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Slim prospects for Syria headway at Trump-Putin summit

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

Backed by Russian airpower, the Assad regime has begun retaking Syria's rebel-controlled southwest. Using a mix of infiltration, negotiated surrenders and brute military force, the regime has overrun nearly all of the rebel-held southwest’s eastern sector, displacing more than 270,000. The western sector adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan is likely next.

Why it matters. Syria’s southwest corner, abutting Jordan and Israel, is where the uprising began seven years ago. For the Syrian regime, this marks one of the last chapters of this phase of the war, in which Assad seeks to reconquer all territory unprotected by foreign boots on the ground. With the northwest overseen by Turkey and the northeast controlled by U.S.–backed Kurdish forces, that leaves only this southwest pocket up for grabs.