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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Appearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, four star U.S. Army General Joseph Votel said it would not be "too strong of a statement" to say Bashar al-Assad has "won" the Syrian civil war with the help of Russian and Iranian forces, reports Reuters.

Why it matters: Assad's government has slaughtered thousands of civilians in an attempt to keep his hold on power. He now has the upper hand on the battlefield. When asked if it was still an element of the U.S. mission to remove Assad from power, Votel said, "I don’t know that that’s our particular policy at this particular point. Our focus remains on the defeat of ISIS.”

  • On Russia: Votel warned that Russia is playing the role of both "arsonist and firefighter" in the Middle East. "Moscow continues to advocate for alternate diplomatic initiatives to Western-led political negotiations in Syria and Afghan-led peace processes in Afghanistan, attempting to thwart the [United Nations'] role and limit the advance of American influence."
  • On Iran: The Iran nuclear deal "addresses one of the principal threats that we deal with from Iran, so if it goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program...Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the agreement.
  • On Saudi Arabia and Yemen: Votel countered senators who want to end support for Saudi Arabia amid reports of civilian deaths in Yemen. He argued that by staying engaged, the U.S. can influence Riyadh toward limiting civilian casualties.

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker