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Moscow's sudden interest in expediting the return of Syrian refugees to their homes is not prompted by humanitarian concerns. Neither is it motivated by a desire to promote political conditions inside Syria that would encourage people to return to the country from which they fled. It is about pressuring the West into fixing a country broken by Russia, Iran and their client, President Bashar Assad's regime. The self-interested Russian approach aside, the need for reconstruction in Syria – political, societal and economic – is clear and urgent.What is it, however, in specific, operational, implementable and measurable terms that the West would need to see in Syria to feel assured that Western taxpayers will not be defrauded by professionals?Surely the West does not want Syria to hemorrhage human beings indefinitely.Unless Moscow wishes to base its regional power pretensions on a Levantine version of North Korea – or unless it is prepared to resort to more naked forms of blackmail – it will work with the West to make Syria safe for reconstruction assistance.
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