Stories by Hardin Lang

Expert Voices

Window narrowing to stave off worst-case scenario in southwest Syria

smoke rising over town of Daraa, Syria, after an airstrike
Smoke rises above the Daraa province countryside after airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on June 27, 2018. Photo: Mohamad Abazeed/AFP/Getty Images

The Assad regime last weekend launched an offensive into southwest Syria aimed at dividing opposition forces in Daraa province and reasserting government control over the region.

Why it matters: The regime campaign, backed by Russian airpower, has already displaced at least 45,000 civilians — many seeking shelter along Jordan's closed border — and that number could soon reach 200,000. The UN has warned that a full-scale offensive could put as many as 750,000 lives at risk and prove as bloody as the sieges of “eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta combined" (which included the use of chemical weapons).

Expert Voices

Iraqi election upset could increase pressure for U.S. troop withdrawal

Iraqi electoral commission employees examine electronic counting machine print-outs in the central holy city of Najaf on May 13, 2018.
Iraqi electoral commission employees examine electronic counting machine print-outs in Najaf on May 13, 2018. Photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP via Getty Images

Following Iraq's parliamentary elections on Saturday, the political coalition of Muqtada al-Sadr — the firebrand nationalist Shiite cleric — has emerged as the surprising frontrunner, followed by Fatah, an alliance of leaders of Shiite paramilitary groups with close ties to Iran.

Why it matters: If the initial results are borne out, the new government will likely be far less favorable to the U.S. The next prime minister will have the power to call for a U.S. withdrawal, and the two leading coalitions have deep ties to armed groups that fought the American presence over the last decade.

Expert Voices

As dust clears in Syria, humanitarian crises remain

Syrian civil defense members conduct search and rescue operations at the site of the blast in Idlib on April 10, 2018
Syrian civil defense members conduct search and rescue operations after an explosion that killed 15 civilians and injured 36 in Idlib on April 10, 2018. Photo: Husam Ahmet/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week’s strikes against Syria won’t change the arc of the conflict, nor will they alleviate the suffering of the civilian population: chemical weapons are responsible for but a tiny fraction of that suffering, and their absence will not stop the Assad regime from pressing its military advantage.

What’s next: Diplomats and donors must take steps to address looming humanitarian crises in two conflict-ravaged regions in northern Syria.