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He showed every sign of believing what he said. His position is that he is fighting terrorism that is inspired and funded by foreigners and driven by extremist religious ideology, and that the rest of the world needs to come round to his way of thinking. I asked about the allegation that his men have left IS alone and have moved to eliminate the middle ground by concentrating on the armed groups that are favoured by the west. I suggested he had done it to offer Syrians a false choice, between his regime and the jihadists. He denied it, unsurprisingly.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11410628/Jeremy-Bowen-My-day-with-the-dictator.html#disqus_thread

I would like to ask a native speaker how he/she understands the bold passage of the text. May be my hesitation regarding this part stems from the fact that my knowledge of the civil war in Syria is superficial so I interpret it that Assad's army stopped its military action against IS and turned its attention to the opposition which is considered as being "salonfähig" by the West. But not sure if this is a correct interrpretation.

  • it uses an idiom - leave someone alone – Maulik V Dec 9 '15 at 12:03
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    I believe the "IS" in this context is not the verb "is", but an abbreviation for "Islamic State." – J.R. Dec 9 '15 at 15:24
  • I too stumbled a bit on this one. I find the use of that idiom very odd in this place. Had I written it, I would have used a more formal sound phrase like "ceased combat". – Senjougahara Hitagi Dec 9 '15 at 20:28
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I think your understanding is correct. Let's break down the sentence.

I asked about the allegation that his men have left IS alone and have moved to eliminate the middle ground by concentrating on the armed groups that are favoured by the west.

I asked about the allegation...

An allegation is a claim that someone has made about something. What allegation?

...that his men have left IS alone and...

That is, that Assad's men are not attacking IS or are ignoring IS. And what else?

...(that his men) have moved to eliminate the middle ground...

That is, they have tried to remove the moderate option between the extremes. How did they do it?

...by concentrating on the armed groups...

They are mainly attacking the groups of armed men. Which armed groups?

...that are favoured by the west.

These armed groups are the ones that the West (by which we usually mean Western Europe and North American countries) likes.

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