Stories by Jessica Brandt

Expert Voices

The Syrian displacement crisis is about to get worse

People of Idlib hold a Syrian revolution flag during a demonstration to demand the international community stop the military campaign by Syrian regime
Residents of Idlib demand the international community stop the military campaign by the Syrian regime, in Idlib City, Syria, on September 7, 2018. Photo: Anas Alkharboutli via Getty Images

In Idlib, Syria's last opposition-held province, millions are bracing for what could be a catastrophic government assault. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called the looming offensive a “perfect storm” that threatens the wellbeing of large numbers of already vulnerable civilians. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed that concern, remarking that many “will suffer from this aggression,” while President Trump cautioned that “hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.”

Why it matters: The warnings are justified. An estimated 3 million civilians reside in the province, many of whom have already been displaced from other parts of Syria by seven years of violence and surrender deals with the government. According to Mistura, more than 2 million people in Idlib are already in need of humanitarian assistance, and the brunt of the expected assault has yet to begin.

Expert Voices

Turkey's economic woes could spell trouble for Syrian refugees

People walk past a currency exchange shop on August 14, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey.
People walk past a currency exchange shop on August 14, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkey, after a slight recovery from heavy losses. Photo: Chris McGrath via Getty Images

Turkey is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, raising fears about its impact on the more than 3.5 million Syrians who now reside there, having fled seven years of violence at home.

The big picture: These woes could result in a decrease in discretionary spending on social service programs that benefit refugees. It could, for example, slow efforts to get Syrians into primary school and vocational training programs. That said, the crisis may not make as substantial a difference in practice to these endeavors as some fear.

Expert Voices

The hypocrisy of Putin's claims of support for Syrian refugees

Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands with President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad in Sochi, Russia on May 17, 2018.
President Putin meets President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad in Sochi, Russia, on May 17, 2018. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In yesterday’s press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, President Putin expressed concern for the plight of Syrian refugees, suggesting that Russia aimed “to overcome humanitarian crisis and help [them] to go back to their homes.” That rings hollow.

Reality check: The current Syrian army offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, and it's backed by Russia. As of last week, the UN estimated more than 230,000 people are still on the move across southwest Syria, having fled the violence wrought by Russian planes and Assad’s ground troops. Earlier this month, that number was nearly 330,000 people.

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