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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.

The worst trouble spots:

Idlib: Millions of Syrians have been displaced to this northwestern governorate, including many of the 130,000 civilians forced from the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta over the past month. Having secured Ghouta, the regime may now move against Idlib. The governorate is largely under the control of extremist factions, and humanitarian access is limited. Worst of all, civilians will have nowhere to run, since Turkey has closed its border in the area. If Ankara does not reverse this policy, millions of Syrians could find themselves trapped in a kill box. 

The northeast: Much of northeast Syria has been liberated from the Islamic State, but the fighting has taken a horrible toll: tens of thousands of people are living in camps; the city of Raqqa has been largely destroyed and is teeming with IEDs; and local authorities, with just a handful of aid workers, are struggling to cope. Most Syrians thought U.S. troops would remain for several years, but President Trump’s recent comments have left them worried that a hasty American withdrawal will plunge the northeast into chaos: Relief groups would be forced to withdraw as the Syrian Defense Force, Turkey and the Assad regime battle for control. Hundreds of thousands of people would be displaced in the process.

The bottom line: Missile strikes alone will not be enough to protect the progress that's been made in northeast Syria, nor to prevent Idlib from descending further into crisis. To do so, the U.S. must not abruptly disengage. Rather, it must maintain a troop presence in northeast Syria and unfreeze $200 million in U.S. stabilization assistance, channeling more aid to the displaced.

Hardin Lang is vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International.

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."

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