually identified themselves as fully part of al Qaeda," said CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

"We're in the strange situation where the United States in the long term would like Assad to go, al Qaeda in the short term would also like him to go," said Bergen.

This puts the U.S. in an interesting position, said Bergen, where they don't want al Qaeda to take over the country, but they do want to punish Assad.

"Calibrating the strike so it doesn't actually overthrow his regime tomorrow, but at the same time isn't a slap on the wrist is what they're trying to create," said Bergen.

For more analysis, check out the video above.

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